Lessons Learned: When Hackers Muck Up Your Website

On November 30, 2011, in Technology, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m taking a sabbatical and have lined up a few posts ahead of time. I’ll also be re-sharing some of my fave OTR articles and introducing you to new guest authors as well as other interesting info while I’m away. Enjoy! 

It sucks when hackers decide to muck up your website. It’s happened to me and OTR friend and Evernote Ambassador, Brandie Kajino, wasn’t immune to their attacks, either. She recently shared a few things she learned from the experience.

1. Hackers can happen to anyone. I’m assured it’s not anything I did, nor could I have done much more to prevent it. Someone with evil intent wanted to, and succeeded, in getting in and wreaking havoc on my websites.

3. Smart people make bad choices sometimes. I am awed at the talent these hackers exhibit. Seriously. Several uber-smart techie people I know were also hacked in this same way. ALL small business owners.

  Read Brandie’s Full Story

Check out the rest of what Brandie had to say and read the comments (give your two cents, if you’d like). One reader gave a very in-depth reply with tips on how to stop hackers from getting in the back door. Here’s one of them:

“Passwords are of course very important. I suggest using either 1Password (my personal favorite) or Last Pass (which I haven’t used but many people like) to create and store really secure passwords.”

If your site has ever been man handled by a hacker, I’d love to hear what you did about it.

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5 Minute Organizing Challenge [November 2011]

On November 29, 2011, in 5 Minute Organizing Challenge, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m taking a sabbatical and have lined up a few posts ahead of time. I’ll also be re-sharing some of my fave OTR articles and introducing you to new guest authors as well as other interesting info while I’m away. Enjoy! 

It’s time for a new 5 Minute Organizing Challenge! What can you do in 5 minutes to gain a little order in your life? You can put a few things back in place or gather your important items. Here’s a new set of five things for you to consider adding to your routine this month. Try try them on for size and feel free to suggest a few of your own.

1. Hate to remind you about this, but have you started pulling together some of the info you’ll need to get your taxes done? Maybe you can start by filling out your tax organizer. I’m sure your CPA sent you one. No time to do it right now? Put it on your task list.

2. Actually, you might just want to start writing that to do list. First, start your list for TODAY. Write down 1-2 things you WILL accomplish by day’s end (perhaps some holiday organizing tasks?). Then, capture all the other things you need to get done and add due dates.

3. Those shoes hanging about your door – put them away. Dirty socks, too? Throw them in the laundry basket. No, don’t put this on your list. Just do it!

4. How’s your car doing? Had an oil change or tune up lately? Schedule it or put it on your to do list.

5. Have you signed up for that thing you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t done yet? Yep, put it on your list. =)


Check out the October 2011 Organizing Challenge

Fact Friday: Holidays = Stress

On November 25, 2011, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“The holiday season, which begins for most Americans with Thanksgiving and continues through New Year’s Day, often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression.”


Read More:

Stress, depression and the holidays: 10 tips for coping | MayoClinic.com | 10.20.09

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Thanksgiving Day 2011

On November 24, 2011, in General, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and we have the day off. If you’re a regular reader, you know that although I’m taking a little break from writing, there’ll still be lots for you read in the coming days. So, check back tomorrow and have a fabulous day, no matter where you are!


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Fact Friday: Women Suffer from ATBS–Addicted to Busyness Syndrome

On November 18, 2011, in Fact Friday, Productivity, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Busyness is the drug of choice for most women. Like any drug, Busyness is not only a downer; it’s a dangerous form of self deception. We fool ourselves into feeling productive…when actually we’re sabotaging our success.”


Read More:

Detox From Busyness | Forbes.com | 9.20.11


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Reach a Live Customer Service Rep With GetHuman.com

On November 16, 2011, in Technology, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Today, I learned about GetHuman.com from my colleague, Kim Oser. It’s a site that gives you all the info you need to find a real, live human at the specific company you’re trying to reach.


“The GetHuman™ movement has been created from the voices of millions of consumers who want to be treated with dignity when they contact a company for customer support.”


The site also offers tips and short cuts (e.g., press # to bypass greeting, press 3 to pay your bill), a directory of numbers, and Twitter handles for companies that offer support via Twitter. You can also create your own list of frequently called companies and access those numbers whenever you want. That should save a bit of time and frustration, yes?

Another thing you get to do – write reviews of your experience when you ultimately make contact. That way, you pay it forward to the next guy.



The only drawback is that there are ads sprinkled  through your search results, so it looks a little cluttered. But, GetHuman is a free service, so you’ll just have to make nice with the ads. The iPhone app is free, too.



Give GetHuman a try and let me know what you think.


Quick Tip: Organize Your Closet With Garment Dividers

On November 15, 2011, in Closets & Storage, Clothing, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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When you’re in the midst of your AM rush, you need to know where to find your clothing quickly. Some of you may be thinking that a few quick steps to the closet will do the trick. That is, indeed, the first step.

Add garment dividers and your closet becomes more clear, particularly on those days that you barely have time to shower. And, they make it easy for you put things back where they belong. It’s a great labeling system for your clothes if you categorize them by type (e.g., pants, blouses, T-shirts, etc.) and/or color…or some other system that works for you.

Get pre-printed labels in English and Spanish.

Get your kiddos organized with their own garment dividers, too. You can use the Clutter Diet brand or a more kid-friendly version, like this one from SugarBooger. They come in a variety of designs, so you can choose a different one for each child.

Organize clothing by type, size, or day of the week.


Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes at OTR Blog

On November 14, 2011, in General, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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Pretty soon – as soon as say this week – I’ll be taking a bit of a brief sabbatical from writing. I’m working on a very special project that is now consuming most of my time.

And, like any good organizer, I know when it’s time to take something of my plate. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t have anything to read to read in the meantime. 

You’ll still see posts 3-5 times per week so don’t go anywhere. J I’ve written a few articles ahead of time and lined up some great guest bloggers. Some are new to OTR and others are old friends. In fact, you’ll be seeing a lot more of Sarah Heckle (formerly Beckman).

So, enjoy them. Disagree with them. Banter with them. Ask them questions. Suggest topics you want to hear more about. 

Though I’ll be taking a break, I can still read, so I’ll see your comments and will come back with more good stuff when my mini-break is over.

And, while I’ve got your attention, have a peek at some of the posts we’ve published at OTR over the last three years (#2 is one of my faves).

• Holiday Meal Planning

 I’m Ready For My Close Up, Ms. Damn-Machine-Oh!

• Top 10 Signs That You Are “Hoarding,” Not Just “Collecting”

• The Early Bird Gets an Even Earlier Start

• Get Your Refrigerator Ready for All That Holiday Cooking

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Veteran’s Day 2011 ~ Fact Friday Article Round Up

On November 11, 2011, in Article Round Up, Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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It’s Veterans’ Day here in the U.S. and though I’m off at a two-day retreat, you get to enjoy a Fact Friday round up. Have a great weekend!

• Fun Fact Friday:  Pizza, The President, & The PentagonSomething remarkable happens when Dominoes makes late night deliveries to the Pentagon.

 Fact Friday: The Color of OrganizationIt turns out that women who put like colors together in their closets have more…

• Fact Friday: Ready for Dinner Guests?. How long does it take you to get ready for guests? 65% of people polled said they can get ready in…

• Fact Friday: IKEA, Closets, and Sex. For 31% of Canadians, sex gets a bad rap. Closets on the other hand…

• Fact Friday Quote: Advice from Lily Tomlin on Holiday Stress. Lily suggests that you do one simple thing to kick stress to the curb.


10 Most Common Questions About Solar Energy

On November 10, 2011, in Guest Posts, Recycling, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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If you’re thinking about using solar energy, today’s guest author sheds light on what it takes to use solar power.

Solar energy has been a hot topic over the last few years, and more people are looking into using this source of power for their homes. After all, solar power is clean, renewable, and abundant in supply. All we need to do is learn how to harness this power more effectively.

There is a lot of misinformation about using the sun to create electricity, so this article will cover the top 10 most common questions people have about solar energy.

10 Common Questions About Solar Energy


1. Where is the energy stored for solar energy?

Even though the solar panels collect the energy created by the sun, they do not actually harness that power themselves. Each panel is made up of solar cells that are in series, and all the electricity is channeled to a power supply like a pack of large batteries.

These batteries allow power to be used at night or on cloudy days when there is not much sun. Every solar power system needs a place to store the energy, and as batteries become more efficient, this may become more cost effective as well.

2. Is there any maintenance required for solar panels?

Unlike other sources of renewable energy, solar power needs very little maintenance. This is in large part due to the fact that there are no moving parts on a solar panel like there are on a wind turbine.

The only breakable part of a solar panel — or the part that can be susceptible to damage — is the glass that covers the solar cells. This glass needs to be kept clear at all times so that the sun is not being blocked by dirt or pieces of debris.

Solar panels need to be inspected, especially after a storm, to make sure none of them have cracked, and that no tree limbs or dirt is covering them up. For those who live in areas with colder temperatures, it’s important to remove any snow that builds up on these panels. Not only will the snow keep the sun from reaching the solar cells, but the weight of the snow can damage the cells as well.

3. How do I clean solar panels?

Cleaning solar panels is a part of proper maintenance, the only maintenance they need. But, you need to be careful when cleaning the glass panels because they can easily crack if you step on them. There are special poles made with sprayers that will allow you to wash the panels while remaining safely on the ground. Using them will remove any dust and dirt that has gotten caught on the glass.

You should seek every safety precaution if you plan on doing this yourself — and especially if you plan on getting on the roof of your home yourself. There are solar panel cleaning companies that will actually do this for you so that is also an option.

solar energy

Solar panels on house roof” by Gray Watson User:E090. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

4. Where should I put my solar panels?

Most of the time, you will see solar panels on the roof of a house, but this may not be the best placement for your solar panels. If you live in the United States, you will want your solar panels to face south, as they will get as much sun as possible. But, if you don’t have a south-facing roof, you may want to find another location other than the roof of your house.

You should also consider things like shade and what the shade will be like 10 years from now. After all, trees grow and even though your solar panels may not be in shade right now, they might be in a few short years. You should also think about using a tracking kit so the solar panels will follow the sun as it goes through the sky, therefore maximizing how much power you can harness.

5. How many solar panels will it take to power my whole house?

This is a very common question for people considering using solar power at home. A large factor in how many solar panels you will need depends on the kind of solar panels you are getting, which we will cover in another question. First, it’s very possible to power your entire home with solar power, but it’s going to take some money.

The average home uses almost 9,000 Kilowatts a year, according to the US Energy Information Agency. This works out to about 24 Kwh every day, being 24,000 watts. With only limited sunlight during the day, we need to produce 4,000 watts every hour. Using large solar panels that can produce 130 watts, you would need about 30 panels to create enough energy to stay off the grid.

There are some solar panels that can generate 200 watts per hour, meaning you would only need 20 panels. And still, there are solar panels able to produce 250 watts of energy. So, as these panels get more efficient you will need less of them to do the job.


6. What type of solar panels are the most efficient?

Although there are four types of solar panels, there are mainly two that are commonly in use. Amorphous silicon panels have been used for years, but only have an electricity return rate of about 5%. The much more efficient monocrystalline silicon panels have an electricity return rate of about 16-18%, but they are also much more expensive. Since the monocrystalline silicone panels are the most efficient solar panels on the market right now, they are very popular and are used in solar plant fields quite often.

7. How much does a complete solar panel system cost?

If you want to go completely off grid and never pay for electricity again, it will take quite a large investment. We already talked about the average home needing 20-30 solar panels to power the entire home, and with solar panels costing anywhere from $500-$750, the cost of the panels will be anywhere from $10,000 to $22,000. Of course, this does not include the cost of hiring professionals to install the panels correctly and buying a battery station to store all the energy as well.

solar energy

Oregon Department of Transportation (Installing solar panels Uploaded by Smallman12q). CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

8. Should I try to install a solar panel system myself?

After seeing the cost of solar panels, you might be thinking of installing them yourself. It’s important that you talk to your local building inspector first, and also that you hire an experienced electrician to make sure all the wiring is correct. Even if you know a lot about electricity, it’s a good idea to hire a licensed electrician, and in most states, it’s actually required.

9. How can I get solar grants from the government?

There are many grant programs and federal incentives for getting a solar power system. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will reimburse you up to 30% of the cost of installing a solar panel system, and there are many local programs that will help you pay for using solar energy to power your home. Each location is different so you will want to investigate the possible grants that are offered in your area. The Department of Energy’s website is a great place to see what grants are applicable to your situation.

10. How long should a solar panel last?

Most solar panel manufactures offer a 25 year warranty, but chances are you will not have to use it because they can last much longer than 25 years. And, that’s a good thing since it will take most people about 20 years before they see the solar panels turning a profit for them. There are reports of some solar panels lasting more than 40 years, but 25 years is a good average. If you keep your panels well maintained and cleaned, they should have no problem lasting long into the future.


About the Author

Jonathan S. is passionate about green technology. He writes about how to make solar panels at home and new advances in technology.

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