Archive for Interview

Organizing my continuing education, take a fresh approach to conferences

I support continuing education for everyone in whatever field you are interested in.  I know that you agree because you are reading blogs to learn more about organizing and to improve your skills.  I continue to do that too.

This year I attended 3 conferences.Conferences help you to expand your horizons, learn new information, meet new people, travel to new places and improve your skill set. Click To Tweet

Association of Professional Declutterers and Organizers Conference

This is the professional organization in Britain.  It was held in London England in March.  I had a chance to learn from and share ideas with Professional Organizers from Scotland, Wales, Dubai, United States and the Netherlands.  I enjoyed the sessions on Minimalism, Chronic Disorganization,  learning about the brain- executive function system, making videos with your cellphone and becoming a better speaker.  Not so enjoyable but very necessary was a session on the new information privacy policies in Europe which also affect us in Canada. At the conference they were organizing their yearly Spring Clearing Week.  I really liked the idea of Spring Clearing instead of Spring Cleaning  and started using this term in my information.   We really don’t do a big spring cleaning anymore because our houses, furnaces, air quality and society are much cleaner. In the past it was important to clean thoroughly after being shut inside with fireplaces burning, dirt floors, wooden walls, unpaved streets.  Now it is important to take control of the clutter that develops as we move from season to season changing clothing and activities. Clutter affects our well-being so remember to do spring and fall clearing.  Lastly, the food was delicious and networking fantastic.

Association of Russian Professional Organizer Conference

Association of Russian Professional Organizers

I was contacted to be a surprise North American speaker for their conference in April.  We connected over Skype and they interviewed me about how I operate my business and how the industry of Professional Organizing runs in Canada. Russia is a big country.  To give you a feel for the size, it has 10 time zones, Canada has 5 time zones.  There were 84 participants from many parts of Russia and Japan.  It was a fun experience and so rewarding to see their smiles and hear their gasps when I was introduced.   The conference organizer would ask a question in Russian, the interpreter asked it to me in English, I answered in English, the interpreter translated to Russian and then the audience laughed.  They run their businesses very similarly to the way most organizers in North American setup their businesses.  They have the same difficulties as we do  marketing effectively and  getting clients.  I was so excited to learn from their enthusiasm, joy and dedication.

Professional Organizers in Canada Conference

This year the conference was in Kelowna, British Columbia in November. The theme was Renew and Recharge. Many of the presentations built on each other.  We started with a session about dealing with fears that hold you back from taking the next step.  Write down your fears, determine how to overcome them and what steps you will take.  This theme continued in a marketing session and a session on Minimalism about taking steps to change your lifestyle.  In a session on bullet journaling one of the things that was touched on was about how to reflect on success and failures.  It was a interesting thread that carried through a number of sessions, accidentally.  This year I went to conference as a presenter for the first time.  It was nerve racking but rewarding and fun.  I talked about how to make your office  more productive, creative, inspired and healthy but making small changes to the workplace environment.  Make conscious decisions about the type of lighting, paint colour , room temperature, drinking water, having plants in your office. Stop multitasking, use music to help you focus on tasks, identify productivity pit-stops, things that draw your attention away from the task you are doing.  Apply good ergonomic design concepts in your office, get enough sleep, change you working position every 30 minutes from standing to sitting, change the type of task you are doing to avoid repetitive strain injuries  and change the location of where you are working because your posture will change and that causes you to use different muscle groups. The food was fantastic and it was fun to start each morning with a yoga class.

Take a fresh approach to conferences

A common thread in my conference experience is great people, food and information. But going to conferences in your professional field may start to feel unproductive after a number of years. I took a fresh approach this year.  Focus on the participants and share ideas and learn from each other. Watch how other people network and improve your networking skills.   Look at presentations with a new eye and learn how to improve your presentations and speaking style. Conquer a fear, become one of the presenters at your national conference.  It will help you grow in knowledge and expertise. Combine your conference experience with travel.  I enjoyed traveling on the tube and exploring London, England and seeing the Harry Potter movie set.  Kelowna is a lovely town to walk around, hike up a local mountain or go on a wine tour. Expand your horizons learn new information, meet new people, travel to new places and improve your skill set.

Tell me about your conference experience. 

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Julie can coach you to break-free of the physical or emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. 

Contact her at

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Click here to learn more about working with a Professional Organizer?


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Top tips for a less stressful move

My guest blogger this week is Brooke Faulkner.  She is a mom and writer in the Pacific Northwest . When she’s not wrangling her own kids, she’s writing tips to help other families do the same. You can see more of her writing on twitter, @faulknercreek.  Brooke thanks for sharing your expertise.

As you probably have already experienced, packing and moving to a new location — whether across town or across the country — rank right up there as the the least desirable tasks to tackle in life.

Research has even shown that moving is MORE stressful than a divorce or starting a new job. In a poll of 2,000 adults who have moved in the past three years, almost two in three (61 percent) placed moving at the top of their stress list.Research has even shown that moving is MORE stressful than a divorce or starting a new job. In a poll of 2,000 adults who have moved in the past three years, almost two in three (61 percent) placed moving at the top of their stress list. Click To Tweet

Meanwhile, a crumbling relationship, divorce and a new job were ranked second, with less than half (42 percent) voting those life events as the most stressful.

Fortunately, there are many ways to lessen the burden of packing up your life and starting a new chapter. It can even be an opportunity to take charge and move like a boss.

And once you’re done with the big move, you can slowly unpack your belongings, breathe a sigh of relief, and enjoy your new space.

Here are a few things you can do to make the process easier along the way:

To-Do Lists Are Your Friend

There are so many things to keep track of as you work your way through the transition from the old place to the new house. Create a plan of attack by making a to-do list. It can be organized on a week-by-week basis to make it more manageable and less intimidating as the moving date approaches.

Prioritize all of the important tasks first along with the associated deadlines for each.

You don’t have to make a list of tasks out of thin air. There are many handy moving checklists available to use as a guideline. A good moving checklist includes around-the-house and preparatory tasks like scheduling connections of utilities at the new house, disconnecting utilities at the old place, filing a change of address form with the post office, arranging for cleaning services, reserving a moving truck, and collecting moving and storage boxes, to name a few.

An Opportunity to Downsize

Before you even start packing, you’ll want to get rid of any clutter or unwanted items. This will help you feel more organized from the outset because you’ll only be packing up the things you need or want to take with you.

In a previous Mind Over Clutter blog post, we recommended a book called “Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash” designed to help loved ones move, complete with practical steps and suggestions for downsizing without sacrificing treasured memories. For many people, giving up the family home is comparable to losing a loved one.

At the same time, it’s a pretty freeing feeling to downsize, donate items, and clear out the old to make way for the new. Otherwise it can be frustrating to pack stuff you’re going to get rid of anyway after the move. Give yourself plenty of time to do what needs to be done in order to have a successful move.

Prepare Your Mind

Get ready for the possibility of anxiety that comes with living among boxes and in chaos for a while. But don’t let the stress cause you to procrastinate the items on your moving checklist.

People in general have the tendency to procrastinate. Think of it like packing for a vacation. What happens when you delay packing until the very last minute before you leave? You inevitably forget something you might need or want on your trip.

It’s natural to avoid things you don’t want to do, but uprooting your life is a big deal and deserves your full attention. Even after you’ve done the work, there’s always still more to be done. But it will get done. You got this.

It may take a while to make the space your own. That’s to be expected. You don’t have to do it all in one week. Give yourself and family time to settle into the new environment.

Organize Your Belongings

You’ve likely moved before and found yourself frantically looking for something specific only to find you didn’t pack the item in a box with similar items. When you start shoving things within reach into boxes, you set yourself up for chaos.

It seems like a no-brainer, but mixing and matching kitchen supplies with bedroom supplies, for example, isn’t the most effective way to pack. Socks and spoons don’t go together. Organizing your belongings into categories is a relatively simple step.

Labeling each box with its contents with a sharpie is a good way to go. You’ll have more than one box of kitchen supplies, so when writing on top of the box, make sure to write what’s in the box. Simply writing “kitchen” on each box isn’t very helpful. Writing the specific contents under the kitchen category will not only make it easier for you, but the movers as well.

There are many ways to downgrade the stress levels you may experience during the moving process. You may even look back and think, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.” Pat yourself on the back, enjoy the moment and, of course, your new home!

Share with us where you donate the items you don’t need any more. 

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at

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A Day in the Life of a Child with Cystic Fibrosis

In May many families are raising money to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.  This video show’s one families motivation and determination.

Learn more about Cystic Fibrosis  and how you can help.

Please share your stories in the comments below.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at

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Organize your Craft Room and Gain Peace of Mind

I have organized a lot of sewing rooms and craft rooms.  I know my clients enjoy their new spaces and are very talented people.  I never thought about it from a mental health perspective.  Annabelle Short from Wunderlabel has put together a great infographic.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sewing can help you express your creative side and gain better peace of mind. And in addition to granting you greater mental health, it can actually keep you healthy as well. If you want greater peace of mind and less clutter in your life, check out this infographic from Wunderlabel to see the 16 ways in which Sewing can make you healthier!

health benefits of sewing

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Virtual Organizing-Is it for You?

Sarah Buckwalter

Sarah Buckwalter

Certified Professional Organizer®, Sarah Buckwalter, has over 17 years of experience running an award-winning organizing business, Organizing Boston. With a desire to help everyone get organized, Sarah developed Organizing U. Organizing U offers a professional organizer directory, online courses and virtual organizing programs to help people live more organized lives. Organizing U also offers training programs for Professional Organizers.


Virtual organizing is a new field for the Professional Organizing industry in Canada.  How well established is virtual organizing in the United States?

Virtual Organizing is a new field in the US as well. While there are a handful of organizers who are offering virtual organizing in the US, many are just learning about it and starting to explore it.

Virtual organizing will be the perfect solution for some people but not for others.  Who do you think benefits from virtual organizing as compared to working with a professional organizer in person?

The people who get the most benefit out of virtual organizing are those who are able to do the physical work themselves, but just need (or want) the direction and expertise of a professional. Virtual organizing is great for those who need some accountability while they work through their organizing project. If someone is unwilling or unable to do the work themselves then they will not benefit from virtual organizing.

When you are communicating with your virtual clients do you like to use the telephone or some other technology?  Which technologies have you found to work well for communicating with your clients?

I prefer to use video because you can see the space first hand. I think it allows you to achieve a greater connection with the client because it feels as though you are there with them. I find Skype and FaceTime to be the best platforms. Skype works on any device, so that would be my first choice.

When a client has hired you to work with them, what are your next steps in helping that client become organized?

My first step is always to create an organizing plan with the client. This helps outline the scope of the project for the client and is great to be able to refer to as we go to gauge progress and help stay on track. The next step is to set up a regular meeting schedule to see the process through. Then, we get started and work through the plan.

In all organizing jobs some clients are more successful with organizing and other clients continue to struggle. What tips do you have to make your clients’ organizing projects a success?
1. Have a written plan. It helps the client through the process to be able to check things off as you go.
2. I have a signature process that I apply to every organizing project. I find that organizing is more effective if clients can follow specific steps and apply the same process to each space.
3. Keep a consistent schedule. Don’t end the session without scheduling and creating a plan for the next session.
4. Go above and beyond. Clients will respond well to your extra efforts.

If you feel virtual organizing is something you would like to try, contact Mind over Clutter and discuss it with Julie.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at

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What are you worried about? Don’t worry; take action!

Don't worry. Take action.

Which path will you take?

What are you worried about?

I think we all worry sometimes, don’t you? We worry about our health, and the health of our loved ones. About our appearance, and how we measure up to others. About money, and how our businesses are doing. About whether or not we’re being good parents. We worry about (fill in the blank).

And what does worrying do to us? It causes stress, sleepless nights, stomach aches, arguments, etc., and sometimes it causes us to not enjoy life’s pleasures…..yes?

So, who am I to tell you to stop worrying?

While I’m not a therapist or a psychologist, I am a professional organizer who sees clients everyday who are worried about all sorts of different things. I’m also an engineer. Therefore, I make no judgments on my clients’ clutter, and I don’t see disorganization as a character flaw: I only see it as a problem to be solved. You’ll be relieved to know I only try to solve it for you if you ask! Friends say, “I don’t want you to come over and see my mess!” To which I reply, “I don’t care about your mess unless you are paying me to care about it!”

Naturally, I have problems too, and I worry about them, but I think I worry less than others do because of the methods I use that I will tell you about.

But first…

I want you to start thinking about worrying as a form of clutter.

What is Clutter? Here’s what I believe:

  • Clutter is anything that stands in the way of the life you want to live.
  • Clutter takes many forms. Little things like paper; big things like furniture; negative thoughts; and unfulfilling activities.
  • Clutter weighs us down. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Everyone deserves to feel lighter. My logo, the egret taking flight, represents the freedom of rising above your clutter!
  • Less clutter in your home, your office, your schedule, and your mind means more room for the life you want to live. Less clutter. More life.

So, it’s easy for me to say that worrying is just Mental Clutter, but what do I propose we do about it?

Now let me ask:

Do you believe in the power of words?

Let’s talk about positive words first. I’m thinking of positive affirmations, inspiriting quotes, prayer of all kinds…do you believe in those things? Do they help motivate you, and encourage you, and lift your spirits?

Now, what about negative words? How about verbal abuse from others? And what about negative self-talk? Do you think negative self-talk tears us down and affects us as much, and possibly more, than negative talk from others?

Here is a quote I like, which has been attributed to many, but I like the way Meryl Streep said it in her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the movie “The Iron Lady”:

She said:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.

Do you agree with that? I sure do!

So, now, back to worrying…

If you think you can manifest something positive by thinking, and talking about, and envisioning it, do you believe you can also manifest something negative by thinking, and talking about, and envisioning it?

Or as I like to say:

Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.


And why on earth would we want to do that?

If you believe in the power of thoughts and words, that’s what you’re doing…aren’t you? Paying undue attention to, and repeating over and over, the thing you don’t want?

If worrying helped, believe me, I’d recommend doing it more often!

With that in mind…

The first step in dealing with Mental Clutter is to identify what you are worried about.

It could be fear, regret, anxiety, shame, guilt…and, actually, it’s fear about a thing, or regret about a thing.

It’s that thing you need to identify, and the more specific you are, the better your chances are of doing something about it.

The next step is to decide: Can you do something about it? Or not?

The Worry Matrix will help you decide what’s worth worrying about.

(Click to read more and download your free copy of the Worry Matrix.)

The Worry Matrix

This is probably the hardest part of the whole process. Because sometimes we feel powerless. We don’t know if we can do something about it or not. Sometimes we need help figuring that out. Sometimes it’s become such a habit to worry, and we are so busy worrying, that we don’t stop to think whether maybe we could do something about it.

Or, maybe something’s changed. In the words of Maya Angelou,

Do the best you can until you know better.

Then when you know better, do better.

Part of this step can include determining whether or not your fears are realistic. If you’re anxious about the future, being prepared for actual, likely events is the key to a peaceful mind.

But the bottom line is:  If you are having persistent, worrisome thoughts about something, ask yourself: Can I do something about it? If you aren’t doing anything about it — or if you can’t do anything about it — it’s just Mental Clutter.

If you think you can do something about it – great! Take action!

The pure fact that you are doing something about it will help you to not worry about it so much.

Here are some examples of actions you can take:

Research your situation; Make a plan; Set some goals; Do or delegate a dreaded task; Document vital info; Save money, Make that appointment, Have that awkward conversation.

Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. It’s not easy, but this rationale for forgiveness makes sense to me:

Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.


Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die.


If you regret the past and feel guilty about something, but there’s nothing you can do about it, forgive yourself and move on. Remember, you know better now.

One of the reasons why it is so hard to part with your mental clutter is that you’re afraid of not having, or being, enough. Is this because you are comparing yourself to others? Stop it! Have a little faith in yourself.

Here are a couple of quotes I like about not being envious of others:

Grass is greener where you water it.


Don’t compare your bloopers to someone else’s highlight reel.

(Especially on Facebook!)

If you’re concerned about what others think, try following Dr. Seuss’ advice:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Here’s another quote I love about having faith in yourself:

A bird sitting in a tree
is never afraid of the branch breaking
because her trust is not on the branch,
but on her own wings.
Always believe in yourself.

What does this mean? Some people would rather trust in God than to trust in themselves. For those of you who want to trust in God, that won’t hurt either. But you still need to do your homework and take action.

Have you heard this expression?

Trust in god but lock your car.

I also like the Middle Eastern version:

Trust in Allah but tie up your camel.

If you really think you cannot do anything about it, then stop worrying about it!

It’s Mental Clutter.

A good example of something you cannot change is someone else’s behavior.

Are you familiar with The Serenity Prayer?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

That’s what I’m saying too: Accept what you can’t change, and change what you can’t accept. Get help if you really don’t know the difference.

Focus on things you are grateful for, and on the things you can change (such as your own behaviour).

Examples: preparing for emergencies; planning for your financial future; repairing (or releasing) damaged relationships; and addressing health issues head on.

If the task ahead seems daunting, break it down into smaller steps. Do them one at a time until you are finished, or you feel prepared, or you have established the new habit that will improve your life and help you worry less.

So, what if, despite your best intentions, you are still living with Mental Clutter? If you have tried taking action on things you can change, and you have tried not worrying about things you cannot change… and you are still worried, ask for help from a friend, therapist, clergy member, or someone who can help with your specific situation – like a doctor, a financial planner, a personal trainer, an attorney, or a professional organizer.

Worry less. Prepare more.

Have those difficult conversations! Make that appointment!

Believe in yourself. And live your life free of Mental Clutter!

What are you worried about? What action are you going to take?

Please share with me in the comments!

Let me know if this helps you, and share it with your friends who may need it.

Copyright 2015-2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.


Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at

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How do you Organize a Successful Transition to a New Work Situation?

Janet Barclay of Organized Assistant

Janet Barclay of Organized Assistant

Today I am happy to introduce you to Janet Barclay of Organized Assistant.

Here is her  story of following her passion and successfully transitioning her business focus.  I hope it will motivate you to take a step towards making changes in your life, work or business.

  1. When I first met you, you were a Professional Organizer.  What did you do before becoming an organizer and how did you choose to become a professional organizer?

Before starting my business, I worked as a customer service rep, office supervisor, administrative assistant, computer instructor, and employment counsellor. When I was an employment counsellor, I decided to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Qualifying Program. Because the MBTI is a widely used career assessment tool, I thought it would be a good thing to have on my resume.

In the course, I learned that our personality type influences not only our career choices, but many other aspects of our lives, and I was particularly fascinated with the way that personality type affects the way we deal with time and space. I was so excited by the possibilities that I wasn’t satisfied to simply have the MBTI listed on my resume – I wanted to actually use it! Since there was no opportunity to do so in the position I held at the time, I decided to start a side business where I would use my new knowledge to help others choose a career or become more effective by using organizing strategies that respect their natural preferences.

  1. contact


    How long was it before you transitioned from being a professional organizer to becoming a virtual assistant?  How did you make that business transition?

A year or so after becoming a professional organizer, one of my organizing colleagues hired me to automate her monthly newsletter. At that moment, I realized that you can organize someone’s workspace, and you can teach them good time management skills, but sometimes the best way to help them is to free up some of their time.

This was a real turning point for me, and I began adding virtual assistance and website design (which I’d also been doing on the side for several years) to my professional organizing service offerings. I enjoyed this type of work so much that I resigned from my job to work in my business full time. As my client base grew, organizing became less important and eventually I gave it up altogether.

  1. When transitioning your business services, what do you feel is one mistake you made or something you could have done better to make the transition easier?

When I decided to become a virtual assistant, I had to change my business name from Barclay Career & Organizing Solutions to something more in line with my new service offerings. I chose Organized Assistant, because it was something I could stick with in the event I decided to discontinue either organizing or virtual assistance down the road.

The transition itself went pretty smoothly, because it was gradual and my business seemed to evolve naturally. However, over the past few years, I’ve become less of a virtual assistant and more of a marketing consultant and web designer, and my business name no longer feels like a good fit. Had I anticipated further changes, I would have simply branded myself as Janet Barclay.

  1. Although you are still a virtual assistant the focus of your business is changing again.  Tell us about your new focus?

I’ve always enjoyed working with solopreneur women, and they seem to enjoy working with me too. However, solopreneurs tend to look after their own marketing, either for financial reasons or simply out of personal preference. In order to cater to their needs, earlier this year I founded Maximize Marketing Club. In this supportive online community, members learn and develop important marketing strategies for less than the cost of a virtual assistant, and much less than a one-on-one marketing coach.

  1. How important is it, in making a successful business transition, to start a networking group and/or an online group?

Building a network is essential no matter what stage you’re at in your business. When you’re making a transition, a well-established network of supporters can help you test your ideas and spread the word about your new products or services.

  1. Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I’d like to invite any of your readers who’d like a free taste of Maximize Marketing Club to sign up for my free Maximize Your Content Marketing eCourse at

If you need assistance with your website or marketing please contact Janet Barclay.


Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at 

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An Interview with Judith Kolberg an Organizing Specialist in Chronic Disorganization

Judith Kolberg founded FileHeads, a professional organizing company, in 1989 and has been a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) since 1990. She formed the Institute for Challenging Disorganization  and has served as its director for seven years.

Judith is the author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization , co-author with Dr. Kathleen Nadeau of ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, and Organize for Disaster: Prepare Your Family and Your Home for Any Natural or Unnatural Disaster and Getting Organized in the Era of Endless.

Everything A Professional Organizer Needs to Know About Hoarding

Everything A Professional Organizer Needs to Know About Hoarding

  1. Hoarding disorder has been included in the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. How has your expertise in working with clients with hoarding disorder influenced your ideas about mental wellness?

I love that you use the term ‘mental wellness’ instead of ‘mental illness’. As an organizer, I’m convinced that good psychotherapy is essential to the mental wellness of a person who hoards.  A safe place to talk about what kind of life one wants to lead, how the emotional issues of loss, trauma and grief interplay with excessive saving and acquisition, and handling stress are key. Psychotherapy via Skype, online individual and group, on-site, and peer-led support would be real handy in many hoarding situations rather than a clinical, office setting.


  1. When working with a hoarding client or their family,
    Conquering Chronic Disorganization

    Conquering Chronic Disorganization

    what is one common motivation obstacle and a strategy for overcoming it?

An obstacle to motivation is the fear of discarding the person’s possessions to the landfill. Reassurance that this will not be so is essential, but the age-old issue is will this promise backfire. Will the people charged with sorting and discarding and reducing the hoard be thwarted by “You said my stuff would not be thrown out.” If the person who hoards sees that there are good “pickers”, organizers who take the time to pull out the “good stuff” and load it into lots of clear, labelled containers that helps. Specific individual recipient for the excess stuff also helps, like all the shoes go to my brother in law. Specific charities also helps – all the stuffed animals to the Red Cross for children of natural disasters, all the pet stuff to the pet shelter, all the unused toiletries to the women’s shelter. I take the time to discuss my entire process to the family.

  1. As a speaker, author, and trainer, you’ve been helping clients and families learn
    Organize for Disaster

    Organize for Disaster

    strategies to help people with ADD and ADHD get better organized. In what ways have those strategies changed from when you started studying in this field to now?

The “how” has not changed much even though the “why” is better and better understood. I would say that providing strategies to cope with technology, devices, the Internet black hole, and digital distractions is the new frontier. Ironically, helping ADDers to use these very same things to their advantage is also new.


  1. For those that are especially challenged with ADD, what 2 strategies are most effective?

    Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

    Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

We got to get better, as organizers, on helping people with ADD manage their tasks and time. One strategy is for the organizer to be the time estimator. It’s great if that skill can be transferred and it often can by example, but there is no harm in the organizer actually being the person who helps the ADD client estimate how long a project or a task will take and accounting for it in scheduling. Another strategy is to think of creative ways for a person with ADD to capture tasks on the run. That might be post it notes, voice mail notes, texting oneself, sending yourself emails, using apps that convert voice to text or text to voice.


  1. What has been your biggest personal challenge around chronic disorganization?

    ADD Friendly ways to Organize your Life

    ADD Friendly ways to Organize your Life

My disorganization centered on directions, getting from place A to place B without getting lost. I use voice GPS and that has been absolutely dreamy.  I’m told directionality issues are part of my brand of dyslexia. Lots of little spatial challenges thwart me. I can’t for instance, look at my power point, advance the slides, and speak at the same time. I have to use index cards, even after all these years.

Judith Kolberg has written many valuable resources and more resources can be found on the website for the  Institute for Chronic Disorganization.

What is the most difficult problem you have encountered helping someone who is  chronically  disorganized? Let us know so we can help.



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Meet Mary Dystra Novess of Within Reach Part 2

In my blog post on March 25, 2016 I formally introduced Mary Dystra Novess CPO.  She is a past president of NAPO and a warm, lovely, helpful person.  She has generously given of her time and expertise to allow me to interview her.  I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her and her business Within Reach Organizing

As an organizational consultant, what motivates us to change?

Books have been written on change and what drives it. For our purposes here I’m going to cover 2 main drivers: avoiding pain and seeking a better state of affairs (mentally, emotionally, physically, financially etc.).

One of the biggest influences on how we deal with change is how we are internally wired. If you have ever done an assessment (for example DISK), you become aware that people are wired differently; from a high comfort in embracing change through the spectrum of avoiding change. Some people seem to thrive on change while others only embrace change when presented with dire consequences if they don’t change – possible loss of job, home, relationship, or health. Change for many triggers fear. Fear that it won’t be enough to make a difference anyway or that it will be emotionally painful, or it will cost too much or that they will have to deal with loss.

For those who struggle with change (we all do at some time), the best way to become more open to change is to identify the end goals and put it in context of positive outcomes vs. the pain of possible loss. For example, if you are on a diet and concentrate on the loss of the chocolate cream pie instead of how great it will be to have more energy and fit into your favourite clothes again, it will be much harder to stay with the diet because you are focused on the pain instead of the joy of healthier and more trim you. Same principle goes with decluttering your environment and mind. I always suggest a person seek out support in the area they want change because it makes it so much easier and keeps the focus on the right things especially on the hard days.

Through helping your clients to organize their home offices you help them to increase their bottom line while improving their quality of life. What would be the first step to reaching this goal?

As Steven Covey wrote many years ago, “Start with the end in mind”. If you can’t define something, you can’t track it and you can’t attain it.

When I start a relationship with a new client the FIRST thing covered is setting up great decision making criteria in 4 key areas. Then, all decluttering, organizing, time management and decisions revolve around the client established criteria with the end goal(s) in mind.

As a speaker, blogger and trainer, you’ve been helping clients and families learn strategies to become better organized. You specialize in inspiring others to live an uncluttered life. What suggestions do you have for those that feel overwhelmed by clutter?

Identify who would love, need or appreciate the things that no longer serve you well. Donate, recycle and return items today because every day that you feel overwhelmed or controlled by your stuff/environment, is a compromised day that can lead to a compromised life and compromised relationships. If you are a reader, there are 3 books I would suggest right off the bat to read: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh, Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. For a newer read, some are finding comfort in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you are not an engaged reader, save the money and do NOT buy the books. I have been in more homes where clients have dozens of unread organizing books. In my experience, intentions will only waste money and create more clutter and guilt.

What has been your biggest personal challenge around organization?

I have my own “Would’a Could’a, Should’a” bugaboos. That’s why I have such high empathy for my clients and I don’t judge. My passion is aquatic stuff, gardens and reading for knowledge. That means for me that I have 5 aquariums, create an overabundance of vegetables in the summer and always have articles to read. To my credit, I was born with great leveling force in my gut that hates waste so I remain conscious of 1) what I spend in time and dollars, 2) what goes to waste and 3) make sure I have a way of sharing the excess so that little is wasted.  When I have an ailing client, I often do a drive by to deliver a meal and a smile. Good for them & good for me.

To keep my reading papers in check, I clip down to the article. Dad still gives me his Wall Street Journals, Financial Times, Time, building and home trade magazines and I pick up magazines that discuss organizing and simplifying. I am still old school and I love paper. I try to speed read and pick up trends, statics and tips. When I fall behind, I choose a cutoff date or relevancy date and do a quick mini purge so that things stay in balance as I am running a business, home and need quality time with my great husband on the weekends. Life is always a balancing act and there is an ebb and flow to all activities and mental bandwidth. As the old proverb goes, we teach what we most need to learn and I am a lifelong learner. It’s the gift I get from my clients and share with my clients. It is the circle of life.

Thank you to Mary Dystra Novess of Within Reach Organizing Services for sharing her thoughts with us.


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An Interview with Mary Dystra Novess of Within Reach Organizing Services Part 1

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Mary Dykstra MBA, CPO (Certified Professional Organizer), owner of downloadWithin Reach Organizing Services who has been helping corporate, residential and entrepreneurial clients get organized since 1984.  Her specialities are: Professional speaking, consulting and hands-on corporate, residential and entrepreneurial organizing with special emphasis on home based businesses plus time management training.  She is a long standing member of National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), teaches time management courses nationally and she earned her Senior Relocation and Transition Specialist (CRTS) certification.

Mary is passionate about helping her clients regain control of their minds, lives and environments – long term.

In your business, Within Reach, you offer business, residential, home office, ADD & ADHD organizing services. What is your favourite part of organizing?

For me, it’s never about the stuff. It’s about the people. The favorite part of my work is the moment when I see a client’s face and body change as they move from feeling overwhelmed to empowered and confident. The change in the space and within the person is striking and I love the fact that they trusted me and the process.

When organizing residential clients what is one common obstacle and a strategy for overcoming it?

The biggest obstacle I hear from my audiences and future clients is that they don’t know where to start. They do not always use the term ‘overwhelmed’ but that is the common emotional bugaboo that keeps us from decluttering and setting up great functioning systems. The easiest and fastest way to get beyond this is to bring in assistance. For some, that might be an understanding friend who can help with the focus and physically getting things sorted and moved. For others it is hiring a professional organizer who can come in with clarity, and help you create a plan so that either you or they or combination of both can get the work accomplished quickly and effectively.

For those that prefer DYI (Do It Yourself), you can get all kinds of tips and see pictures from YouTube, Pinterest, an organizing book, seminar, a professional organizer’s website/blog etc. Just use the search function in the app or website you prefer. Look at working on one area at a time. If you find this is overwhelming or that you don’t get it done, make that call to a professional organizer or friend. My first recommendation is always a professional organizer if you can afford it because it has the tendency to keep your friendships on a healthier, less stressed level (“What do you mean you want to get rid of this sweater? I remember when I gave it to you…).

What are some of the trends in organizing that have changed from when you started in this field to now? How long have you been involved in organizing?

I have been in the Organizing Industry for over 16 years and a lot has changed. The economy fallout in the USA in 2007/8 made a big impact with people losing jobs, selling homes and downsizing all aspects of their lives. Though the economy has come back for most, the new focus and trends are on wireless/paperless living and living unencumbered lives – especially for the Millennials. The smart phone is decreasing some of our physical clutter but keeping our minds over stimulated and our attention spans suffering. Other trends I see are people moving to reclaimed urban areas to enjoy walkable and social communities, having smaller dwellings (there is a strong interest for some to embrace Tiny House living) and many are forgoing house ownership preferring the freedom that comes with renting and not having money tied up in 1 large asset. The effect is that organizers today need to be much savvier about helping their clients manage electronic information and help clients maximize the utility of confined space.

Also, older adults who are downsizing and simplifying sometimes are unprepared to discover that their children and the marketplace do not value many of the things that they thought were very valuable.  When a client says to me that they are saving something for their adult children or grandchildren, I encourage them to directly ask if those items are indeed wanted by the children. If the answer is no, to let those items go with grace. If the client believes that items should be sold only for a very high price, I suggest getting an appraisal or checking a site like EBay to see if their value expectations are reasonable.

Click to find out more about Mary Dystra Novess and Within Reach


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On-line Lifestyle Organizing Coaching leading professionals From Clutter to Freedom
Residential Organizing Services for the Region of Niagara, Hamilton, Halton-Peel and Surrounding Area