"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Anne Frank

Friday, September 9, 2011

Clutter: The Rhyme And The Reason for It All

Some homes are clutter-filled because their owners lack the knowledge and the skills to deal with it. Some people lose control due to bad health or other circumstances.
The resources and information I've given in earlier blog posts will help. A professional organizer may be the solution.

Today, however, I want to talk about another reason for losing control and being overwhelmed by the things surrounding us.



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression affects 1 in every 10 adults in the U.S. or 21 million adults and children according to Mental Health America. An estimated $31 billion dollars in work absenteeism and lost productivity is a result of depression. It is the leading cause of disability and suicide. Depression not only raises the risk of stroke in women, it also affects chronic conditions i.e. arthritis, heart disease, cancer, eating disorders among others.

Depression is serious business. It destroys energy, initiative, relationships, careers and our health. It creates havoc in our lives, allowing C.H.A.O.S. to overwhelm and gain control.

If someone you know (maybe you?) lives surrounded by clutter at home and/or at work, depression may be the culprit. Depression also isolates. Reach out, offer help and don't take no for an answer. You may just save a life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Do You Eat an Elephant? One Spoonful at a Time

"Listen up, people. You did not gain the weight overnight. So you can't expect to lose it overnight, either."
If you've ever attended a Weight Watcher's meeting, you've heard this.

Well, listen up,people. The same principle applies to clutter. All that stuff took time to accumulate. So it's going to take time to dispose of it. Whether you do it a little each day or have a marathon declutter with family and friends helping, it still takes time to sort, decide and purge/put away.

So where do I start? 
Beginning a new project, be it writing, cleaning out the storage shed (yes, I have one, sigh), or going grocery shopping, I find I do best if I take time to analyze the situation first. Yes, I know. I'm well known for jumping in feet first, eyes closed. I said it works best if I analyze first. Checking out the refrigerator before I go shopping keeps me from bringing home yet another carton of milk.

Once I know what needs to be done, why what I'm already doing may not be working, and what is, I can develop a working plan. This includes breaking the project down into manageable steps.

So what are those steps?
The SPACE formula is something I learned from Julie Morgenstern. It breaks each project into five steps.

  • Sort: Pick up each item and ask if it will help you reach your goal of a serene, happy home. If not... 
  • Purge: Out it goes either to Goodwill, the trash or someone who asks for it.
  • Assign:Keeping it? Give everything a home and put it there!
  • Containerize:Need containers to hold the keepables? List what you need, measure to be sure things will fit into the containers and the containers will fit where you need to put them. Take this list and a tape measure with you. Nothing is more frustrating than getting those boxes and baskets home and finding they won't fit. Remember to label.
  • Equalize: This is a fancy way to say maintenance. Map out a simple plan and set up a workable schedule. Now stick with it. It takes practice but before long your home will be clutter free and it will stay that way.

                                              Now grab that spoon!

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Resource Time Again

Being a former librarian, I know how important finding new resources can be. Sometimes we find them by accident while surfing the net or browsing a bookstore. Other times, someone we know suggests a book or website, even a movie or television show. Maybe that someone is a librarian.
So check out the following resources.

Are you a list maker? Need a schedule to keep you straight? Then Jennifer Ford Berry's book organize now! is the one for you. This week by week guide is divided into 52 chapters (don't worry...they're short!). Every chapter covers a different area to be organized from our minds to our finances to our homes. She even covers topics such as parties and vacations. Each one includes a checklist for that week's goals, special tips to reach those goals and a stay organized list. The introduction alone is chock full of ideas.
She also has a website organizethislife. So check it out and get your pencil ready to check off your to-do list.

Two weeks ago, I announced the beginning of Bren's Den.  One of the many resources I used in creating my new business was
How to Start a Home-Based Professional Organizing Business by Dawn Noble. Even if you aren't interested in going into business this is a great resource for getting organized. It will even help you with whatever career you may be currently in. My copy is threadbare, striped with many colors of highlighters and marked with bookmarks and post-its.

Magazines. How does anyone live without them? Good Housekeeping, Country Living, Woman's Day, are only the beginning of a long list of periodicals which cover the subject of organizing on a regular basis. No need to clutter your home with hundreds of copies. Borrow from family and friends, including your local library, or check out the website almost every magazine has now. This is also a great way to check out an unfamiliar mag before subscribing.

So check out these resources. Each one will help you in your quest to be organized. Don't forget to check back here next week for more organizing tips and ideas from Bren's Den and me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Holidays: A Special Challenge

Holidays are wonderful, fun, exciting, hectic, miserable, insane, overwhelming.
In other words, a real challenge, especially for those of us who are organizationally challenged.

Cleaning the house, mowing the grass, (raking leaves, shoveling snow), hiding the clutter before letting family and friends inside your house. All of that takes time, energy and planning. Who has energy left over to decorate? Besides, finding where the decorations are hiding is next to impossible. (I know I bought minature flags on sale last year. Now where did I put them?)

So this week's challenge is to locate all those Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July decorations and finally designate a special place just for them.
  • Gather them all together in one place.
  • Sort them out by holiday.
  • Throw away those tree lights that haven't worked in three years. They won't miraculously work this Christmas either.
  • Repair the repairable. Dispose of the unrepairable or the things you don't love. Even if it was a Christmas present from Great Aunt Bea. She probably gave it to you to get rid of it herself!
  • Now go shopping! Look for see thru, stackable bins in sizes to fit your decorations and the space where you will store them.
  • Label each bin. Only one holiday per bin.
  • Stack the bins in order. Which holiday will you decorate for next? Halloween? That bin will be on top of the stack.
Feel better? I sure do. Now maybe next holiday my blog post won't be late because I wasted time looking for those blasted flags!

Happy Birthday, America! May all your holidays be wonderful, fun and exciting! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just Do It Already!

Sigh. It isn't the organizing I find difficult. In fact, it's rather fun. Finding that adorable little sewing basket for all my sewing supplies (never mind I rarely sew on a button, or hem anything), or the perfect storage unit for a bedroom closet. Seeing the look on someone's face when they discover how calming a clutter less den is.

No, it's what Weight Watchers calls "maintenance" I dread. You know, what you must do in order to keep off the thirty pounds you worked so diligently to lose. Organizing your home is like dieting. It only works if you change your habits for life.

A place for everything and everything in it's place is the Organizer's creed. Finding that place is our challenge. It's also when we get to have fun (and fight our battles!). However, this is where the maintenance part comes in. The not so much fun part. Someone needs to put things back into their place on a regular basis. And that's the part, I admit, I struggle with.

There are ways to make it fun. Find a basket, box or other container for each member of the family. Set a timer. The person or team that collects the most items before the timer goes off wins round one. Round two is won by the person who puts away the most items. Remember each thing must be in its proper place.
This game can be played even if you are the only player. Give yourself a point for each item put away before bedtime. Reward yourself based on a point system you make up. A manicure for twenty points. Bowl of ice cream for ten. Get the picture?

Taking pictures is a good idea. Before and after. Put up a before picture somewhere to remind you what life was like before you became organized.

Doing a little at a time is the real key to maintaining. Never letting clutter get out of hand or overwhelming us is the only way to stay organized for life. After all, remember what it felt like to live a cluttered, unorganized life? Do you want to feel that way again? So when you feel the urge to let things slide just this once...Resist that urge for a double fudge sundae...umm, I meant the urge to procrastinate and Just do it already!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bren's Den...Turning a Dream Into a Reality

I am thrilled, excited and delighted! to announce the opening of Bren's Den: Professional Home Organizing and Event Planning.
Bren's Den is available to help with all your organizing needs. Whether it's setting up a home office, decluttering kitchen cabinets or the spare bedroom/junk room you want turned into a welcoming guestroom.
I'm eager to help you turn your home into the oasis you and your family deserve.

Moving? Facing the painful chore of sorting through an estate? Tired of paying for a storage unit of "stuff" but can't decide what to keep and what to discard? I can ease the stress of difficult decision-making.

Imagine the life you want...in the home you cherish. Together we can make it happen.

Contact me today and let's get started!

I'm also available to organize special events including workshops, conferences, childrens events and family reunions.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Think you can’t afford to get organized?

Watching most decorating shows on television, flipping through glossy magazines or perusing coffee table books on the subject, one gets the idea that only the rich and famous can afford to live in beautiful, organized homes.

I’m here to tell you a different story. While you might not literally be able to Design on a Dime, you can do it for much less than expected. All you need is a little imagination and a few helpful resources.

Where to start?

The library: Most public libraries are wonderful resources on everything from organizing a closet to building a home (and garden). Books, magazines, even DVDs can be had for the price of a library card. In other words, for free. They also have the best resource of all...librarians. Feeling overwhelmed by all the choices? Can’t seem to find just what you need? Ask for help. It’s why they’re there, after all.

County Extension Service: Look in the phone book under County Government (usually the blue pages). They offer a wide range of homemaking services. Pamphlets, classes, advice. Sometimes there’s a small fee for the classes, frequently it’s just to cover materials.

Hardware stores: Lowe's, The Home Depot, Ace Hardware to name a few. Roam the aisles, checking out the brochures, and you may come away with a wealth of ideas. Do a little tweaking and you can adapt those ideas to your own home and often for much less. Some stores also hold classes. Check them out. You never know what may tickle your fancy.

Goggle it!: It’s amazing how much free information is on the Net. Diagrams, storage ideas, stencils, websites where you can virtually paint your house, all at your fingertips. Again, for free.

OK, I’m up to my ears in great ideas. Now what?

Collected more free ideas than you know what to do with? Start a Dream Notebook. A simple three ring binder, a few sheets of plastic sleeves, some dividers and voila’, your own organized book on organizing.

Great, I’m all set. Umm, I’m still not sure this isn’t too expensive.

Look at the pictures of perfectly organized closets, kitchen cabinets, bathrooms. What do you see? Baskets, shelves, dividers. How can you replicate the beautiful bedroom closet that’s caught your eye? Imagination, creativity and careful shopping.

Discount Stores

Family Dollar, Dollar General, Big Lots, Fred's and yes, Wal-Mart. These are just a few of the discount stores in my area. There are bound to be plenty where you live. It is amazing what they carry. Baskets of every shape and size. Some are lined with pretty material. Others you can line yourself with remnants of cloth you buy right there. Shelving units, bookcases, chest of drawers, desks for that closet office, can be found to fit your design. I’ve found clothes hangers exactly like the ones shown in organizing books at Big Lots for $5.00 per eight pack. Drawer dividers for a dollar at Dollar General.

Yard sales, Thrift Stores, The Side of the Road!

One woman’s trash is another’s treasure. Think creatively. That pretty ceramic bowl for fifty cents? Perfect to hold brooches on your dresser top. A tiny vase to hold makeup brushes? Ten cents. Easter baskets someone’s child outgrew? Hang from your closet ceiling to hold belts, scarves, etc. Someone’s discarded dresser with a missing leg? A little paint, remove the other legs or replace the missing one with a block of wood, and it’s perfect to slide into a closet to hold your out of season clothes.

Your Own Home
Walk around your house. Go on. I dare you to look in every room, every closet. Open your eyes and use your imagination. I bet you own some of the things I listed above. How are they being used right now? Can you think of other ways to use that flowerpot with the dead geranium? The plastic shoe boxes you bought to organize your shoes but realized you didn’t have room for on your closet floor?

Are you beginning to get the picture?

A little imagination, creativity, and careful shopping can net you the resources and supplies you need to organize your home. Never let the lack of money stand in your way. There are free resources, even free supplies to help you live in a beautiful, organized home.

Now, who feels rich and famous?


Monday, March 7, 2011

My bed isn’t even made yet!

It’s past 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.
I’m still in my pajamas. My empty suitcase sits by the door waiting to go to its home in the storage building. Clean clothes piled on my unmade bed wait to be put away. Undone household chores taunt me. I’m failing as a Flybaby.

Why? Am I sick? Is it the flu? Stomach virus? Spring fever? After two full months of Flying have I given up?

No, life in the form of an emergency with my mother got in the way. I spent a week caring for her and her home instead of my own. Now I’m simply exhausted. Too pooped to Fly.

Life does that sometimes.
Changes our flight plans. Makes us detour from the pathway we’ve chosen.
It doesn’t mean we give up, quit. We simply step back, take time to recharge (as I’m doing on this rainy Saturday afternoon), reevaluate, start over.

Life happens. What is your plan for dealing with it?  
Being organized simply means planning ahead. Anticipating life’s challenges
is a large part of that planning process. An emergency fund for financial emergencies makes sense. So does an emergency plan for keeping your home under control during times when you can’t do it yourself. A household notebook with details of where cleaning supplies are kept, who to call if there’s a plumbing emergency, how to use your washing machine, and other important information is essential. The FlyLady calls it a control journal. Index cards in a well marked box are another way to go. Making sure your significant other, teenager or trusted neighbor knows about (and can find!) it is also essential to keeping your home organized.

Are the people living in your house the only ones with access to it?
What happens if you are on vacation and there’s a problem? Can that trusted neighbor get into your home to take care of it? A close friend? Boss? Once while I was away on a business trip, my teenage son locked himself out. A coworker knew I kept spare keys in my mailbox at work. She came to his rescue but only because I left instructions on where to find them.  

So make a plan and share it with someone you trust.
Never again will CHAOS* reign during an emergency.

Now please excuse me. I'm going to take a nap.

*Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome

Monday, February 28, 2011

More Resources for the Chronically Disorganized

  • Ready for more resources to get you organized and out from under?
  • Last time, I steered you toward four fun-loving, know-where-you’re-coming-from-‘cause-we’ve-been-there organizers.
  • Today I want to introduce you to a few more serious types.

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out and Organizing from the Inside Out has been called a house whisperer. (Lisa Kogan, O, The Oprah Magazine).
Ms. Morgenstern created Task Masters in 1989. She calls it a full service organizing business for homes, offices, and everything in between. She believes that most people fail in their attempts to get organized because they focus on the solution instead of the problem. Understanding the psychological quirks, hidden dissuaders, and common mistakes we all make will help us achieve our goal of becoming organized and staying that way. She promises to help you identify, examine and confront the reasons you are chronically disorganized. juliemorgenstern

Peter Walsh is a household name. His hit television series Clean Sweep entertains, enthralls and dismays us. He is the author of several organizing how to books, including It’s All Too Much. Peter holds a master’s degree in educational psychology. He is a regular guest on The Oprah  Winfrey Show and has a weekly national radio program, The Peter Walsh Show. Mr. Walsh’s philosophy is simple. We all have too much stuff! His solution? Get rid of it, don’t buy anything you don’t truly need, and live your life instead of merely being a caretaker for stuff. peterwalshdesign

Susan C. Pinsky wrote Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder. After discovering that people without ADD were using the methods in her book, she wrote The Fast and Furious 5 Step Organizing Solution. She is a professional organizer and author. She teaches the 5 step method to organizing your home and office. Step 1: Plan. Step 2: Weed and Sort, Step 3: Remove, Step 4: Name to Create Boundaries, and Step 5: Containerize. Ms. Pinsky believes perfectionism gets in the way of efficiency. Also, less is more. organizationallyours

While these professional organizers take a more serious, no holds barred approach to organizing, they will add to your arsenal against the CHAOS* in your life.

*Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome

Monday, February 21, 2011

Procrastination: A Different Form of Clutter

Monday’s To-Do-List:
  • Write blog assignments for Tuesday’s class
  • Write query letters for at least three articles
  • Write new chapter one for The Guest Book, my first mystery novel
  • Create CV (writer’s speak for resume’)

Procrastinator’s To-Do-List for Monday
  • Sleep ‘til noon
  • Make pancakes and sausage for husband, myself and Jake, the World’s Most Spoiled Cocker Spaniel
  • Sweep kitchen floor (something I hate doing!)
  • Re-hang all the clothes in my closet onto matching white hangers (um, it matters if the hangers match?)
  • Delete all 357 old emails
  • Organize kitchen cabinet where old rags go to die (after breeding)
  • Read Susan C. Pinsky’s book on organizing (OK, this was legitimate research…just not on Monday’s to-do-list)

Get the picture? Organizing isn’t just about your space. It’s also about your time. We all have the same amount of time. 24 hours, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. So why is it that some people, like my friend Edie, get so much more done in the same amount of time?

Discipline. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how much you can realistically expect to accomplish in the amount of time you have. Being organized in your space so that you can be more productive with your time. Respect for yourself and the people who depend on you. Being accountable.

Need help?

There are as many books on the market to teach us how to stop procrastinating as there are on organizing our homes. Julie Morgenstern’s Time Management From the Inside Out is just one of the classics. Alec Mackenzie’s The Time Trap, Getting Things Done by David Allen, and How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein are other books on this subject.

Websites abound. Try dalecarnegie, mindtools, and organizeyourselfonline for starters.

There are professional seminars, as well, given by companies which specialize in teaching time management.  
Check out franklincovey and pryor for inspiration.

Procrastination is a time clutterer not unlike the rags in my kitchen cabinet. Whether it is a learned habit or an inbred character defect, I don’t know. I do know it is something to overcome before it defeats us.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Resources for the Chronically Disorganized

  • Tired of living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome)?
  • Tired of the Born Organizer looking down on you?
  • Looking for user-friendly resources from fellow slobs who dug their way out and lived to teach others to do the same?
Check out these fun filled, easy to follow sources to dig your way out from under the CHAOS in your life.

Pam Young and Peggy Jones may not be the first professional organizers. Yet the two SLOB sisters definitely started a revolution in 1977. Their Sidetracked Home Executives books and seminars have helped thousands of women (and a few men) get their sidetracked lives back on track and even organized. Pam and Peggy ‘s website, shes in touch is a wonderful, fun- filled resource for anyone who feels their life is out of control. Pam also has a magical website to teach your children the joy of cleaning their room! Go to housefairy and make organizing a fun family event every day.

Marla Cilley is the Flylady.  She, too, is a SHE. Once drowning in CHAOS, she learned from Pam and Peggy to baby step her way out of chaos into an organized but still fun life. She claims it took her nine months to dig out from under the clutter in her home. Now through her books and website flylady she teaches other SHEs to fly. (She is called the Flylady because she also has a passion for fly-fishing.)
Flylady insists that shining your kitchen sink alone will lead to an organized, well maintained home. Follow her weekly missions, monthly goals and daily reminders and you will swim out of CHAOS in no time.

Cynthia Townley Ewer’s book House Works is subtitled How to live clean, green, and organized at home. It delivers on the promise of teaching the skills to do just that. Colorful, filled with photographs, easy to follow graphs, and sidebars of information, House Works works for both the beginning homemaker and the experienced but chaotic one. She, too, comes from a background of CHAOS. Her journey to an organized life began Dec. 25, 1983. She invites her readers to join her on this continuing journey.  Cynthia’s website is Organized Home

Join Pam, Peggy, Marla and Cynthia and learn to control the clutter filling your home, your time and your life.

Friday, February 4, 2011

CHAOS is Overtaking America

  • Just what is this CHAOS and how did it overtake the strongest nation in the world?
  • Is it run by a sinister international superpower?
  • Do spies lurk around every corner?

Are they hiding in damp basements, or among the outcast THINGS cluttering up our attics, storage rooms, and junk drawers? Did we let CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) into our lives unsuspecting the control it would soon exert over us? How do we stop CHAOS from exploiting us and reclaim our lives?

CHAOS  isn’t a superpower nor does it employ spies, bullies or hoodlums to destroy us. It’s something we do to ourselves by ourselves. It’s letting the things we own own us instead. It’s letting stuff creep into our homes, cars, lives little by little until it suffocates us (sometimes literally). Peter Walsh in his book It’s All Too Much tells of a woman who is killed when the piles of stuff in her home collapse and smother her.

We live in a society which pushes us to buy more, do more, have more. Consumers are needed to keep the economy afloat! Easy credit means you can have it all! Buy in bulk at Sam’s, or Costco and Save, Save, Save!

So if getting all this stuff is easy and having it all is so wonderful, why are so many of us unsatisfied with our lives? Why do we feel overwhelmed, buried alive, suffocated by the very stuff we insisted on having? Could it be that more stuff isn’t the answer? Is less truly more?

An uncluttered life is a happier life
When we dig out from under, clear out the excess and simplify our lives, we have the time and energy to enjoy and appreciate the things (and people) we love the most. A buried treasure i.e.: one packed away, hidden in that damp basement or cluttered attic, is a neglected, unloved treasure. It’s possible someone else will love and treasure it as it deserves so why not give it to that someone? Or maybe it can be recycled into something lovable. Is it more trash than treasure?

Defeating CHAOS
Making the decision to unclutter your life is the first step. Need help? Stay tuned to gain the resources you need to dig out from under and live in the sunshine.