Monday, December 27, 2010

Radio Interviews Fridays in January 2011

January is "GO Month" (Get Organized) and I'll be on the radio!!

Be sure to tune in to KSRO (1350 AM) on Fridays in the month of January. Local Sonoma County organizers Diane Judd, Susanne Otteman and yours truly (Margaret Pearson Pinkham) will be interviewed each Friday at 12:30-1:00 pm by the host of the Elder Care Show, Kira Reginato. She's devoting the whole month to Organizing for Elders. In case you miss the shows, podcasts will be available at

Friday January 7
Susanne Otteman, owner of Organize This! in Sonoma, will talk with Kira about the ABC's of organizing, simple tools and techniques for getting started and staying organized and the benefits of working with a professional organizer.

Friday, January 14
Margaret Pearson Pinkham, owner of Organize in Harmony in Sebastopol, will discuss various aspects of chronic disorganziation, hoarding, compulsive acquiring and working with mental health professionals.

Friday, January 21
Diane Judd, an estate organizing specialist based in Petaluma, will review the importance of ready access to vital medical and legal documents, the value of home inventories and the responsibilities of benig an executor.

Friday January 28
The three organizing experts will return to the studio for an "Ask the Organizers Panel" to answer questions submitted by The Elder Care Show listeners. Submit your questions in advance to or phone 707-762-5433.

And remember, if you miss a show, you can listen online or download it later at:

Be sure to check out her other shows! They are really informative and fascinating. Thank you Kira for giving us the opportunity!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hoarding and Cluttering Conference 3/10/11

Registration Open

Mental Health Assocation-San Francisco

Pathways Through the Maze: Practical Approaches

Featuring Dr. Christiana Bratiotis, Ph.D., LCSW
THURSDAY, MARCH 10th, 2011
9:00AM TO 4:30PM

Over 400 service providers, consumers, friends and family members, therapist, property managers, therapist, researchers, landlords and others who are affected by hoarding and cluttering come together at St. Mary's cathedral in San Francisco, California. The event provides you the opportunity to hear about latest research and treatments to practical tools and topics that you can use in your experiences with compulsive hoarding and cluttering.

Registration is now open.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comfort zones and growth

You've heard it before, right? "Get outside of your comfort zone!"

But it's an uncomfortable place!

I don't recommend getting uncomfortable for the sake of discomfort. That's just crazy and well, uncomfortable.

But rather, I think of it in terms of "no pain, no gain."

What do you GAIN by going outside of the zone?

Last month I helped a client clear some stuff blocking her piano. I asked her how long it had been since she'd played it ... and she said ... years.

When I asked her if she'd play for me, she said, oh no, she couldn't do that. I then suggested that at some point, maybe she could just sit on the bench and see what it felt like. Then maybe even just put her hands on the keys. No pressure to play, just little steps outside the comfort zone to become familiar with her piano once again.

Well, before I left for the day, she did sit down on the bench. She put her hands on the keys.

And then she played.

Music streamed out of her heart, down her arms, through her fingers onto that piano. There was no sheet music anywhere. The most wonderful sounds filled the room as she played a classical piece. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. More than just clutter had been blocking that piano. She found the courage to experience a little discomfort and bring an entire world of music back into her life.

A friend visited me recently who hadn't been in the area in over a decade (although she only lives a couple hours away and even has family here). I don't know all the dynamics of why she had stayed away, but I had offered some entertainment, a chance to reconnect (we had been out of touch for years, ourselves) and some food and some fun. I hadn't realized what a discomfort zone I invited her into until later, but I was happy that she had stretched herself to make this visit and really respected her for how much discomfort she was willing to experience in order to have a new experience. I was honored and touched and I can only hope it was just the start of more visits here (and not such a shock that it was a setback!).

So, think about your "zones" and what getting outside of them will do for you. Will the discomfort last for long? Will it even be not as bad as you thought? Will it help you reach just a little bit farther in order to attain a goal? Sometimes small steps help us in distance, but sometimes those small steps help us in acclimatizing to the situation, too.

I am touched and honored when I have been a part of someone's growth through getting outside a comfort zone, and even more honored when I get to witness an act of courage. I see it whenever a client lets go of an item that is no longer useful to give them more space in their house, when they change a habit or routine they've had for decades in order to improve their enjoyment of the day. Change is not usually comfortable. But that's OK ... it gets easier. Pat yourself on the back when you make changes, honor your discomfort and notice and value what you have gained.

How will YOU get out of the "zone" today?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Hoarding Support Group In San Mateo County

A colleague, Caroline Totah, RN, CPO-CD®, CPO®, who works on the peninsula south of San Francisco recently forwarded information about a new support group forming there for people with hoarding issues.

Those interested in attending the group can find out more at Peninsula Community Service's hoarding website:

You will be directed to take a survey. For those who do not have access to the internet, you can call directly.
  • Joanne Chan, PsyD at 415-816-8611
  • Linda Merrifield at 650-343-4380.

I looked at the survey and it doesn't ask any personal questions about hoarding issues, but instead asks the reader about his/her preferences for where and how often meetings should be held, how long they should be, how far you would be willing to drive and what benefit you would like to derive from attending meetings.

I recommend visiting the PCS website whether or not you can attend this support group. It is really comprehensive with many resources and information for those living in the San Mateo County area as well as for anyone, anywhere.

And by the way, if you are in need of a professional organizer in the Pacifica area, please consider contacting Caroline Totah. I know her through my membership in the NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) and she has a really wonderful list of qualifications and the personality to work with the "organizationally challenged." She has a great "About Me" page you shouldn't miss!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Master Trainer!

Hello friends!

I have wonderful news! I have attained my Level V "Master Trainer" designation from the NSGCD! I had earned my Level IV "Coach" status last year after coaching a new student through her CPO-CD training, and my Level V status after having presented a training to colleagues, creating and presenting a new teleclass for the NSGCD and taking 10 hours of coaching training (I actually have far more than that...).

I immediately had my darling husband bow down to me and say "Yes, Master!" Well, we know how long that will last! :)

The certification director notified me over the weekend, so it may take a little while before it shows up on the NSGCD website.

Have a great week!

Margaret Pearson Pinkham, CPO-CD®
Level IV Coach
Level V Master Trainer

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ultralight Towel Field Testing

The Ultralight Towel Field Test has begun! After over a week of daily use (and sometimes two showers a day since we are at the beach), my towel has begun to show signs of wear. But please keep in mind, this is after several days of use! They are soft and absorbent, and the "beach towel" covers the body when coming in from the outdoor shower! I'll write more later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Teleclass Tidbit-Working with Students with ADHD

Teleclass Tidbit

One bit of advice from last night's NSGCD class "Working with Students with ADHD" presented by Sacramento organizer Holly Graff, CPO®, was one I use myself.

The "Time-Timer" clock is a cool little (or big) gadget that lets you visually see how much time you have left for a project. Also available for your computer and now an iPhone app.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Lightload towels--Earthquake kits?

I'm in the process of "field-testing" these ultra-light towels and will report on them in the coming weeks. So far, I like them. I think they will be a really great addition to earthquake preparedness kits. They come rolled into tiny "coins" (they have to be hydrated), are soft and best yet...inexpensive! My toughest critic (my 8 year-old daughter) is helping me in the testing!
See them here at Lightload Towels.
(I did receive some free review samples.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Just for fun...more Organizing Acronyms...

Silly stuff I found on a sticky note that I had written last year.

These are possible acronyms for organizing businesses:

(Creative Organizing in Coastal Homes)

(Organizing Umpires Tirelessly!)

Sit. STAY.
(Situational Strategies for Terriers and Apsos in Yurts)
(OK I know that one is a real stretch!)

(Preferred Occupational Organizers for Cockers and Hounds)

Can you think of some more?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Genius little grippers for hangers

I love these little sticky gel pads you put on hangers to keep things from slipping off. Genius! I got them for a client and I am using them too.   
Slip Grip...only about $3.00 for 20 grips which will be good for 10 hangers. I bought mine at

Sunday, April 11, 2010

But don't expect procrastination to pay!

After my last post,  I attended the NSGCD teleclass "Why don't we just do it? - Managing Procrastination" presented by Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D.

It was a wonderful class and I highly recommend reading his blog.

But he DID talk about that whole thing about sometimes procrastination paying....yes, once in awhile it can pay, but 99% of the time is doesn't, and it usually causes us pain, guilt, anxiety and sometimes even money!

So, yes, the fact that I did procrastinate in signing up for the class (actually it was more like I got distracted every time I went to the site to sign up...someone in my house suddenly needed my attention it seemed!) and I posted that fact on Facebook...and got quoted for truly was one of the few times that it paid off. Being open and honest about it is what really paid off, since I think it came to the attention of the NSGCD that there was a problem in the registration process for that class. I wonder how many other organizers were just too embarrassed to say something when they thought the class was full and that's why they couldn't get in? I, however, just loved the irony of it too much not to mention it!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

When procrastination pays...!

Whoo-hoo, I got quoted in a colleague's blog post (from my FaceBook post on procrastination–I had waited too long to sign up for a teleclass on procrastination!). Another organizer named Margaret...Margaret Lukens of New Leaf Organizing.

Margaret wrote a nice essay about how organizers might be perceived as being "perfectly organized" yet we, are indeed, human!

Friday, April 02, 2010

What have I finished?

There's nothing wrong with not having finished, with being "mid-process" on your way to completing something. There's even nothing wrong with not knowing what you are going to end up with in the end. of letting the process guide you to what you'll end up with. Trusting in the process and trusting in yourself are the key.

Here are a couple of examples around this idea.

Often, when I first visit a client, I have no idea how I will help them! But I have learned to trust in the process of the questions I ask and trust in myself that I do have the skills necessary to help. Things start unfolding as I get to know the client and how he or she thinks and her likes and dislikes. Ideas start to come, and not usually just from me. The best ideas often come from the client--I am often just a catalyst to help them see how they would like to proceed. We have a vague idea of what the end result is--a more organized home, better time management, etc. But it is through trial and error (and close examination of those success and challenges) that we arrive on what works. Each step is a completion of sorts, along the "mid-process" route.

In another metaphor, think about the college student. Many young adults start college without being sure of what kind of a degree they want. They just start by attending required courses, then trying on some they think they like and making decisions from there. No one thinks less of them because they don't have a degree yet--they are "mid-process." The degree comes at the end. The experience comes the whole time! And how many people do we know who actually completed college in only four years, without taking longer or changing their major? I know a few exist, but I don't think they are the majority. What students have "finished" all along the way are hundreds of assignments, and dozens of papers, books and classes. Let's not forget to enjoy that "completion chemistry" with all the "little" completions along the way. (Good to remember whether you are a college student or not!)

And even when we've "finished" getting a degree, we are never finished learning or deciding we can take a few more courses, whether a new "course" at a college or a new "course" in life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Package Deals

Instead of seasonal offers, I have decided to offer two special packages all the time. These seem to be the most popular and offer substantial savings. Their elegance is in their simplicity.

Purchase a 10 hour package and receive 1 extra hour free.
(11 total hours)

Purchase a 20 hour package and receive 3 extra hours free.
(23 hours total)

My rates vary per type of job, but are in the $70 - $100 range.

These packages are available to new and returning clients.

I am anything but a "hard-sell." If you are a new client, you can pay by the hour for the first session and if you decide to purchase a package, you can apply that to the balance at the end of the second session.
  • No refunds on unused hours. Hours must be used within one year of purchase.
  • Minimum 3-hour sessions hands-on and 1-hour sessions phone coaching.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Sour Notes of Perfectionism

I had a great chat today with a client and my thoughts around one of my latest personal adventures and organizing finally coalesced.

I am taking a beginning voice class at my local junior college. "Beginning Voice" is a fancy way of saying "Singing lessons." It's a group class, but not a choir. We are each working on individual songs and each of us will sing solo in front of the class at least 5 times over the semester. Marvel Gardner (the most wonderful, charismatic, talented, and funny voice teacher in the world) then evaluates our performance on many (oh so many) different levels.

It is, at the same time, the most exciting and terrifying thing I have ever done. Maybe this is the kind of rush people get who like to bungee jump or skydive. (I'm NOT one of those.) I took a few singing lessons when I was in high school and sang in the chorus of our production of Oklahoma! But I have never sung solo. ("Singing" campfire songs in front of 300 people in Yosemite as a park ranger doesn't really qualify.)

But in these past few weeks, I have learned a lot about myself and even more about letting go of perfectionism, which I am forever pushing on my clients.(The letting go, that is, not perfectionism!)

Just before the night I thought I might have to sing solo for the first time, my little brain was having a huge conversation with itself. Mostly about rationalizing dropping out of the class. "The song she is having us sing is too hard." "It's not my style." "I can't remember the words." "I don't sing it very well." On and on.

The other part of me took over and argued "But you've been wanting to do this for years." "You've already spent the $199 on the course, and you won't get it back." "Just do it and see if you really DO suck at singing, because your shower head is NEVER going to give you an evaluation of your abilities or help you be a better singer."

Yes, I went to class. I got there too late to sign up for singing that night and instead I just listened to my fellow newbies sing "Long Time Ago" (you can hear a bit of this on iTunes if you search Long Time Ago sung by Yvonne Kenny), over and over. Some were good. Some not so good. Some were good in parts, and not so good in others. Nobody was perfect. The song sounded different on everyone since each student has a different voice.

What did I learn? I learned (and remembered) that good enough is good enough. And practicing the song really helps. And even if I sucked at the song, I was still doing it. Even if it wasn't my best effort (sometimes I don't know when to stop practicing and just start doing), I was still going to sing it, get evaluated and learn what to try to make it better. I learned by watching all the others go before me and listened carefully to Marvel's instructions. I put those into practice when I rehearsed, and yes, when I did perform finally, it wasn't perfect, but it didn't suck. She gave me pointers and I worked on them. And when I performed again, I did better. Still not perfect, and that's OK.

I experimented. I let myself feel the fear and still performed. This wasn't Carnegie Hall, it was voice class, and I owed it to all the other students who had also faced their fears and performed in front of me. Backing out would be letting them down. Backing out would be not holding up my part of the deal. Sing for me and I'll sing for you.

This little essay only scratches the surface of what I am learning in this 13-week commitment to this class. But it has given me even more respect for others who face their fears, commit to change, and let go of trying to be perfect for fear of being seen as less than perfect. My clients do that every day. Each time I walk into a new client's home, I am often the first they have let in in months, years or decades. I don't take that responsibility lightly and I am honored they have chosen me.

My class is called "The Joy of Singing" and I can only hope I bring the "Joy of Organizing" to my clients (or just inspire readers) in their quests for a more comfortable home and life...even though the path to that life might be scary, challenging, change-making and hopefully, thrilling at the same time.

Sometimes we hit the right note. Sometimes we don't. But it's awfully quiet if we don't sing at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Top Three Reasons to Hoard

I attended a talk the other day and the speaker mentioned that there ARE some good reasons to hoard. It made me think a bit, even though it made me cringe. When I hear the word "hoard" I think of my clients who have so much stuff in their homes that they can no longer function. They can't sleep in their beds. They can't cook in their kitchens and they can't sit on their couch. Or take a shower or bath.

The meaning of the word might have changed, but I do tend to think we the word has always meant, "keeping too much."

But here are my top three times when it's OK to "hoard."

1. You are a squirrel (scrub jay, marmot, pika, rat, etc.) and you need to store food for the winter in order to survive. Even if there is "extra" when spring comes, at least it has padded your lair and insulated it.

2. You live in California (earthquakes), the midwest (tornadoes), a river delta (flooding) or the East (hurricanes and snow storms) and you have created an emergency preparedness kit so you have a better chance of surviving one of these disasters.

The next group I do tend to think of as a little "crazy" but I do harbor a little envy at the same time...

3. You are a "Dooms-dayer" that believes something is coming (an apocalypse, Commies, hippies or Democrats/Republicans) that will change the face of the earth forever and you will need supplies for 6 months or longer and the ability to be self-sufficient after that.

Group 1 is acting on instinct. Something tells them to gather food in order to live.

Groups 2 and 3 might be acting on either real or imagined future scenarios, but both are acting in an organized fashion and are doing what they can get to make sure they can get to their supplies and make use of them when they will need them.

Someone who is keeping things "for the future" or "when I might need them" and is not organized about it, is fooling him/herself into thinking they are just being prepared or frugal.

If you have so much stuff in your home that you can no longer do some basic things (mentioned above--sleep in your bed, sit on your couch, cook in your kitchen, use your bath or shower) because of the things that are piled on your bed, laying on your couch, "stored" in your kitchen or in your stove or piled in your tub or shower, then you have a problem called hoarding.

It may also be preventing you from seeing your family, or your own family from having friends over. It may have ruined a relationship. And it can kill you. (It can prevent emergency personnel from reaching you and even kill you directly if a pile falls on you or trips you up.)

If you are living like this, or know someone who is, please, please, let someone else know. Start seeing a therapist or counselor. Reach out to a friend.

There might be a "Hoarding Task Force" or alliance of some kind in your county or city.

Here are a few resources to start with.

A local mental health agency.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, try:
San Francisco Mental Health Association Institute on Hoarding and Cluttering,

National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization,
They provide free Fact Sheets as well as a referral service to help you find a professional organizer trained in helping clients with hoarding issues.

National Association of Professional Organizers,
You can find an organizer in your area. Just be sure s/he lists severe clutter or hoarding as a specialty.

I Care Village,
A new comprehensive online resource for caregivers of the elderly. A section on hoarding is included.

Children of Hoarders website
Comprehensive website with links to local resources, legal advice, therapists in your part of the country. Personal stories, pictures, videos. Not for the faint of heart–but you will realize you are not alone!

OCD Foundation (Hoarding Center)
This site is co-edited by Drs. Randy Frost and Gail Skeketee, authors (with David Tolin) of Buried in Treasures (see below). They are on the front line of research into hoarding behaviors.


Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving and Hoarding, by David Tolin, Randy Frost and Gail Steketee.

Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring, by Michael Tompkins and Tamara Hartl.

Friday, January 22, 2010

25 Creative Uses for Coffee Filters

I pilfered this from the Stacks and Stacks Facebook update, but it was so great I had to pass it on. I already tried two of them today! And I added one--used one for the veggie cuttings that I put in the compost bin. (I use un-bleached filters.)

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome… Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.
9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters..
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.
14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."
15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors..
17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.
24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book..
25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Clean Fridge Blog

I'd like to announce the birth of a new blog...My Clean Fridge!

I've decided that this whole "take a picture of your clean fridge" idea is pretty fun and would like to invite my readers over to this blog dedicated to clean fridges, clean pantries, clean whatever!

You are welcome to e-mail me pictures of your fridge (or whatever area you'd like to keep clean) on a monthly basis, as incentive for YOU to keep YOUR area clean! Feel free to send me the "Before" and "Afters" or just the "Afters" if you like. I will post your story and your photos on the blog as I get them.

My next project (bigger than my fridge) is my pantry....I might be brave enough to even post a "Before" shot and let you see the results as I go. I'm afraid it will take a whole day or several shorter sessions.

See you in the crisper!

Margaret Pearson Pinkham

Friday, January 01, 2010

Fridge 1/1/10

Here it is as promised. The interior of my fridge on January 1!

Knowing I would be taking this pic really kept me pretty honest about throwing things out (or using them) on an ongoing basis. I really only threw out a couple things right before I took the photo.

Welcome to my blog!

Until my full-service website is up, this blog will be serving as the best source of information about me and my services. Please check back frequently, leave comments or questions and let me know what you think.

Let me introduce myself
I am a professional organizing consultant and coach based in Sonoma County, California (about an hour north of San Francisco). I specialize in helping clients who tend to have more serious or long-standing issues with organizing, which can manifest as a lot of clutter, time-management problems or even compulsive hoarding.

My clients also often face "brain-based challenges" which run the gamut from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), depression, bipolar issues or other health issues. We work together to design systems that will function with each client's unique brain.

My extensive training through the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) has helped me to understand these and many other issues that clients might face. I am not a therapist, nor do I attempt to help clients with these issues directly, but I do help design organizing strategies that can take into account these and other issues that often contribute to the clutter or organizing problems.

I earned my "CPO-CD®" (Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization) in 2007 through an 18-month mentored and peer-reviewed study offered by the NSGCD. It's a new and exciting field of study and we are quite the elite bunch right now! I am the only organizer in the North Bay to have this designation, and one of only 60 or so in the nation. Click here to see a list of other organizers near you who specialize in chronic disorganization and are graduates of this program or have earned lower level certificates.

I've also recently (2009 and 2010) earned my Level V (Program Coach) and Level V (Master Trainer) desiginations through the NSGCD.

I look forward to hearing from my readers and am happy to answer questions about my services or about organizing in general.


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