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Planning for a Stress Free Holiday – Part One: Easy Entertaining for a Holiday at Home

Holiday-Entertaining-At-Home-5In an ideal world, the holiday season would be a joyous time for us to spend relaxing, reminiscing and celebrating with friends and family. But in reality, you’ll have to be organized if you want your holidays to be stress-free. In this two-part post, I’ll share some tips to help you get through your holiday vacation or stay-cation, with lots more smiles and far less stress.

With less than two weeks left until we ring in the New Year, you may think it’s too late to plan, but you’re wrong! If you’re entertaining at home, a little creative scheduling will go a long way to preserve your holiday cheer right up until your company arrives. Try these tips to get ahead of the crunch:

1. Drop the vacuum and pick up the phone. When company is coming, you want your house to look its best, but if you don’t have time to clean, running around shoving things into closets or under beds will not relax you, it will just breed anxiety. This year, set an appointment for a reputable cleaning service to come and thoroughly clean your house from floor to ceiling. Let them scour the baths, Swiffer the bookshelves, or polish the stemware, while you focus on crossing other items off your To Do list. Your guests will be impressed and you’ll have saved a lot of time and aggravation.

2. Forget snowballs… make dough balls! If you think serving your guests store-bought cookies is akin to putting coal in their Christmas stocking, then you’ve probably set aside an entire day to bake your signature treats. Make sure you don’t run out of time by preparing your dough the week before and stashing it in the freezer. Having frozen dough on hand means you’re minutes away from warm, fresh-baked goodness, and you’ll have one less mess to clean up before your guests arrive.  This works all year long, not just during the holidays.

3. Call in reinforcements. Ask a few choice people to arrive a bit earlier to help manage the last minute crazies. A good friend or sibling can field phone calls and keep the kids occupied while you put the finishing touches on your meal or decorations. Just think carefully about who to invite… remember some people can make your life easier, while others will distract you and drain all your energy before the party even starts. Have the right people there early and you can share a glass of wine, wrap up the final details and by the time the rest of your guests arrive, you’ll be a festive and happy hostess.


The most important tip to enjoying your holiday gathering is not to expect perfection. Accidents will happen; gravy spills, uncles get drunk, and children will cry if they don’t like their presents. The way to prepare for these unexpected hiccups is to practice smiling right through them, because at the end of the day, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being together.

To read part two of having a stress free holiday click here to read on TheOrganizingAgency.com or here to read on Facebook!

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Shining a Light on Black Friday

black-friday-3With Thanksgiving just a week away, most of you are pre-occupied with menus and travel plans, family and football. But for some of us, this holiday is not just about drifting into a turkey coma… it’s about diving into shopping chaos!

Venturing out to shop on Black Friday is not for the faint of heart. You’ll see things you’ve only read about in blogs: women will come to blows over a good pashmina, grown men will weep over dirt-cheap flat screens. Black Friday is the pinnacle of consumer competitions, and you must be prepared to muscle through these unnerving scenes if you want to make it worth your while.

For those of you who are determined to brave the throngs of devoted deal-hunters, I’ve put together some pointers to get you through it with greater success and fewer battle scars.

Here’s how it’s done:

Do your homework, online and in person. Armed with a list of your essential purchases, research the stores you want to hit by checking their websites and, if possible, by going to the store before Thanksgiving. If it’s a store with which you’re unfamiliar, going there first will help you get the lay of the land, so you don’t waste any time wandering around aimlessly on the big day. Being there beforehand will also give you the chance to question the salespeople about the merchandise you’re targeting while it’s still relatively quiet. Don’t expect to get anyone’s attention or assistance when Friday rolls around.

By sussing out the stores online, you can check out the mall map online and print out your route.

You may also be able to uncover some online-only discounts that can multiply your savings. Just make sure to print any coupons you find online and bring them with you. If the customers in the store don’t know about it, you may want to be prepared for some staffers to be in the dark, too.

Know thy list. The best thing you can do to streamline your Black Friday process is to have a thorough list prepared. Narrow it down to your “must purchase” items, and make careful note of your budget for each item – including any allowable wiggle room – so you don’t have to make decisions (or do any math!) on the fly.

Fortify yourself. Don’t attempt to navigate the jungles of Black Friday without a good night’s sleep and proper nutrition. Arrive well rested and fed. Have a good breakfast and pack snacks to maintain your stamina. Make sure it’s protein-based so it gives you energy, and don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Pack light and carry a big tote. Don’t bring anything you don’t need, but if you’re planning to pick up numerous smaller items, then it’s wise to bring a large empty tote bag with you. You can consolidate your smaller purchases in to one bag,which is easier to carry, and means fewer things to lose in the chaos!

Don’t go it alone. You’ll definitely want to leave the kids at home, but if at all possible, do use the buddy system! Bring a friend with laser-like focus, who willremain calm while barreling through a wall ofunsuspecting shoppers for you, just to grab that last pair of cherry red Manolos from the shelf.

Get a ride! The only thing more daunting than a shopping mall on Black Friday is the parking lot. Ask another friend to drop you off and pick you up so you can save yourself time searching for a parking spot and waiting on line to get out of the lot when you’re done. Offer to pick up something from their list, as a thank you.

Everyone knows that Black Friday is a hurricane of no-holds-barred, take no prisoners, full contact shopping. Make sure you have your battle plan in place and in the end you’ll be victorious… and ready for a big plate of Thanksgiving leftovers. Happy shopping!

Free Shred Event Saturday in Fairfax County

shred-3We learned recently of an upcoming free shred event for Fairfax County residents in Virginia. Residents can take up to five boxes of personal papers to shred.

Do you shred your documents at home or how do you protect your identity?

Below is more information from the county’s website.

The Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program will be sponsoring one secure document shredding event in each supervisory district per calendar year.  Shredding is a free service for Fairfax County residents.

Upcoming 2011 Dates

All events are held from 8 a.m. – Noon

    • July 23 – South County Center, 8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309
    • August 27 – Braddock Governmental Center, 9002 Burke Lake Road, Burke, VA 22015
    • Sept. 24 – Sully Governmental Center, 4900 Stonecroft Blvd., Chantilly, VA 20151
    • Oct. 22 – North County Human Services Center, 1850 Cameron Glen Dr., Suite 600, Reston, VA 20190

Residents are limited to shredding a maximum of five medium-sized packing boxes of paper per household.  This service is intended for shredding documents of a personal or sensitive nature such as tax documents, medical or financial records.  Junk mail, newspapers, magazines and other forms of paper can be recycled through your normal recycling collection service.

Please remove all paper from binders and remove all paper clips, binder clips and rubber bands.  This event is for paper document shredding only, we will not be able to accept information stored on film or computer discs for destruction.

Barefoot Week With Soles4Souls 2011 – How You Can Participate

Today, marks the beginning of Soles4Souls’ National Barefoot Week 2011. In short, it’s a week where thousands of people across the country are joining the cause, raising awareness about the millions of people, world-wide that go barefoot, and doing something about it. As a part of the week, Soles4Souls is distributing over 50,000 pairs of shoes in several cities across the United States.
Professional-Organizer-Scott-Roewer-in-Haiti-with-Soles4Souls-3 As many of you know, I traveled with Soles4Souls in January 2011 to distribute shoes to children in Haiti. It was absolutely a life-changing experience.   As I see it, with most charities, your funds go in their doors and you never realize the impact your support may provide.  This is how Soles4Souls is unique as a charity.  With the Travel4Souls opportunity, I was able to experience the extreme need in Haiti.  Not simply through photos, or a video, but I was there!  I gave sweat equity in carrying shoe boxes to the distribution sites, I jumped rope with children living in orphanages, and I washed the feet of children who received shoes from Soles4Souls.  I participated in making a difference and I was a direct witness how they’re impacting and changing lives.  I look forward to going back.  I plan to travel again in January 2012 with a group of professional organizers.

Although this video doesn’t really do it justice, it does capture the need for shoes and the joy of the people that receive them:

If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of something greater than yourself, I highly encourage you to think about going on a trip. You can find out complete information as well as a list of their upcoming trips by visiting their website.

Visiting the Soles4Souls blog, I was able to read about their exiting events for Barefoot week.  Here’s just a few.

National Barefoot Day,” which will take place on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, will kick off various events across the country.Our first U.S. distribution of 2011 Barefoot Week will take place in Detroit.

On “Barefoot Thursday,” June 2, Soles4Souls Founder & CEO Wayne Elsey and staff will go barefoot as well as challenge all members of the press to go barefoot for at least four consecutive hours during the week and report on its effects to their viewers. Thursday’s distribution will be happening in St. Louis.

For “Barefoot Friday,”  June 3, folks in need in the Boston area will receive shoes.

Barefoot Saturday” and “Barefoot Sunday,” June 4 and 5, offers unique opportunities for congregations to remove their shoes and walk out of worship services barefoot. The efforts of participating congregations will go toward helping put shoes on the feet of barefoot children around the world. Visit www.barefootsunday.com to learn more.

On “Barefoot Monday,” June 6, we will be in Los Angeles delivering shoes and on “Barefoot Tuesday,” June 7th, we will head south to Atlanta to deliver footwear.

THIS WEEK, I would challenge you to tell at least one person about Soles4Souls. They’ve even provided you with a list of 10 ways you can help spread the word about the 300 million children around the world who’ve never owned a pair of shoes.

Which will you do? Please share your selection in the comments section below and join me and Soles4Souls to accomplish their mission of changing the world, one pair at a time.

Washington, DC Professional Organizer Gives NonProfit Organization a Makeover

Before-3The makeover recently continued at the Dress for Success Boutique in Washington. DC.  Solutions by Scott joined forces with multiple local organizers, all volunteers and members of The Washington, DC – Metro Chapter of The National Association of Professional Organizers to complete this phase of the makeover. The makeover team included: Andrea Hancock, Professional Organizer and owner of B Dexterous, LLC ; Denise Sintetos, Professional Organizer and owner of Declutter, DeStress; Helena Alkhas, Professional Organizer; Janice Rasmussen, Professional Organizer and owner of Executive Order; Katie Mazzocco, Professional Organizer and owner of Full Spectrum Productivity, Julie Langsdorf, Professional Organizer and owner of The Pick-up Artist; and Nina Muscato, Professional Organizer and team member of The Organizing Agency.

During-3The three-phase makeover of the Dress for Success boutique began in December 2010. Scott Roewer of Solutions by Scott & Company is orchestrating the design and layout of the new Boutique giving each room its own feel and providing an organized shopping experience for Dress for Success clientele. Scott and several stylists from Style for Hire performed clothing edits on December 9th and January 28th. In mid-January, the boutique was freshly painted and new carpet was installed. Once the studio is completly reorganized, Scott and his colleagues from Style for Hire  will return and give the Dress for Success clients a personalized styling experience, readying them for interviews and career success.  In the photos posted in this post, you can see the makeover from the beginning to the end in one of the five rooms they organized.

Organizers-Hard-at-Work-3This portion of the makeover was made possible by the generous support and donations of elfa® the awesome organization systems from The Container Store.   The Container Store sent two of their awesome employees to help install the shelving.

Solutions by Scott & Company firmly believes in giving back to the community which is why we have volunteered our time, expertise and care to provide the boutique at Dress for Success a complete makeover, enabling the organization to better serve the individuals in the community.

A-much-better-organized-space-3If you ever have any professional business attire that is  current fashion, and in great condition, please consider donating to Dress for Success.  Men can donate their dress clothing to Career Gear.  Find a location near you.

Do you have a favorite place to donate your gently used clothing?  We’d love to hear about it.

I’m Hoarding Shoes for Charity and I Need Your Help! March 22nd, 2011

Many of you know that I traveled to Haiti in January with the amazing non-profit charity Soles4Souls to help distribute shoes to children.  Experiencing life in Haiti with these beautiful people was truly heartbreaking.

IMG_3210-3It was also a life changing experience.  Upon returning to DC, I started collecting shoes for Soles4Souls.  It was my hope to do a city wide shoe collection and involve schools, churches and neighborhood groups.  However, my massive  shoe collection has come to a screeching halt because neither myself or Soles4Souls were able to secure a storage location where  community groups could drop off the shoes they collected.

digital correspondent, Linsdey Mastis did a story on the evening news on March 7th.  Although the news story didn’t help secure a storage location, many people brought me more shoes.  I now have over 6,000 pairs of shoes in my condo.  That’s why the news called me a hoarder.  I guess if I’m going to hoard it might as well be for a good cause.

Please watch the news video and leave a comment if you have any last minute connections that can help secure a drop off location.  If not, I’ll be shipping the shoes off to the Soles4Souls warehouse before the end of March.

To see the full news story, please visit WUSA9

IMG_3209-3I was featured on 9NEWS NOW in August 2010 when I collected more than 650 pair of blue jeans to make insulation for Habitat for Humanity.






So much for a dining room table!

Dress for Success Receives Makeover by Professional Organizer Scott Roewer

IMG_2563-3The Organizing Agency has joined forces with Style for Hire to take part in giving the Dress for Success Washington D.C. Boutique a professional makeover! Dress for Success is an organization providing suits and professional attire for underprivileged women with the goal of spurring their professional success. Scott Roewer, of The Organizing Agency, is also a stylist for Style for HireStyle for Hire, a style-consulting firm operating as a division of The Organizing Agency and Stacy London’s Style for Hire which aims to boost clients’ morale by allowing their own spirit and confidence to shine through by styling their wardrobes and organizing their closets.

IMG_25861-3The three-phase makeover of the Dress for Success boutique began in December 2010. The Organizing Agency is orchestrating the design and layout of the new Boutique giving each room its own feel and providing an organized shopping experience for Dress for Success clientele. Scott and several stylist from Style for Hire performed the first clothing edit on December 9th, with a second clothing edit performed on January 28th. In mid January, the boutique was freshly painted and new carpet was installed. Upon completion of the remodeling, Scott and the Style for Hire consultants will return and give the Dress for Success clients a personalized styling experience readying them for interviews and career success.

The boutique makeover was made possible by generous support and donations from The Container Store. Scott added, “We’re so very lucky to have a partner like the Container Store. Their elfa® closet system is perfect for the unique space found at Dress for Success. We were able to design a custom space that will last forever.” We recommend you visit The Container Store nearest you to receive 30% off of their elfa® organization solutions through February 15, 2011.

Scott and a crew of organizers from the National Association of Professional Organizers – Washington, DC Metro Chapter will complete the reorganization of the space in February.

The Organizing Agency firmly believes in giving back to the community which is why we have volunteered our time, expertise and care to provide the boutique at Dress for Success a complete makeover, enabling the organization to better serve the individuals in the community.

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Changing Lives With Shoes and Soles4Souls

2013 Update – We are no longer collecting shoes for Soles4Souls. Visit their website to find a donation location in your area.

Dear friends and clients,

Screen-shot-1As many of you know, tomorrow (January 5, 2011) I am headed to Haiti, forgoing a typical winter vacation, so I can distribute shoes to orphans.  I’m traveling with the amazing organization, Soles4Souls, an international shoe charity that collects, recycles and reuses shoes from footwear companies and the general public.

n-1While in Haiti, we will be staying at the Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM) compound in Port-au-Prince (PAP).   We will visit Cite Soleil, a suburb of PAP, noted as the poorest slum in the entire Western Hemisphere.  Poverty here is indescribable.  There are no public services, and the roads are barely passable.

Nearly 300,000 people live in the area of approximately 2 square miles.  The area is viewed as a difficult place to work; hence few non-government organizations, or other services are available here.

tipical streetNext we’ll visit Blachard (“New Land”), another suburb of PAP, located directly north of Cite Soleil closest to the PAP airport.  It is the home to about 200,000 and is growing.  We’ll also visit Ibo Beach, a small rural community of about 15,000 people, located 25km northwest of PAP.   Finally, we’ll visit Repatriote, the newest community being built on former cropland, with the primary intention to house Haitians returning (displaced) from the Dominican Republic.

While at HOM, we’ll have about eight hours of electricity each day, powered by 23 solar panels.  There is no refrigeration, air conditioning, indoor bathroom, or hot water.  We will stay in the second floor of the school building, which was not damaged in the earthquake, which occurred on Jan 12, 2009.  Although the conditions will be different than what I’m used to, I’ll have no room to complain.

Nancy4-1Our itinerary will be as follows:

Day 1 – I leave DC at around 7 AM, fly to Miami where I’ll meet the other volunteers.  Together we’ll board a flight to Haiti, arriving at 4 PM.  We’ll board a bus, travel to HOM, eat dinner, gather for a team meeting and crawl into our bunks for bed.

Day 2 – After breakfast, we’ll have our first distribution in Blanchard for school-aged children.  Following lunch we’ll have a second shoe distribution, but this one will be for infants.  We’ll board a ‘tap-taps’ for a ride through downtown PAP and to view the Presidential Place.  Following dinner and a team meeting, I’m sure our volunteer team will pass out from exhaustion.

tap-tap04-1Tap-taps are basically, local public transportation on four wheels.  It might be a former school bus, or a pick up truck.  They can be painted with beautiful exteriors, religious slogans, or have loud sound systems inside.  I wonder what we’ll be riding on.

Day 3 – Following a breakfast of muffins, fruit and coffee, we’ll travel to Cite Soleil for our third shoe distribution.  We’ll be working with kids in first – third grade.  After lunch, we’ll give shoes to adults in Cite Soleil.  Following the distributions we’ll take a bus trip through the mountains and have the opportunity to buy some gifts.

Day 4 – We’ll actually visit the beach community where we will have lunch and spend time playing with the orphans.  I’m taking several toys I can leave for the children.  I’ve heard from many people the beaches in Haiti are breathtaking.  This will be the first time I’ve been to a beach other then one in Florida, California, or Delaware.

Day 5 – We’ll conclude our trip early in the morning and depart for the airport around 8 AM.  I’ll be back in DC about 12 hours later.

Warehouse-4-1I look forward to sharing more of my experience with you.  It’s through the generous donations of friends, family and my clients that I am able to take this trip and provide shoes to so many people in need.

I officially kick off a Soles4Souls shoe drive in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area in late January. I’ve started collecting from clients and friends, and as you can see my condo is overrun with shoes. I hope you’ll donate your unwanted footwear to my collection and volunteer if you’re able to assist.

Thank you for your support of this mission. I couldn’t do it without you.

Warm regards,


Soles4Souls distributes usable shoes to people in need around the world. Since being founded in 2005 by Wayne Elsey (CEO), Soles4Souls has given away more than 12 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently distributing one pair every 7 seconds). The shoes have been distributed in 125 countries, including Haiti, Kenya, Nepal and the United States.

Recycle Event: Arlington Virginia E-Care

ECARE-3Our friends at Diana’s Books let us know that Arlington E-Care is happening October 16th, 2010 from 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM at  Thomas Jefferson Middle School at 125 S. Old Glebe Rd.  The school is one block east of Glebe Rd. and one block south of Rt. 50.  The entrance will be marked.

Arlington County continues to set the standard for the ultimate reuse/recycling event with Arlington E-Care. Arlington residents can bring the following items and they will either be reused or recycled properly.  Items marked with an * have a nominal fee.

ecare_reuse_reduce_recycle-3hazardous household materials
bicycles* $10 donation and the bikes go to Bikes for the World
small metal items
computers* $15
televisions* $20
clothing, linens, shoes
air conditioners
eye glasses (for South Arlington Lyons Club)
medical equipment (Being shipped to remote locations by Virginia Hospital Center Medical Brigade)

Diana’s Books will be on hand accepting books, CDs, DVDs, and audio books.

For full information on Arlington E-Care click here.

Donate Your Bike and Make a Difference

BFTW_LogoDonate your unwanted bike and make a difference to someone in need.   Bikes for the World works to provide affordable transportation to individuals in developing countries.  The bikes help these individuals get to work and school, or in providing health and education services to low-income rural people.

Day3Nyariga131LoRes-3I’m impressed that in the first five years (January 2005 – December 2009) of their charity work.  They have donated over 40,000 bicycles to 11 different countries.  I have no doubt that Bikes for the World is the largest bike reuse program in the country.  Visit their benefits page to view their amazing statistics.

Bikes for the World is holding two bike collection drives at local REI stores in September. Future donation locations can be found here.

REI – Rockville, 1701 Rockville Pike
September 18 from 12 PM – 4 PM

REI – Bailey’s Crossroads, 3509 Carlin Springs Rd.
September 19 from 12 PM – 4 PM

A tax-deductible doantion of $10 covers shipping and handling of your bike, your donation will also reduce future landfill waste.