The 5 Minute Organizing Challenge [November 2010]

On November 30, 2010, in 5 Minute Organizing Challenge, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

The last time I suggested you try the 5 Minute Challenge, some of you responded with some quick things you do to gain a little order in your life. Here’s a new set of five things. Try them on for size and feel free to suggest a few of your own.

1.  Make your bed. You’ll be happier, too.

2.  Put your CDs and DVDs back on the shelf or in your media binder.

3.  Clear your car of water bottles, paper, and trash.

4.  Put your pens (or pencils or markers) in the pencil cup or desk drawer.

5.  Shred all the credit card offer letters lying on your desk or kitchen table. Why?


 Check out the August 2010 Organizing Challenge

Interview With Sonya Gavankar, Newseum Host & Miss DC Pageant Producer

On November 29, 2010, in Busy People, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

Back at the beginning of October, I had the pleasure of interviewing new author, Paul David Pope, on the set of Inside Media at the Newseum in Washington, DC.  My interview with Paul was planned, but talking with him on the set with the great lighting and comfy chairs wasn’t. It all came about because the fabulous person who’s the host of Inside Media, Ms. Sonya Gavankar. After she finished chatting with Paul about his family’s connections to the National Inquirer, she graciously offered her set to me.

I met Sonya for the first time that day, loved her bubbly and outgoing personality, and asked for an interview on the spot. I had no idea that she was crowned Miss DC in 1997 or that she’s an executive producer of the Miss DC Pageant. Nor did I know that that she’s also the president of HOBY, a foundation that brings free leadership programs to high schools students.

Have a look at our interview to hear how she stays stays on top of all her projects. Hint: she likes a specific application and mentioned that it saved her marriage!

Connect with Sonya: Twitter | Facebook | Web

Free Shred Event in Northern Virginia

On November 26, 2010, in Shred Events, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

The next community shred event has been scheduled for December 11, 2010. As usual, it’s FREE so take this opportunity to get rid of all that excess paper weight! If you live in the DC metro area, be sure to go to this event or pass on this info to your friends and family in DC, MD, or VA.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NBC4 Safe & Secure Community Shred · Shred-It · PNC Bank

Time: 8 am – 11 am *Cars must be in line by 11 am

Where: Northern Virginia Community College @ Annandale, VA · Parking Lot B15 · 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annanndale, VA 22003 (703.323.3000) [Google Map]


  • Up to 5 boxes of personal (non-business) papers


  • CD’s, DVD’s, Tapes
  • Credit Cards
  • Binders
  • Hanging File Folders
  • Batteries
  • Flammables
  • Combustibles
  • Electronic Equipment


Fact Friday: Checking Work E-Mail During the Holidays

On November 26, 2010, in Fact Friday, Technology, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

“A new survey from Xobni and Harris Interactive says 59% of employed American adults check their e-mail during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of the 59%, more than half (55%) check their work e-mails at least once a day, while about 28% check their e-mails multiple times throughout the day.”


Read More:

Checking Work E-Mail During the Holidays? You’re Not Alone [STATS] | | 11.23.10

Thanksgiving Day 2010

On November 25, 2010, in General, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

It’s a big holiday here in the US, so we’re taking the day off. For all those who celebrate Thanksgiving, we wish you safe and fun times.

Tagged with:  

Transformers: The Table That Turns into Storage & Lighting

On November 24, 2010, in Closets & Storage, Small Spaces, Technology, Transformers, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

Welcome to our regular “Transformers” feature (click link and scroll down to see them all). A transformer is a thing that started out as one thing, has been rehabbed, and now functions as another thing.  A transformer can also be a thing that is really another thing all at the same time. Check out our latest find…

I love things that turn into other things! You get – if it works well – more than one function and something that might even be a nice conversation starter.  It’s even better when that thing that turns into another thing is a tech type of thing.  Ok, I promise to stop saying “thing” now. =)

So, this table is shaped like a cube and has several compartments for storing things (oops!) like magazines and books…or even a spot of tea…or potato chips…just about anything you want.  It also has an outlet so you can charge your phone or iPod or whatever gadget you’ve got.  All of this while it’s illuminating your room with a soft glow. Romantic, yes? ;) Oh, and it’s on wheels. What more could you ask for?

Check it out below and watch the YouTube video to see it in action. What would you store in this table?

Btw, have a look at these other cool transformers here and here and here.




Check Out These Other Transformers

Contest: What’s Your Favorite Organizing Tip? Enter to Win $250!

On November 22, 2010, in Home Organizing, Office Organizing, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

The contest ended on December 31, 2010.  Check back often for future contests!

Care to guess what I got in the mail on Saturday? Don’t worry, you don’t really have to guess because I’ll tell you. I got a copy of Pretty Neat: The Buttoned-Up Way to Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection, co-authored by OTR friend and guest blogger, Alicia Rockmore, and Sarah Welch. They’re also the wonderful ladies that founded Buttoned Up, Inc., a company that features lots of great organizing products to suit every day life.

I’m excited about getting this book for a couple of reasons. First, I’m curious to see if I’ll pick up a few new nuggets. This is good for you, too, because I’ll be sharing them with you.

Second, and even more exciting, is that you’ll get a chance to win $250. Who couldn’t use $250? Don’t worry, you don’t really have to answer…rhetorical question.

How to Enter to Win $250

All you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite, most tried and true organizing tip or lifehack…the one thing that you do that comes through for you every time.  If it’s picked as the winner by Alicia and Sarah, get ready to spend that $250. You don’t even have to register or sign over your first born. Seriously. **UPDATE** Have several tips? Leave separate comments for each one to increase your chance of being selected! ~Deb, 11.23.10

Simply leave a comment with your fave tip by midnight on December 31st. Tell your friends to leave a comment. Tell your family members to leave a comment. Tell your boss, your child’s pre-school teacher, the guy at Jiffy Lube, your dog…you know, everyone you know…to leave their tip directly on this post.

Want a link you can e-mail?  Here you go:  Btw, if I get the most reader tips (out of all the bloggers running this contest), I get a shot at winning some cash, too. Not bad, huh? The winner will be announced on January 10, 2011.

What to Expect Over the Next Several Weeks

You can buy the book or just check back here over the next few weeks to decide if you want to buy it as I’ll be sharing a few “real life” tips Alicia & Sarah have for getting more organized. I may also throw in a few surprises – good ones – so you’ll definitely want to check back often. In the meantime, here’s an overview of Pretty Neat.

Overview of Pretty Neat

Have you ever heard of “org-porn?” Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer that, either. You will learn all about it when you read this book. Basically, it’s the glossy fantasy world where your life and everything in it is perfect, sorta like those airbrushed pics in Playboy. It’s this notion of impossible and unrealistic perfection that Alicia & Sarah tell you to kick to the curb. Who wants airbrushed and glossy anyway? …yes, rhetorical.

“The goal of getting organized isn’t necessarily to have everything picture-perfect, but rather to eliminate inefficiency so that you have more time to do what you actually want to do.”

They suggest that you stop “holding yourself to an impossible org-porn standard,” and first figure out your reasons for getting organized, and then find the right strategies that work for you. Good advice, I say.

The authors share specific tips and tricks across several areas, including how to organize a toy swap, be quicker in the kitchenhow to cut the virtual junk, and the 4-step cure to cluttertosis, to name a few.  There are also stories from and interviews with real people so you can see that you’re not alone and that not all situations and solutions are created equal. Each chapter (twelve in total) ends with a wrap-up for those of us that want the summary first.

About Sarah and Alicia

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping busy people get organized sanely. The company offers tips and tools via their blog and has a line stationary products.

Sarah Welch identifies herself as a “yo-yo organizer.” She’s a seasoned entrepreneur who is used to juggling two or more jobs and a million details at once. Over the years she has learned that the secret to getting it all done is by focusing on maintaining on all fronts with the help of the 80/20 rule…and a good sense of humor.

Alicia Rockmore is a self-proclaimed organizational maniac who seamlessly juggles a fast-paced career and a full home life. Her friends and family describe her as over-the-top organized and call on her to help them get their lived buttoned up and pulled together. The 80/20 rule is also a life saver for her.


Leave a comment below with your favorite tip!

Tagged with:  

Fact Friday: Go Paperless and Get Happy

On November 19, 2010, in Fact Friday, Paper, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

“Going paperless – banking online, receiving bills and statements online, and paying those bills online – makes people happier.  It reduces dissatisfaction with the companies sending those bills…even though some people hang onto paper like its some kind of crazy life preserver, when you get rid of the paper you are much less likely to be upset with any of the companies you deal with.

Read More:

Online Bill-Paying Makes People Happier, Research Shows | | 5.20.10

Tagged with:  

Organizing is a Funny Business

On November 18, 2010, in Guest Posts, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

The last time today’s guest blogger, Janice Simon, wrote an article for us, the topic was pretty serious.  Today, she’s bound to make you chuckle as she presents the lighter, funnier side of organizing.

The leather chaps caught my eye, and not because I live in Texas.

The chaps were in a doctor’s private office and mixed in with papers, journals, and articles like it was a legal pad or something. A nurse gave him the chaps to wear when he rode his motorcycle, but instead of taking them home, they had become part of the stuff on his credenza.

Organizing is a funny business.

As a professional organizer, you go through people’s drawers and psyches and see everything.  As a former newspaper reporter who covered police beat, nothing shocks me, but lots of things amuse me.

The Stuff You Find. Since I am an in-house organizer in a cancer hospital, I have found a myriad of things in people’s offices. In addition to breast pump bags and gym clothes, I’ve unearthed medical equipment, oodles of conference bags with materials inside, undeposited reimbursement checks, and a brain in a jar. I never saw the brain, but my client told me it might be in her piles.

The Negotiating. Clients and I negotiate what is going to be kept and what’s going out. One office client, who had rid herself of unnecessary paper and supplies, insisted on keeping a three-inch piece of string, no matter the arguments I gave to her. I asked, “What are you going to do? Calf rope a rat?”

As an organizer, you find yourself saying things such as, “If we recycle the empty yogurt containers, you’ll have room for your glasses on the shelf.”

The Procrastination Methods. Clients can brilliantly procrastinate. Doctors will pull academic journal articles about a topic, and I’ve worked with some who have pulled articles for two years looking for THE article. I suggest they write THE article, and they look at me with eyes full of thoughtful wonder and agreement.

Another client prefers sewing and fabric shopping over tackling large projects at work. For her, we negotiate those as rewards for tackling smaller steps of the project.  When her project is completed, she can sew with a clear mind.

The Overwhelmed Client. Organizers work with lots of zombies. Just look at our overwhelmed and harried clients who can’t live without their Smart Phones. Take away their Smart Phones, and you’ll find yourself in a scene straight out of “Shaun of the Dead.”

Zombie symptoms include: not pushing an elevator button, talking on the cell in the bathroom (gross!), and reading e-mails in a meeting or at dinner.

We live in a world where talking to yourself is now okay. The day I passed someone talking to himself in a loud voice without a Bluetooth or cell phone, it was refreshing.

Finding a Home. In a hospital setting, I’ve helped clients make paper and digital files for just about everything. For one doctor, we made files by body part because that’s how he thought of his projects, and I found myself making folders for “kidney,” “prostate,” and “penis.” Yes, you heard me. At the time, I wondered how many other organizers had made a folder like that.

I’ve seen some complicated filing systems resembling geometry and algebra that we need to simplify because they wind up not using it. “So let’s make File 2009-11-1-3005MA into Medical Credentialing, okay?”

Like I said before, organizing is a funny business. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

About the Author

Janice Marie Simon, M.A., is a Project Director for Faculty Development at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Oklahoma and Texas and as a media coordinator for a public school district before joining M.D. Anderson. As a project director, she handles the planning for all of the department’s Faculty Development events and is a professional organizer. Janice is a Certified Professional Organizer® and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. As an organizer, she makes presentations on organizing and time management and offers one-on-one organizing sessions for clients.

Connect with Janice: WebTwitter

Changing Your Password is a Waste of Time

On November 17, 2010, in Technology, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
No Gravatar

October was a month filled with lots of annuals. No, not flowers. It’s traditionally known as the month for National Breast Cancer Awareness, and has been claimed as the time of year to focus on:

• National Dental Hygiene

• Arts & Humanities

• Disability Employment Awareness

…just to name a few.  Did you know that it’s also the month for National Cyber Security Awareness? With the amount of time we spend on the internet, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that you’re doing all you can to make sure you’re not being attacked.  I’ve been on the wrong end of this issue before, a few years ago and again recently. Ironically, last month, someone charged $300 to my PayPal account using their cell phone.

I was not happy. Not only did I have the hassle of having to call all the appropriate parties, I also had to change my password for just about every financial account I have. I guess I didn’t have to, but I was nervous about being attacked again, so I changed them all. Now I have to carry my password log with me everywhere I go because I can’t remember the new passwords.

I didn’t get any happier when I read a recent article in the Boston Globe that said changing passwords is a waste of time. Well, isn’t that a nice piece of news.

…users are admonished to change passwords regularly, but redoing them is not an effective preventive step against online infiltration…”

Seriously?!? So changing our passwords every 90 days is just a waste of precious minutes? What about all those cyber evil-doers and their bots?

Cormac Herley, the researcher who conducted the study (he’s also a principal researcher for Microsoft Research) says that it’s still important to protect our computers, but that it’s too time consuming because there are too many steps. Nice…a researcher who cares about time management.

Here’s what Herley suggests:

1. Create a kick-ass password surrounded by a moat and alligators. And armored guards. And a couple dobermans. And a ninja.

2. Install the most update virus software. You might think it the latest and greatest version, but are you sure? Go check now.

3. Remember that moat I mentioned earlier, well that’s your firewall. Make sure it’s activated.

4. BE CAREFUL. Unfortunately, we’re the sort that invite spyware to mingle with our computers and smart phones. We like to download stuff. We get tricked. We’re not stupid…the evil-doers are just really smart. Yeah, I don’t like that either.

‘One of the main ways people get compromised is that they open the door to an attacker themselves,’ said Herley. Someone might load software promoted as offering protection when it is actually spyware in disguise, he said, or they ‘open an e-mail attachment with a malicious payload…'”


Do you still think we should change our passwords often or do you agree with Herley?


Tagged with: