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Rubbermaid Interviews Certified Professional Organizers® – Including Me!

n rubbermaid_bannerRubbermaid’s Manager of eMarketing and Brand Communications, Jim Dietzel is on Twitter, a social micro-blogging website.  I’m one of 18 professional organizers on Twitter they’re ‘following’.  On Twitter, Jim’s user name is @Rubbermaid and you can find me on Twitter as @TheOrgAgency.  Jim asked if I was willing to be interviewed in a “Question and Answer” post on Rubbermaid’s Adventures in Organizing blog.  With so many organizers to choose from, I was excited to be one of the first Certified Professional Organizers® (CPO) to be interviewed.

In the Q & A Jim asked why I wanted to be certified as an organizer, he was curious about what types of projects we experience with our clients, and what are typical challenges most people face when trying to get organized.  His zinger of a question was when he asked me what is the most difficult thing for ME to keep organized.  What do you think it is?  I’ll tell you that it is not shoes, clothes, my kitchen cabinets, or tools.  Visit their blog to read the entire interview and find out how easy it is for the organizer to be disorganized.  Check it out here.

Thanks to Jim and Rubbermaid for including me on their blog.  If you want to subscribe to their blog, click here.  If you don’t subscribe, be sure to check out Jim’s Five-Part Series on Garage Organizing.

Fairfax County’s Recycling Roadshow: October 25

ar_logo+1Don’t miss the 7th Annual Recycling Roadshow!  It’s hosted by Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program, the Students Against Global Abuse from Herndon High School, and the Town of Herndon this October 25. This recycling event is in honor of America Recycles Day. The goal of America Recycles Day is to build consumer demand for recycled products and to educate all Americans about the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. We want to make consumers aware of the importance of “buying recycled.”

This year they’re accepting pretty much everything!  Read below for a complete list.

  • bicycles ($10 donation requested to cover shipping fees)
  • cell phones
  • clothing
  • compact fluorescent bulbs
  • computers and peripherals
  • eyeglasses
  • gently worn shoes
  • clean/working microwaves
  • rechargeable batteries (no automobile batteries)
  • clean bed linens and towels
  • personal documents for secure shredding (5 medium-sized boxes max per household)
  • televisions
  • window a/c units
  • working sewing machines

Where:  Herndon High School
700 Bennett Street, Herndon, VA 20170

When:  October 25, 2008

Time:  10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Sponsored by the following organizations:
Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program
Covanta Energy, Inc.
Fairfax County Public Schools
HHS Students Against Global Abuse
Town of Herndon
Bikes for the World
Art for Humanity
Safeguard Shredding
OAR of Fairfax

Oprah Visits Washington, DC To Help Declutter Your Home With The Help of Peter Walsh

Oprah has once again teamed up with clutter expert Peter Walsh, to help America “clean up your messy house.” This time, they’ve partnered with my church favorite store, The Container Store and they’re coming to the nation’s Capitol! They are looking for the messiest LIVING and FAMILY ROOMS and BEDROOMS in Washington, D.C.picture-11+1

The Oprah crew is looking for a willing DC area resident to show their clutter on National television and let Peter Walsh solve all your troubles. If your home isn’t messy, you can turn someone in. If you’re the one who needs help, what space in your life needs a MAJOR decluttering makeover?

They will be making our decision ASAP, so the sooner they hear from you, the better your chances!

Watch the clutter bug kick-off tour video.

Peter Walsh is best known for his on TV decluttering on TLC’s Clean Sweep and his books, most recently Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat.

On Oprah’s November 12 episode, The Container Store offered a 20% off your purchase coupon available for download from Oprah’s website.  It’s good until November 19, 2008.

On the same show, Peter suggested you take photos of your child’s artwork, upload it to a website like Snapfish.com and have them create a scrap book.  If you’ve ever worked with me, you’ll know I’m often making this suggest too.   Especially for 3-D artwork or any craft projects created with food.  I also recommend making these scrapbooks of keepsakes you don’t necessarily have space to keep, but you want a visual cue to trigger the memory.  Snapfish has offered a free standard 20-page 8″ x 11″ custom-cover photo book per household.  Offer expires soon, so click here to redeem.

I wonder if Peter will need help when he’s in DC?  Peter, you’ve got my number – give me a call.

Organizing Experts Recommend Products to Stay Organized

debbie-jordan-kravitz+1Blogger Debbie Jordan Kravitz of Virtually Organized is a self described “recovering perfectionist” who writes about simplifying and organizing your life.  We’re virtual colleagues since she lives in York, PA.

Recently, she surveyed her colleagues on Facebook and Twitter asking what products they love to use when organizing with clients and she also asked what we didn’t like.  Everyone who’s worked with me knows I am a huge fan of The Container Store’s elfa®.  So it’s no surprise, that was the product I recommend.

You may recall me blogging about the Easy Find Lid containers when I highlighted the products I featured on WUSA9 News.  They’re great for food storage and have a space saving design.storage+2

I have to agree with Allison Carter,
of The Professional Organizer who dislikes the toy storage racks that hold 9-12 bins.  These racks for toy storage may look like a good idea, but they are poorly designed.  The bins are too shallow for anything substantial in size, they are hard to take off the rack, the bins fall through the slats, and the bottom two rows are halfway covered by the row above.

Julie Morgenstern Speaks At National Book Festival & Joins Me For Dinner

julie_morgenstern1+1Famed author Julie Morgenstern was recently in Washington, DC to speak at the National Book Festival.  The National Book Festival is organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush.  Morgenstern was one of over 70 authors, poets, and illustrators presenting at the National Mall on Saturday, September 27, 2008.

Julie was speaking about her latest book, When Organizing Isn’t Enough – SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life.  She spoke at the Festival and signed books for the swarms of fans she has garnered since her NY Times Best Selling Book Organizing From the Inside Out made Julie Morgenstern a household name.  To read Julie’s complete biography, please visit her websitebookcover+1

I meet weekly with two organizers, Judy Parkins of Gently Organized and Lauren Halagarda of The Organization Connection, as a mastermind group to develop ideas, problem solve, hold each other accountable for projects, and to simply chat about organizing.  Judy had the brilliant idea to invite Ms. Morgenstern to dinner with the three of us while she was in Washington, DC.  Much to our surprise, she accepted our invitation.  We agreed to meet Julie and her assistant, Ellen at 5:30 PM so Julie could catch the 7:30 PM Amtrak back to her home in NYC.

laura_bush+!Julie is a delightful person and a wonderful conversationalist. Although she wanted to know more about our businesses, we first inquired about her experience as an author at the Festival.  Julie arrived in DC on Friday night to attend the gala held at the Library of Congress.  The black tie affair was for authors, sponsors, dignitaries, and Washington socialites.

First Lady Laura Bush was the host for the evening, and even on the night of the first presidential debate, President Bush was in attendance.  Julie commented how impressed she was he was there supporting the First Lady.  The Festival, in its eighth year, is Laura’s baby and it was the last major public event she’ll host before Bush leaves office.  So even after a day of discussions on the financial crisis and on the night of the debate, he was there to support her.  Ok–I actually give him props for one thing–being a good husband.  (My words, not Julie’s.)

fordummies+1We enjoyed hearing about how Julie began her day on Saturday with breakfast in the White House.  I’ve been in Washington, DC for five years now and I’ve not yet been in the White House.  I want to go on a spy mission and see if the President lives a cluttered lifestyle.  Are Barney’s toys lying around everywhere? Do people have messy desks?  Are there magainzes in the bathrooms? Is the Presidency for Dummiesbook on George’s nightstand?  Anyhow, I digress.  The brunch sounded beautiful and it was an event I’m sure she’ll never forget.  She’ll never forget our dinner, either!

Blood and Shattered Glass at Todd English’s Olives Restaurant

olives_logo1After Julie’s speech and festival appearance, we dined at Todd English’s restaurant Olives at 1600 K ST NW in downtown DC. They have a great menu and I was looking forward to dining there for the first time. I ordered the Potato Gnocchi, Lauren and Judy both had the Butternut Squash Tortelli, Ellen had the Herbed Ricotta Ravioli, and Julie Morgenstern went for the local flavor enjoying the Wood Grilled Maryland Rockfish.

brokenwindow_1+1While waiting for our baked vanilla soufflé for dessert, tragedy struck. I had requested a private table, so they placed us on the upper level near a large window. The wall-sized window spanned 5′ wide by a towering 12′ tall. Normally it would have been a lovely place to dine, yet suddenly, we heard a loud frightening sound as 60 square feet of glass shattered and rained down on our table as if it was a giant web trying to capture each of us.

As the window made impact, first on Julie, it shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. We each dove for cover, sprawled across the dining room floor, which was coated in glass. Dinner went from lovely dining to a scene out of a war movie.

In complete chaos everyone was talking and shouting.  “Were we being shot at?” “Did you hear a gun?” “What the hell just happened?” “Is everyone OK?” “Are you hurt?” “Oh my GOD, you’re bleeding, call an ambulance!”

window2+1There was no car that raced away, there was no masked man running down 16th street. How did this happen?  Julie’s and Judy’s clothes were torn from the glass, individuals were bleeding, everyone was covered in fine glass dust.  Judy somehow lost a shoe in the commotion and Lauren found it nearby.  Before Lauren had picked out the glass, the restaurant bus staff was there with brooms and dustpans cleaning up the disaster. Although I was covered in glass dust, I was not injured by the flying glass. I collected everyone’s belongings from our crushed table and moved to a safer area. The women went downstairs to tend to their injuries while waiting for the paramedics.

Before the police arrived and before the paramedics sauntered in, the glass was swept away. The general manager of the restaurant brought me incident forms to complete. I was filling in the blurred details when one of the dining room staff tapped me on the shoulder. He was there with two other staff each carrying the baked soufflés we ordered with our dinner. I was dumbfounded. I told them to get out of my face, I had friends scraping glass out of their wounds, I’m filling out injury reports and you want me to eat dessert? Please!

broken31+11The Metropolitan Police Officer showed up finally,  spoke only to the manager and left. The manager said he left because there was no crime and nobody went to the hospital. How could the officer determine there was no crime without speaking to any of us directly or investigation what happened?

The manager wasn’t even in the dining room when the window imploded. We insisted the policeman return to take a report. Was the restaurant trying to cover up something? Does Todd English have a hit out on him? Is someone lashing out against Olives?   Why was the millions of pieces of glass cleaned up so quickly?  Why did the police officer leave before talking with the injured parties?  Something very fishy was going on, and it wasn’t Julie’s Rockfish.

window_outside+11Meanwhile, Julie missed her train, the police still had not returned, and Ellen had to return to the hotel to obtain new clothes for Julie that were not shredded and covered in glass. About an hour after his first appearance, the cop returned. He acted put off that we were asking for a report. He said windows blow up all the time and that there was no crime. Even an incident report was asking too much. We were lucky, someone could have been seriously injured – yet he couldn’t be bothered by filling out a few forms. Perhaps it was close to the end of his shift?

After some discussion, we decided it was smarter for Julie to catch the 8:45 PM train back to NYC instead of twisting the the arm of the officer and getting the restaurant staff to cooperate. Neither Judy, Lauren or myself looked presentable for the group photo I had hoped to capture with our VIP dinner guest. Standing in the rain under an umbrella, Julie insisted she sign our books. Stilled dazed from the entire ordeal, Julie was extremely gracious and kind. My only regret is we didn’t hear more from her directly about her books. Since Maybe our mastermind group needs to meet in NYC one week to finish our conversation!

julie_morgenstern_signature+11The best one liner of the evening goes to Judy Parkins, who said it was a good thing she wore Spanx, they saved her ass twice because they kept the glass out of her ass.

I went back to the restaurant the next evening to give the waitress a tip. Unfortunately they were closed; they are normally open on Sundays. Judy called me on Monday with her theory on how the window broke. She remembered the front door slammed shut each time it was opened. The entire entryway would shake. She believes the constant vibrations finally compromised the window and it just happened to shatter while we were at dinner. On Tuesday I was booked solid with clients, so Judy went to the restaurant to try to give the waitress her gratuity. The front door was propped wide open.  After a bit of investigating, she learned from the restaurant manager from Olives that previous attempts had been made to repair the door, yet it still wasn’t fixed. Something about there “not being money in the budget.” I have a feeling now that five people suffered emotional trauma and two received serious injuries, they’ll cough up money to repair the door properly.  Someone could have easily loosed an eye, had a serious concussion or even been killed by the impact caused by their negligence.

window_board2+11All in all it was a very stressful evening. I knew we might have some lively conversation, but I never imagined there would be blood!  I’m very relieved no one was seriously hurt and I’m grateful for Julie’s patience and good humor. I hope the restaurant is permanently fixing the problem.  It’s certainly a lesson in the importance of regular maintenance, good design and quality workmanship.

Fortunately I have an excellent system for keeping track of my receipts. I’ll be delivering a dry cleaning bill in short order! After ruining our important dinner meeting, don’t you think Olives or Todd English owes us some compensation? I’m thinking three round trip tickets on Amtrak to NYC, dinner at Olives NYC, and a night’s stay at the W Hotel Union Square where the restaurant is located. Leave your comments below and tell me what you think. So far, we’ve not been offered any compensation for our troubles. If you know Todd, please tell him about this disaster! I’m sure he’d like to know. I’ll keep you updated.

Organizing Products Reviewed on WUSA9

I received a call from Lesli Foster, weeknight anchor on WUSA9.   She asked if I would join her live on the 5:00 PM news to discuss getting organized for the Fall.  Excited by the opportunity, I had just a few hours to pull something together and pitch the idea to Lesli.  Thanks to the Container Store, Rubbermaid, and HomeRule for providing the products I’ve suggested we feature.

rubbermaid2-3Starting off, check out these amazing new food storage containers Rubbermaid provided.  They’re called Easy Find Lids.  After you’re done with those large, home cooked holiday meals, you’ll need some quality food storage containers for the leftovers.   Why not pick up a set that have lids that snap to the base of the containers so you can easily find the right lid.

rubbermaid1-3They come as small as .05 cup up to 2.5 gallons and all sizes in between.  With this graduated size design, they easily nest together. I’m a huge fan of square storage containers because they optimize your storage space.  Yes, you can microwave and freeze meals in these containers.  They’re also dishwasher safe.  Now all I need is a dishwasher!  Buy these awesome containers at your local Target or most grocery stores.

container_store_library_boxes-3The Container Store has introduced numerous eco-friendly storage products in their collection.  I’m loving the rich plum color of their Library office collection.  The Office Storage Boxes, Magazine Files, and Desktop File box would make a wonderful set for your home office.

container_store_file_boxes-3They’re constructed of recycled heavyweight fiberboard, have a linen weave fabric exterior, and a white paper-lined interior.  They’re excellently crafted and have a nice metal label holder to easily identify the treasurers you’re storing inside.

I challenge you to think “outside the box” about how you can use this collection outside the home office.  Perhaps the Office Storage Boxes would be good to store paper keepsakes, or one of those numerous art projects elementary-age children bring home, or a needlepoint or craft project on the sofa table.

container_store_magazine_file-3The Magazine File would be a nice option to store papers to take to work or for outgoing mail you want to drop in the mailbox on your way out the door.  I also recommend a File Box for your kitchen counter if you need to have quick access to school papers, sport schedules, tickets, gift certificates, phone directories, and so forth.  Do you have any other ideas?

container_store_feathergrain_bin_1-3My church, uh, I mean The Container Store also has these awesome, multi-functional Feathergrain Bins.  I’ve used these with many clients who love their size, the light weight and nice quality. We’ve stored everything from pet supplies, toys, and magazines to craft items.  They come with handles or with lids.  I recommend you check these out A.S.A.P.

I have a few other suprises I’ll be sharing on the news segment, so tune in or set your Tivo.  The segment will air at approximatley 5:30 PM on WUSA9.

Shred Your Papers, Help a Marching Band!

picture-22+1Quince Orchard High School Marching Band will benefit from a free community shred event THIS SATURDAY, September 20thShred-it trucks will be on site from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM to destroy old bills, love letters from your past lives, confidential documents, etc.

Quince Orchard High School is located at Route 28 & Quince Orchard Road, in Gaithersburg, MD.  For more information call (301) 370-0633.  A box is considered to be bankers box size, which is approximately 10″ x 12″ x 15″.  They’re taking up to 10 boxes per person free of charge.

Don’t forget to make a nice donation for the Marching Band–The Marching Cougars!  As a former band geek, I think supporting the band is a great reason to declutter you filing cabinets.

Thanks to our reader James for the heads-up on this event, and thanks to Shred-it and Bill Duff/Realty Executive for their sponsorship.

The band is also having a garage sale that morning, but most of my readership doesn’t need to be garage sale shopping. I’m just saying…

marching-band1+1Just for fun, here’s a photo from my marching days.  I couldn’t find any photos from my high school years; my mom must have them all.  This photo is from an Orange Bowl trip I took with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhusker Marching Band.  Guess what year it was taken! Be the first to guess the right year, and win you’ll win a prize!



10 Minute Organizing Ideas

Recently I asked friends, professional colleagues, and business owners who follow me on Twitter and Facebook what they would tackle if they had 10 minutes free and felt like organizing. I have enjoyed their responses and perhaps they may inspire you to find 10 free minutes each day to organize.

deb_lee+1 Deb Lee of D. Allison Lee Professional Organizers said she’d deal with her mail. “Open the mail and put each individual bill in my bill sorter so that I remember to pay them!”
leighann_hubbard+1 Leigh Ann Hubbard is Managing Editor of James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor magazine and suggested she would tackle her bedroom.  “Nobody can enter it at the moment, and you have to go through it to get to the bathroom.”
allan_young+1 Shelf Genie Franchise Owner, Allan Young must be using social media frequently, because he needs some online organizing time. “I’d organize my friends on Facebook into categories.”
daniel_jason+1 Human Resource Professional, Daniel Jason of Richmond, Virginia saves money during his 10 minutes.  He said, “I’d organize all my clipped coupons by date so that I can use them before they expire.” Great idea, Daniel.
(c) Jeff Brock Studio 2008 Southern California bike enthusiast Buzz Kasprzyk said his desk needs work. “My PC Desk at home and work table!   Looks like the post office threw up on it, or like a tornado flew by!”  Well, Buzz – you’re not in Kansas anymore.  I didn’t know they had tornadoes in Long Beach.
pam+1 Professional Organizer and owner of The Clutter Cutter of Wichita, KS, Pam McCutcheon said “My fridge – because my husband does the grocery shopping and I rarely know what is in there!” I agree, gotta keep the family fed!
deb-132x150+1 Debbie of D & R Custom Organizers and blogger at Virtually Organized responded via Twitter with this comment: “My Middle Schooler’s overstuffed backpack. There’s GOT to be a way to reduce how much she has to carry every day!”
(Middle school students in Washington, DC are not allowed to carry backpacks at school.)
tom_dow+1 Tom Dow, General Manager of CF Folks, Inc. an awesome catering firm in Washington, DC said  “America’s finances…10 minutes would be more than what’s being done now.” If you can solve it in 10 minutes, I say “Dow for President!”
kit_grieder+1 Kit Grieder of Herndon, VA a book keeper and self described “domestic engineer” said he’d tackle his linen closet’s shelves.  “Ten minutes is enough time to pull out the old towels to become garage rags, refold the good ones and put them back neatly.” A neat linen closet is a beautiful thing.
kevin_nellis+1 Kevin Nellis, a Public Health Analyst has some extreme ideas when it comes to organizing. “I’d light a stick of dynamite in my master bedroom closet. It’s a good excuse to renovate and get rid of things at the same time. And I get to buy more clothes.”
geo+1 From New Jersey, Geo Jedlicka, an accounting manager turned nursing student said, “I’d probably organize some papers lying around somewhere, whether it be a drawer, or pile. There might be a bill that needs paying.”
adriane+1 Adriane Williams, a former client of The Organizing Agency who moved to West Virgina to begin a life as a college professor said she’d work on her dining room table.  “It’s the drop off point for mail. We have a mail center but it is overrun, so the table is always under siege. I try to pull it together to keep things from getting out of hand just before I walk out the door.”
jessica+1 Jessica Brigham Food Service Director for Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company must be carrying around a big purse.  She said “I’d clean out my bag. So as not to carry things with me that will just get in my way all day.”


Are you inspired? What could you do with 10 minutes? I’d love to hear from you.


Free Shredding in Montgomery County – Again!


Identity theft is one of America’s fastest growing crimes. Shredding your personal papers is one of the best ways to protect yourself.

NBC4, PNC Bank and Shred-It have once again, teamed up to bring you the next NBC4 Safe & Secure Community Shred event. You can bring up to five boxes of your personal papers and they will shred them for FREE!

You must drive up (not walk) with materials to be shredded. No business or commercial material will be accepted! Only 5 boxes of papers maximum per car!

Date: Sept. 27, 2008
Time: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Please note, cars must be in line by 11 a.m.!

Location: Prince George’s County Community College, Lot B

  • Beltway exit 17A to Rte. 202. From Rte. 202 make right onto Campus Way. From Campus Way make left onto Prince Place to access road to Lot B.
  • Central Avenue to exit 15 to Rte 202. From Rte 202 make right onto Campus Way. From Campus Way make left onto Prince Place to access road to Lot
  • Rte. 50 to Landover Exit Rte 202. From Rte 202 make right onto Campus Way. From Campus Way make left onto Prince Place to access road to Lot B.

The entrance into the Center City Parking lot will flow:

  • Curb lane south on 9th Street
  • Right onto curb lane on H Street
  • Staying on the curb lane making a right onto 11th Street
  • And into the parking lot

You can take the following items for destruction:

  • All types of paper (staples and papers clips are OK)
  • Empty binders
  • Unwanted/expired credit cards
  • Computer disks (may be shredded off-site)

As a victim of ID Theft, I encourage you to pay attention to your personal information.  Especially in your online action.  The majority of ID Theft happens when you enter information online in a spoofed website or click a link that’s phishing for information.

  • Shred confidential information, such as bills and anything with account numbers
  • Order a credit report each year from AnnualCreditReport.com
  • Don’t use your SSN on your drivers license or checks.  Keep the card at home in a safe place
  • Empty your mailbox daily.  If away on vacation, have a neighbor pick up your mail or stop delivery online by visiting the USPS website
  • Only carry the credit cards you need
  • Consider signing credit cards “Ask for ID” instead of your signature