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For the third post highlighting this year’s NAPO Conference, I’m pleased to introduce Diana Duran Wettling of Practical Arrangements in Austin, Texas. As someone who is committed to an eco-friendly lifestyle, Diana attended a session on Environmentally Conscious Organizing, and is here to share some of the valuable tips she picked up.

Environmental ConceptsAfter attending the NAPO 2013 conference in New Orleans, I wanted to share learnings from a session that really struck a chord with me – the Environmentally Conscious Organizing session. It was facilitated by Debra Baida, Eileen Koff, CPO and Megan Spears, CPO. These ladies did an excellent job of educating and encouraging their participants. The organizers I spoke to while walking out of the session were ready to update business plans!

Yes – I recycle, I compost, I buy from local farmers and I make environmentally friendly decisions as much as I can. Environmentally Conscious Organizing was a session I was super excited to attend and I was not disappointed. Not only was attending a workshop with like-minded organizers very motivating, but I also learned how to incorporate “being green” in my business. I was enlightened when I understood that as organizers we can make a direct impact on client’s choices AND our environment.

Why be environmentally conscious?

There are tons of reasons! For blogging sake, I’ll just stick to landfills today. We are all super busy and make purchases that make things convenient, such as disposable toothbrushes, water bottles and small packaged snacks. We buy things and use them for a couple seconds then trash them and never think about it again. That package that took us a couple seconds to use can take weeks or sometimes years to decompose in a landfill. Oh! And you know those packages that say compostable? I seriously thought that they would be okay in landfills since they decompose. WRONG, there’s no oxygen. Waste is compacted so much that compostable containers and even grass trimmings are buried in the landfill along with the other trash – not decomposing.

So, how do you become more environmentally conscious?

  • Think about what you are buying, using and doing. Minimize your purchases, purchase things with less packaging and purchase things that last longer.
  • Educate yourself on the variety of eco labels. Read the eco labels on the products you are purchasing to become more familiar with them. Do a little research online to get even more details.
  • Include recycling resources on your website. When you hear about an event from someone, on the news or on the radio post it on your website to let more people know.
  • Find out what can and cannot be recycled in your area. Visit your local utilities website for the information specific to your area.
  • Let them know (and feel!) that you are not judging them. Commend your client for any recycling they are already doing.
  • Help your client set up a recycling system. Find an easy to access spot in the kitchen that fits two bins – one for trash and one for recycling.
  • Present an environmentally friendly option when a client’s need arises. When new purchases are necessary, let your client know about eco-friendly products.
  • Introduce a new concept when it comes up during an organizing session. If working in the kitchen, talk about reducing their trash consumption by composting.
  • Include environmentally friendly tips that will save your clients money on your next blog post or newsletter.
  • Be specific when taking donations. Let your client know who will benefit from their donations.
  • Share local recycling programs or events on social media.

How do you get your clients on the environmentally friendly track?

Together, professional organizers can really make a difference – even if it’s a little step at a time. The next time you are working with a client, share at least one new concept with them!


Some of My Favorite Green Products Shared in the Session:Environmental Concepts

  • Ditto hangers – they are 100% recyclable!
  • New Leaf Paper – eco paper in cute notebooks!
  • Necklace made out of recycled magazines – Love it!




Diane Duran WettlingDiana Duran Wettling is a professional organizer and owner of Practical Arrangements. Diana helps busy people get organized and be happy! She helps homeowners and business owners purge, sort and organize their belongings so that they can have more time to do things they love. When she is not organizing, Diana makes time to garden, craft and read. To find out more about Diana and her services, check out her website.

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Grocery ShoppingImagine for a moment your last grocery trip. Was it laser-focused in food gathering, or did your stomach and eyes get the better of impulse shopping? For most of us, grocery shopping is the most time consuming and last place we want to be errand, and what worse, it’s the time of the year when things become more difficult in food planning and preparation. We are getting into the “just dropped by” and family gatherings that stockpile our pantries and refrigerators. Keeping the essentials becomes a marathon. Shopping my be unavoidable, but by keeping a few simple tips on how to better plan the upcoming season, we may just make that living simply mantra something that is put into practice this year. OH… there is always hope!

Measure twice, cut once.
In other words, plan and prepare wisely. Begin the season planning what was successful in last year’s repertory and what new recipes you want to try this year. Measure twice…really plan with a realistic eye what is truly needed and don’t get caught up in the perfection mood. Keep a grocery list in view and train yourself to use it as one item goes out, it gets written on the list. That’s a great way to avoid the last minute rush for more milk.

Organize your list by aisle.
Face it, Madison Avenue knows us better than we do. They know where to place foods that cost more and to get you to buy more. Don’t succumb to this trick. Put a little energy into finding out how your store is laid out and this can save you a ton of time and money.

Think week not day.
Figure out the week’s worth of menus and begin your buying of nonperishable foods for the whole week, then buy a few days worth of perishable items. Fresh is always best, but going to the store everyday is unnecessary and a big time and wallet waster. Keep you menus simple and save new recipes for the weekend when other members can join in.

Call ahead.
Some stores deli departments will put your order together before you arrive. OK now your talking 15-20 minutes of free time. Need I say more?

Time is not on your side.
Know when to shop. Early riser and late night shoppers are rewarded with smaller crowds and shorter checkout lines. Weekdays between 5-7PM are max-capacity times.

Check it out!
It does matter how you unload. Empty your cart either from heaviest to lightest items or from indestructible to fragile. You or your packer will have a better shot of getting your items home in good condition if loaded this way. Try to keep all perishable or refrigerated items in one bag or two. Unload these items first. The obvious is not always so.

Last but most importantly…go it alone!
If at all possible, don’t bring the kids. They keep us distracted, have wish lists a big as they are, and complicate all the unloading and getting in and out. If you MUST bring them, give specific tasks such as choosing that night’s vegetable etc.

High tech tools to make this even better!
Try a free Smartphone app called Grocery iQ to manage your list. You can even take a picture of the bar code with your camera and instantly add the item to your list. The app stores previously purchased items to help you make the next list. You can create different lists for different stores. Visit www.groceryiq.com

Many grocery stores are now using Twitter and Facebook to alert customers to specials and discounts. They may also offer specialized apps to help make shopping and saving easier. Check the stores home page for starters.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving…shopping stress free!
Eileen Koff CPO

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Child PlayroomLast year, I got a call from Dawn, who said in a frantic voice: “Eileen, I need your help, I must get my child’s playroom in order. I am expecting in 3 months and I cannot live with the condition of this room any longer.” I could certainly understand her frustration, but there is more here than just the wave of the magic wand and organizational heaven. Her daughter, not quite four years old could not possibly be expected to keep her room in order when neither Mom nor Dad had a system set up to keep it well organized.

My first question to Dawn was, “What does Anne love to play with? Dawn’s answer gave me an idea of the real issues going on. “Oh, Anne loves EVERYTHING!” My first lesson to clients is that if EVERYTHING is important, then NOTHING is important. Getting Dawn to prioritize Anne’s play likes and dislikes would only take her a few minutes of observation. Drowning in a room filled with stuff sends the opposite message to what we should be teaching our children.

In a world where “more” is better, we soon learn that when it comes to children’s toys, the opposite is true. Teaching children as young as two the value of purging can help to SIMPLIFY and allow them to really enjoy their surroundings. Getting the family together each week and teaching a child to purge can be a new and fun family activity.

Following are a few lessons they will learn:

  • There are only a limited amount of items that should go or even fit in an area.
  • They are responsible for the care of their toys.
  • They can bless others with something they are no longer using.

Following are some suggestions to help them simplify their spaces:

TOYS AND CLOTHING - Most children today have many more toys than they need. They get over-stimulated, and often stop playing with them. Help your children as you edit their toys, by getting them to identify those they don’t like or are no longer interested in.

SKIP THE TOY BOX - Toy boxes are a guaranteed way for kids not to play with all their toys. They become a dumping ground, usually full of broken bits and lost pieces; and children won’t hesitate to dump everything out to find what they want. Instead, build shelves and invest in bins. (clear bins are always a great way to go) Just make sure the shelves are low enough for younger children to reach.

BIG PURGE - Set aside one hour at a time to purge outgrown toys and clothes. Listen to your children and let them tell you what to give away. Don’t stop them from giving something away just because it is a gift or expensive toy, no matter where it came from or how much it cost. If the child doesn’t play with a toy or won’t wear a certain item, then it is clutter. If the unwanted item is a keepsake, then as a family create a keepsake bin and keep it in a special place. Honor and respect what is in your home.

CONTINUOUS CLEANING OUT - Create a give-away box. Decide how full the bin needs to be before you donate these items. Come up with a list of places looking for used items, and give your child a say in where they will go. Review which toys are still favorites and say bye-bye to toys that have lost their appeal.

HOMELESS ITEMS - Every few weeks, collect homeless pieces and get those odds-and-ends pieces together again.

ROTATE TOYS - Remember the old 80/20 rule? Kids play 80% of the time with only 20% of their toys. Children are just like us…they love to play the same games over and over and over again. To make toys and books seem new again, store some away. A few months later, rotate the ones from storage. Just remember to mark your calendar.

LABEL WITH PICTURES - Labeling storage containers is always a good idea, but what if your kids are too young to read? Use clip art to include a picture with the word. You can print the labels on address label stickers or on plain paper that you stick to the container using clear packing tape. Or ask your organizer to recommend specialty pre-made labels.

ARTWORK - Everything your child draws and creates may seem like a masterpiece; but if you save it all, your child will never learn how to value what’s important. Designate a holding bin for the creations your little artist makes. Four times a year, especially over winter and summer breaks, go through them together and pick out 5 to 10 items to save for the future. Be sure your child includes some of his or her favorites, even if they’re not yours. Move the chosen items to a portfolio or keeper bin. Or get even simpler: take a digital picture or scan all of the artwork and save it on compact disc. Then choose one special art project, have it framed or shadowboxed, and display it in the child’s room or in your family room for EVERYONE to see. This not only creates personality in a room, it lets the artist know their work is valued.

A SEASONAL CLEAN-OUT - Purge children’s closets every 3 to 6 months. They grow out clothing faster than the blink of an eye.

PREVENTING THE PILES IN THE FIRST PLACE - When the time comes that people ask you for ideas what to give your kids, suggest gifts like memberships to the zoo or museum, tickets to a show, books and music, contributions to a college fund, donation to charity, etc. Older children will particularly enjoy movie passes and gift cards. Give with meaning and intention, rather than easy and fast.

When a room is organized from a child’s perspective, they will soon love both the play and the organizing. And you will soon see: it is possible to do both!
In just a few weeks, the Christmas season will be upon us, and now is the perfect time to really observe what your child’s favorites are and what can be given to another needy child. A wonderful way to instill the gift of giving is to have your child help you take their toys to a shelter or other child friendly program so that they can witness first hand how giving is more meaningful than receiving.

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blog setting prioritiesOne of the most important questions I continually hear parents ask is “How can I manage all the demands of my time, now that my family is growing and life is overly complex? There never seems to be time to fit everything in, and by the end of the week, tempers flare and everyone is just worn out”.  The following story was first published in a book titled First Things First by Stephen R. Covey in the early ’90s.  I think it can be helpful to anyone at any stage of life.

Big Rocks

One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.  As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him.

He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes."  The time management expert replied, "Really?"  He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him.  "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied.  He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jars full?"

"No!" the class shouted.  Once again he said, "Good."  Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"  "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point.

The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

What are the 'big rocks' in your life, time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others?  Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all.

So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the 'big rocks' in my life?

Then, put those in your jar first.

My three boys are all men now …time flies… much too fast, especially when we are not paying attention. Take the time to slow down, look and be mindful of the love surrounding you. There are no guarantees life will remain constant. I sincerely hope that my organizing articles have helped in some small way to build a stronger family connection.

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Got Photos…Get Organized

Do your photographs overwhelm you? 

If there were a fire in your home, what would you grab first?

Some say the kids, others the pet; but after our loved ones … photos are given top priority. That’s because they document our lives. They are a testament to how we have lived and the memories we cherish. However, I’m always amazed how people treat these treasures.  Most are stored in horrid plastic containers, relegated to the basement or attic and rarely seen.  No thought has been given to honoring them in picture frames, or even storing on a cloud server for future projects.

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • You’ve got years and years’ worth of photos that have never even made it out of the film developers’ envelopes.

  • Worse yet, You’ve got rolls and rolls of film that haven’t even been developed.

  • You’re up to your eyeballs in boxes and stashes of photos that are a jumbled mess.

  • You’re wondering how you’ll ever manage to organize the old photos you’ve inherited when you’re already frazzled by your own collection.

  • You rummage through your piles in search of a special photograph, only to come up empty handed.

  • You’ve slowed down or even stopped taking pictures because you just don't know where you'd put any more photos.

  • You’re simply fed up with feeling overwhelmed.


While raising our families is a full time job, letting those precious memories escape us is a terrible thing to waste. I learned very quickly that helping my clients organize their photos brought a great deal of joy and satisfaction to their families. Our photos are our legacy, and treating them well preserves our stories for future generations. The following are a few tips to help you get started. Remember, like any other organizing process, this takes time, dedication and commitment. Scheduling just a few minutes a day, or a block of time on the weekend, when everyone can help, will bring many joys to your family. 

Let’s get started!

How to Organize Photos of Any Kind

Time and Place - Set aside time when you can sit uninterrupted. Your mounds of photos will take time to organize so don’t rush, but plan time each week to walk down your memory lane. Ideally, the place where you begin this process should have adequate lighting and enough privacy so that you can work uninterrupted.  Make sure you have enough room to spread out and divide your photos.

Gather - Collect all of your photos from everywhere in the house.  That means every closet, nook, and table where they have been accumulating. Don't forget the portrait extras and smaller photos from holidays or school pictures.

Sort - The possibilities are endless.  Do you like the idea of seeing life unfold through each year? (Chronological) Or want to showcase the growth of Michael’s baseball league? (Child) Sort through all the special holidays? (Events) If you do not have the date placed on the photo make your best estimation. It is better to give a rough estimate now then try to guess 10 years from now when the pictures were taken.

There is no right or wrong way to sort.

Categories - This is an alternate way to organize photos. Simply divide them into categories appropriate for your family. Some examples may be friends, family, vacations, school, kids, grandchildren, graduations, holidays, birthdays, or religious events.

Label - As you go through each envelope and picture, label the back.  Be sure to include the names of the people in the picture (including last names - years later, it will be easier for others to identify them), the date and the location. Use a special archival pen made for this purpose. Do not use a regular pen, as it will make an indention on the front of the photo.

Delete - Remember you don't have to keep every photo that you take.  Don't feel guilty. Throw away duplicates that no longer have a use, as well as blurry or simply bad shots. This often cuts down considerably on the pile you have and make your task easier.

My favorite tip is to start somewhere - When I contemplated conquering my own photos, I had so many envelopes, boxes and albums I didn’t know where to start. So I chose a birthday. Or you can choose the current year, and work backwards when you have extra time. The key to success is to take baby steps.  For every half hour you put into it, you’ll begin to feel a great sense of relief.

Because of the ease of digital cameras, we all take more photos.  Another great starting point is beginning with the physical pictures stuffed in boxes as they take up a lot of space. They will also lose their vibrancy if not properly stored and cared for.

Here are some typical organizing steps that may actually do more harm that good:

  • Storing photos in manila envelopes or unsafe photo boxes.

  • Using plastic Baggies, or standard index cards to separate photographs.

  • Keeping track of memories by using self-stick notes on the face of the photograph.

  • Using a ballpoint pen (rather than an archival pen) to write dates and information on the back of your photograph.

  • Storing your photographs in their original photo-developing envelopes.

I recently got a call from Margaret. Her sentiments are typical. “I’ve got at least five years of memories are stuffed into a giant box that sits on the floor of my home office. It is filled with overwhelming piles of photos that I'm truly terrified to tackle. I need a professional to get me started and to outline the tasks step-by-step.”

Getting these precious memories into a safe yet accessible place is not impossible, however, it didn’t get into this pile over night and it won’t go away with a wave of a magic wand. It will take many 30-minute segments and a few weekends to conquer and recapture the meaning behind “why we keep what we keep”. The good news is that with a professional photo organizer beside you, the work will get done. The best part? You don’t have to wait till you’re a grandparent to do it!



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heart 791047Kids grow like weeds…or at least they will grow tended to or not! But like any plant that you wish to bear good fruit, it takes training, nurturing and time. Kids need more than plants; they need our unconditional love and trust. Teaching children is 
certainly “a learn-as-you-go” experience. Their growth, as well as ours, takes much bending, pruning and tying. Learning new life habits takes time (and it may seem like a life long journey) until we get it just right. Teaching organizational habits in their formative years will set them on a path with less stress, frustration and procrastination, and who couldn’t use that in ones life.

As a teacher and a parent I have sat thorough countless parent conferences. Here are the two complaints I hear from both sides of the aisle

  1. Their children have poor decision-making skills

  2. They do not know how to prioritize.

The following exercise, when trained properly, will teach your children how to make decisions and prioritize according to THEIR wants and needs. Did I grab your attention? Beginning as soon as Tommy can hold a crayon, art work and school papers begin to encroach on our homes. More than multiplying rabbits, these precious “I can’t throw them out” papers, and art precious projects begin to take over the refrigerator and table spaces.

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! 

Keeping every piece of precious paper that comes into the home is just not practical, so, organizing kids’ papers and artwork starts here. It is time to make those tough decisions - which ones stay and which ones must make a graceful exit. Helping your child begin this process by asking them to come up with criteria for what they think is worth keeping. Hint…notice I didn’t say garbage. When you throw something away, that away is a place. If you can come up with an alternative for those precious items instead of the dump, it teaches your children another environmental lesson: recycling. I love to use artwork as wrapping paper. Not only does it save me a few dollars, but also you have a one-of-a- kind wrapping paper. Plus, your kids are proud to give away something they have made.

So how do we edit the collection?
 Ask your child to make a criteria list that they can attach to the artwork or paper. For example, do they want to keep everything with an “A” or do they want to keep only those original works or stories, or, do they want to keep those projects that they worked really hard on and feel great about? 
Most kids like to savor their projects, and getting them to make decisions/criteria ahead of time will automatically begin the eliminating process. This exercise may be the first time they are actually in control of their decisions. At first it can be a bit daunting, but never fear, if they keep at it they will exercise this mental muscle and those skills will become clearer each year. Remember, when everything is special, nothing is special.

Here are some of my criteria ideas just to get you started:

  1. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. 
Artwork that reveals important milestones, like the first time your son/daughter writes her name - keep it! . Self-portraits will be fun to look at later, as will artwork that provides insights into your child’s personality at that point in time. Be honest and eliminate anything that is not truly special. Remember to put a date on every piece and a small story to go with it!

  2. The Winner is…
Decide ahead of time how many pieces you want to keep, in either a flat file box for each year, or decide if you want to display their work. I prefer to displayed the art on a wall. Not only does it say that their work is valued, but it brings character and a unique presence into the room. You can keep frames on the wall in a permanent place and change out the pictures periodically. One tip though is to make sure the frames you have are easily accessible and easy to change. Otherwise you probably will not change the art as frequently as you would like. www.dynamicframes.com

  3. Scan it and Forget it! 
Here’s another option to help decide to keep or purge. If you own a scanner use it to your advantage. Scan your pieces, and keep them forever. If scanning is not an option, then; take pictures of the artwork and save it in a folder on your computer for easy access and storage. This is a good idea for the ones that didn't make it to the top picks but were still worth remembering (example: the 3 foot volcano).

  4. Managing Long-Term Storage.
 Unless the work is properly stored, over time it will deteriorate. And while I do not like bringing more plastic into the home, plastic seems to make the most sense in keeping out water or insects to rob away the memories. Make sure this container is both large enough to hold over-sized pieces of paper and compact enough to prevent your collection becoming more clutter.

Everything your child draws and creates may seem like a masterpiece, but if you save everything, your child won’t know what was important. One suggestion is to make a holding bin for the creations your little artist makes in a 3-month period 
of time. Four times a year, maybe over the school breaks each year, together; pick out 5-10 items to save for the future. Let your child pick his/her favorites. Move the favorites to a portfolio or keeper bin. I always chose one special art project and have it framed or shadowbox. Display the art or special project in your child’s room or in your family room for EVERYONE to see. That creates personality in a room and let’s the artists recognize the work is valued.

Several years ago my eldest son called and said he was making a promotional resume (he’s in advertising) “Mom, do you remember the poem I made in first grade called “power lines?” I said of course I do. Well, Mom, please scan it for me and send it ASAP. I pray that by preserving your children’s past, they will one day call upon it for their future.

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crecreatingI’m not a veteran environmentalist, I’m a regular person that loves hot showers, not about to convert my wardrobe to hemp, and I’m not about to go a whole year without buying anything, but I have discovered that you can be responsible and go green without giving up what you love. And it’s easier than you think I’m reminded that when I was in college and that earth-day environmental style equated Birkenstock shoes…and don’t get me wrong, I’m not against those, but that definitely was not me…nor is it now.

So, how did this all begin? Several years back at a NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) conference there was talk about a new concept “Green or ECO” organizing. What I realized is that most organizers already embrace many of the green concepts unconsciously and that with a bit more attention, organizers can truly make a huge impact on our planet with our clients help.

Changes are so very hard…so I start by telling my clients that when we make any changes we must go slow and steady. To really own what you want to do, and, that everyone around you that is going to be affected agrees.  This is also true about going green.

But what’s so darn important about going green?

Is it because of global warming and weather changes? Is it because were tired of seeing hazard and chemical stories that affect future generations, like the drinking water in Flint Michigan? If you think that going green is only a fad, I hope that one day we no longer refer to this new awareness as “green” that green will just be like any other color, but that our conscious consumption and thoughts will be so integrated that it will just be the standard of living and that to me…. will be fabulous!

But in order for that to change we need to understand why. Simply put we are destroying our planet.  I know I don’t need to list off the concerns about CO2 emissions, glacier issues, flooding, hurricane and tornado issues, wildfires, global illnesses and the disappearance of bees….by changing our mindsets abut the way we live, seriously reducing our individual contributions and consumerism we will make a dramatic difference.

So that’s where being an organizer and specializing with a green consciousness comes in. This new mindset means acquiring less, and with less stuff you have less clutter and less mess and less stress!

Organizers introduces our clients to a life that is calmer, more relaxed and one that is physically more calming. Organizers also push limiting, cutting back and narrowing the universe of products that we use and things that we do. We also explain why we think this way is good for you and your family, community, and the planet. Having a mindset that having less is not about depriving is in many ways a weight loss program for the mind, and carried to the house, a weight loss program for your home.

Change is hard, but in just one fun, educational and interactive session with To The Next Level, I promise I can convert just 1 or 2 issues you are now living with and transform them into a greener, leaner more peaceful system. For example, I can teach you to:

1. Get your kitchen table back by developing a action oriented desk-top file system and teach you how to stop the junk mail.

2. Taking care of you. Did you know that everyday in the shower you pour on hazardous chemicals? I’ll teach you what’s in those personal products, help you get a “green” night sleep and teach you green housecleaning tips. 

3. China’s manufacturing has it out for our kids! I’ll educate you in just what’s going on with those recalls and give you alternatives for fun times with out the toy chaos.

This is just a sampling on how retraining the brain can reap joyous rewards, for yourself, your family, your community and for the planet.  Contrary to public opinion, it’s easy going “green.”

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nature forest trees path

I was incredibly excited to be presenting K.J. McCory’s, Eco-style Your Client’s Life, at the 2009 NAPO convention. I believe that the green/sustainable movement is such a natural fit for organizers and I knew I would learn a vast amount from this veteran eco-organizer. I believe, like many of us who tout a green philosophy within our business, that we are indeed still riding the “green” wave and that our tipping point is still to be realized.  When I saw that K.J. had been given the “large” conference room I assumed that many of my peers were just as interested in learning more about our green/eco organizing industry.


Sadly, I was dead wrong.


As the session started with only 25-30 in attendance, the room seemed disproportionate. Several of those attendees were from outside the United States. What seemed obvious to me, somehow seemed unobvious to the rest of the 800 or so attendees at conference.


And I’m curious to know why…and though I may not have the definitive reason, I think I have a good starting point to begin a conversation.


When you think of it, Professional Organizers have been on the front lines of “Green” concepts since the profession’s inception. After all, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle are hallmarks of the industry! Many organizers include the 3 R’s in their terminology, but have been hesitant to speak of it in “green” terms. Why?  Well, it appears that asking our clients to “Go Green” can create a bevy of misunderstood notions.


“It’s hard enough for my clients to just part with their stuff, and the mere mention of adding one more guilt trip because they are not recycling may undo any success to the project”, explained one organizer. Therefore, organizers keep mum on the mention of anything “Green,” for fear that it will create more anxiety, guilt and shame – and may sabotage the entire organizing process.  I totally agree; so, timing is everything. As an organizer who is also very “green” conscious, I know that part of my green enthusiasm will have to take a back seat until the appropriate moment. Sometimes that timing is immediate; sometimes it takes a few sessions to bring up. Understanding where a client is and working within a client’s abilities and expectations is what makes a successful organizer. We teach our clients that organizing is a systematic process that builds new habits, and that daily lifestyle changes occur when we feel good about what we are doing. Getting our clients to adopt a deeper level of responsibility by introducing green lifestyle changes can and does have direct global implications. This may not be the right approach for every client, but for those clients that resonate with the concept, it can bring about a greater respect for our industry.


For many organizers, adding one more tool into their kit may be too overwhelming. They may feel that they just want to stick with the basics of helping clients eliminate clutter and streamline their systems. Introducing a greener system may take additional research and investigation. I strongly believe however, as an eco-organizer, by conducting workshops and providing my peers with easy accessibility to the knowledge they need, we can begin to break down this mental barrier.


Another hurdle to get past is the misguided notion that going green costs more and complicates one’s lifestyle. The greatest resistance we face as organizers is resistance to change. We can help our clients by explaining how to eliminating the excess, not only in terms of clutter but also by eliminating excess in electrical and water usage. Our clients can wrap their heads around “what’s in it for me” a lot more than why it’s good for future generations. Approaching going green from this angle will garner a lot more interest. Professional organizers may also begin to see the “light’ for their own lifestyle changes. It’s imperative we walk the talk.


As I said before, I do not have all the reasons why more organizers are not seeking this avenue of professional organizing. I remember many years ago at the Boston conference a handful or enthusiastic organizers huddled around a tabletop topic called ”simple and sustainable.”  After the session ended, these pioneering woman moved the conversation into the lobby. Out of this, a NAPO Yahoo Group emerged and from there, the NAPO ECO Special interest group was birthed. We have many more obstacles to overcome, but we are far from starting from scratch. For those of us forging this path, I hope to encourage and inspire my fellow organizers to adopt the greener path.  

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The Holidays are Almost Here…This Year I Have Hope

In the not to distant future or thoughts will turn toward the holidays and all the trappings, some good, but most nerve -racking.  My friends complain each year that the joy of he holidays seem to be overshadowed by the rush- rush and have-to out of tradition and guilt.

This year, I have hope. The Santa Claus image of material goodies tied to those who have been nice seem to be eroding from consumer consciousness. In its place, meaning and deepening experiences are replacing the tinsel laden trappings of material “have to buys”.

However, I still see a big question mark on many faces. My friends seem know what they want to do, they just don’t seem to know how to do it. Here are six tips to get you moving toward a more meaningful Holiday.

Tip #1.

Plan ahead. This is the perfect time of year to sit down with your family before the leaves begin to fall and discuss what you loved about last years holiday and what you did not. Not everyone will express his or her delight in visiting Aunt Martha.

There maybe a need for compromise. Get everyone’s opinion, and make this year one that everyone feels excited about.


Research the meaning behind your holidays. Why do we have Christmas trees? Give your family a task as to why you celebrate the way you do. Instead of doing things out of traditional habits, learn the reason for the season.

Tip #3

Avoid Debt

Make sure you have a budget before giving into the mindless consumerism onslaught at the mall. Make sure everyone understands the reason behind the budget and get creative. The best gifts I have received over the years didn’t cost a thing, only the time and talent of the giver.

Tip #4

Avoid stress. Add into your schedule time for the unexpected. The days will become shorter, both in terms of daylight and it seems in terms of minutes. Don’t sweat the small stuff, go with the flow and laugh more at the interruptions of the day. 


The gifts. Make a new tradition. Instead of many meaningless gifts under the tree, consider one gift that the person has wanted all year.  From my perspective, people don’t know what they want until they see a commercial or someone else’s toy. Start now and do some diligent research on each member of your family. Making it memorable both in time and gifts is what makes our memories pleasant.


New Traditions. Our family began a new tradition a couple of years ago. During the year, we sought out one charity that we felt we would like to contribute to. At Christmas each member gave to that charity and wrote a letter and put it on the tree inside an ornament explaining why that charity was important to them. Giving to those less fortunate is a great way to bring a new focus to the season.

There are as many ways to celebrate the holidays, as there are people. I hope this list will be a beginning to inspire you to take your holidays to the next level.  I’d love to hear how you celebrated simply and with meaning.

Eileen Koff CPO

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Green is Not Just a Crayola Color…

Teach Your Children Well

Children learn by what they see, not what we tell them. Okay…that was not meant to be a guilt trip; I just want your attention. You need to understand that our actions have a direct impact, not only on our daily lives, but also on future generations. For those who came before me, being green or eco-conscious would never have entered their minds; the concept didn’t exist. Science had not yet come up against overpopulation, carbon emissions and super storms. Our parents and grandparents believed that working hard and living the American dream was their only lot in life. But that’s all changed now. Like them, we must work hard to provide for our families; but now we are also held accountable for their future. How we spend our time and money, and how we present our environment, both in our homes and our surroundings are vitally important as part of the rearing of our children.

Here are two ways we can help our children become more eco-conscious and acquire a more sustainable mindset.

  1. Live by example:

 What matters to you will matter to your children. Make a decision to engage in at least one or two new green initiatives around the house. When you throw something away…away is a place. Have you ever gone to your local landfill and seen the difference recycling makes? Teach your children that each item sent to the dump has consequences for their future. Learning to donate, recycle and repurpose is a great game changer in the home. Even if this is all you do in 2015-16, that’s a huge start.

  1. Play Green

Play has long been associated with achieving higher IQs. But this sort of play is not watching TV or video games, but the kind that fosters creativity

The search for toys that are both environmentally safe and imaginative can be overwhelming, as very little advertisement money is spent on such toys. But if you do your research and seek out local toy stores, you'll find a treasure trove of new discoveries. In the meantime, let me tell you what may be lurking in the toys your children already have. Because once you understand such hidden evils, I’m betting you'll be more willing to seek out safer alternatives.

In February 2009, Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act adopted the ASTM F973-07 standard for allowable levels of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, and chromium. Toy cars in particular can be laced with some or all of these dangerous metals. And even though the law passed, you can’t assume that all toys are now safe.  You see, the Act didn't incorporate the inclusion of Bisphenol-A or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Now you may be wondering: Why are these chemicals in toys in the first place?

Plastics, fabrics and paints often contain a variety of substances that allows them to be durable, flexible, colorful or flame resistant. Your local ACE and Home Depot hardware stores carry a lead detector kits for under $15.00 (A small price to ensure lead isn’t lurking in your toy’s paint.) Unfortunately, there are no detector kits for toys containing Bisphenol-A or PVC (such as teething rings and bath toys).

So how Do I Find Safer Toys?

 Ask yourself two questions.

  1. Where is it made?

Many toys are made in China. If you are looking for toys in a big box store, you'll be hard pressed NOT to find a toy not made in China! After the recent onslaught of recalls in toys a few years ago--and continuing recalls–we are all   are much more aware than we used to be.  And while not all toys made outside the US are bad, if you have the choice to buy local, our economy will thank you for keeping your dollars here. 

A perfect example of a good place to shop is HYPERLINK "http://www.greentoys.com/" Green Toys. All their toys are made in the U.S. from recycled milk jugs.   

  1. Who can you trust?

Online shopping makes it easy to find out which toys are safe and where they are made. Most "green" online shops are family run. As they would want no less for their own children and grandchildren, you can be sure their standards are as high as yours. Just be sure to investigate their standards and ask questions.  You will find the owners are more than happy to tell you what you need to know".

Here are some of my favorite sites:









So you may be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with organizing? Everything!

Organizing is not simply making your environment neat and stress free, it about adopting change. Changing the way you think about your daily habits and consumer choices going forward. As an “ECO” organizer, I find my clients are very receptive to adopt a greener or eco mindset as the session’s progress. Organizing shines a spotlight on your current habits and as you change, adopting greener choices enhances this process.

One day, Green will be just another color, and our lifestyles will reflect a more intentional and sustainable quality of life. But our children have to learn it from somewhere, and they are not going to retain these teachings taught in schools. Parents, like the old Crosby-Stills-Nash-Young song, you have an obligation to “teach your children well.”

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I love words. They can evoke such an incredible emotional response just by their very sight. Words can transport you into a different time or location. They can enrich your knowledge base and they can provide you with hours of satisfied entertainment. As an organizer, there are peculiar words that I hear from my clients when they first contact me that I hear nowhere else. In describing their clutter condition, the words they evoke are overwhelmed, paralysis, drowning, and suffocating just to name a few. Clutter or too- much-stuff has an ability to invade minds with an incredible power. I’m not sure I can explain the reason behind this, I just know this is true because I hear it most everyday from clients seeking release and freedom from the chains their stuff has over them. Is it any wonder that from magazines and newspapers, to most forms of media, clutter and the desire to be organized has become an obsession in our country?

“Stuff has power, and the stuff we own has power. – Power for good or power for ill” said Peter Walsh, famed organizer and author. Our consumer-oriented society measures the health of our economy by the spending of consumer goods. A hard lesson I try to teach my clients is that “It’s (life) not about the stuff.” I learned that lesson many years ago when I first began my organizing business.   

One of the many defining moment as an organizer came when I was called to help a 9/11 widow take care of her husband effects in the home.  Dealing with the raw emotions was, shall I say, incredibly difficult. But with great care, I thought we could maneuver enough of his stuff to allow her to move on with her life with her two girls. Hardship forces one to look not only at the quantity of one’s stuff but at the quality of our relationships and one’s life.

Discarding and donating his stuff I thought would be easy enough. I was so terribly wrong.  Among the hats, record albums, tools, sports memorabilia, fireman articles and clothes, lay an incredible power to memories. However, my client was intuitive enough to understand that fond memories deserve honor and respect. Stuff is just stuff, but stuff becomes a person’s life when we hold memory to the stuff. Preserving his memory with love was what she needed, not a bin to house it in. After my client and her girls selected the objects that brought them the most joy we decided to create several shadow boxes so that they could display them on a wall. Keeping the memory alive was what allowed her to heal, and the same time, those few items kept in honor allowed her to let go all of the other articles that held a place in his life. She was free from the chains of clutter.

Organization is truly transformative. When we take our clients out of the context of the stuff and put them into the context of their life, all of a sudden, instead of making decisions about stuff based on price, availability, etc., we help people make decisions about the stuff based on the life they want. Our homes are metaphors of our lives. It is truly impossible to make your best choices…emotionally stable choices, in a clutter and disorganized home. It simply can’t happen. Organization is not something you do, it’s a way you life your life. It is not about simply cleaning up; it’s about making mindful decisions about the life you want. By asking my clients their visions for their space, we create a room environment that transforms not just the space but the family. When we change a family, we can change a community…a nation…our world.

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The professional organizing industry is no stranger to the mantra, reduce, reuse and recycle.  In almost every business/home we enter, one if not all of these actions are required to ensure the success of a project.  In reducing the object/paper within a space, new life enters a room. When reducing responsibly through reusing or recycling many of my clients are highly motivated to continue with this new lifestyle process.

These three words, reduce, reuse recycle is slowly gaining momentum as the world finds itself in uncharted territories of insecurity. Paradoxically, these uncertain times are when the professional organizing industry excels. Because, it is through these uncertainty periods that most people need to create environments that emphasize a greater quality of life.

I would like to introduce three more verbs to our professional organizing arsenal; refuse, repair and repurpose.

Refuse. Our way of life, supported by the misguided concepts that spending will make us all healthy is now being replaced by the view that we can refuse the latest trends. Yes, people will still spend hours in line for the new IPhone, but I believe that the vast majority of us secretly abhor the belief that newer must be better. We are beginning to wake up to the fact that we can refuse Madison Avenue’s religion and we can refuse to put into our brains that which is making us sick. We can decide to refuse, but this takes a new community mindset and one I am passionate about creating.

Repair. Gone are the days of the neighborhood cobbler. Instead when our shoes wear out, we toss and go to the China factory of endless shoe choices.  We have bought into the lie that says it’s OK for our stuff to break in a matter of months but still have enough faith in the brand to continue to buy. Here’s a bucket of water to throw on your head. It’s time to wake up and demand better from manufacturers to stop making subpar products. When items do break, bring back those jobs that will repair them instead of tossing more garbage into the landfill.

Repurpose. —to reuse for a different purpose on a long-term basis, without alteration. Example: The town common was repurposed as a practice field.

Who said an item has only one life? In a world filled with creativity, many new artisans are combing landfills to create art from cast-offs. Books are now serving as coffee tables, and the list is virtually endless in the way we look at what we already own and can use in a different way. The issue is this; how willing as a society are we to begin adopting these changes into our life? I still have hope that our future generations will use the verbs refuse, repair and repurpose as naturally as breathing.

In the words of Jane Goodall “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  And that’s the major point. Change is hard! People only change when our backs are against the wall, or we see benefit for the long term. Our society is on overwhelmed so any change is difficult to embrace; I get that. However, doing what we have always done and trying to make a difference is just insanity. We MUST change, if not for the present, then for future generations. In this new phase of living, remember to take it slow. Adopting one new principle and then adding on will ensure you stay authentic and motivated.

You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.

And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.

Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by,

And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,

So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

~ Crosby Stills and Nash

I’m ready for Change! “R U?”

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As a certified professional organizer, I become more and more aware that organizing is not just about alphabetizing the spice rack. As the the professional organizing industry continues its prominent media placement on TV shows and magazine covers, another movement, “eco or green” is becoming more and more mainstream. This eco-lifestyle trend is becoming more of a necessity than just an alternative lifestyle.  Complementing the organizing field, the eco-movement fits like a hand-in-glove with the organizing profession. Reduce, reuse, and recycle has always been the mantra of organizers, and many organizers already tout this eco philosophy; however, they fall short utilizing it to its full potential. What makes an “Eco-Organizer” stand out in the industry is one that will promote lifestyle changes that revolve around healthy eco- friendly products and behaviors.  Understanding consumer habits and what and why we buy is a passion of mine.

Organizers are a witness to the impact of consumer goods within our homes. If approached with a creative and realistic plan, the organizing industry can have a powerful effect on present and future consumer habits all across the world. What we buy and how we live is all connected.

When we change an individual we change a room
When we change a room we change a home
When we change a home we can change a family
When we change a family we can change a community
When we change a community, we can change the world.
People don’t just buy stuff; they assume responsibility for the stuff.

When I attended a NAPO conference several years ago and listened to our keynote speaker, Peter Walsh, explain in detail the story of the plastic bottle.  He explained that we might want to start examining our buying practices because they have incredible global ramifications. This really got me thinking that there must be a better way to take my business to the next level.

As an environmentally aware organizer, or eco-organizer, I teach clients that they are also responsible for their consumption patterns. These patterns not only have an impact on their home, but also on the planet. I believe that in the future, our organizing industry will be at the forefront of changing societies consumption behaviors. Currently, organizers tend to be very involved at the back end, after the damage is done, people call us in. In the future, organizers will have an increasing role at the front end, impacting our client’s consumer choices and habits.  Already, buying in bulk is a trend that is getting less and less attention, and we see the many benefits in terms of found storage and items no longer thrown away due to expired or unwanted goods.

Organizers teach our clients that organizing is a systematic process that builds new habits, and that daily lifestyle changes occur when we feel good about what we are doing. Getting our clients to adopt a deeper level of responsibility by introducing eco lifestyle changes can and does have direct global implications. This may not be the right approach for every client, but for those clients that resonate with the concept, it can bring about a greater respect for our industry.

One hurdle to get past our client’s mindset is the misguided notion that going green costs more and complicates one’s lifestyle. The greatest resistance I face in any session is resistance to change. I can help by showing my clients that by eliminating excess, not only with their physical clutter but also in electrical and water usage, money can be saved. They can wrap their heads around “what’s in it for me” a lot more than why it’s good for future generations. Approaching eco philosophy from this angle has generated a lot more interest.

One other misconception is that people think they will be giving up one’s lifestyle by going “green”. As an eco-organizer, it is my responsibility to promote that the change is not something they must do all at once, but as a process, very much akin to an adopting an orderly lifestyle. Small steps create big impacts. It is my greatest hope that in the future, the professional organizing industry can promote green in many shades, to meet our clients desire in adopting a more responsible future for generations to come.

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When I first learned of the story of the Great Garbage Patch, thoughts of Charlie Brown raced in my brain. As I began my own investigation into this murky topic, I found little humor to connect the two.

What sounded to me more like science fiction than science fact, I began my own investigation into the world of plastics. For 3 glorious years, 1979-1982 before children, I had the wonderful opportunity to live in Hawaii. The sights of such beauty will never leave me, and one of my top sights were the amazing coral fish swimming in the most blue /green waters you will find anywhere. Years ago while I was reading Rolling Stone's magazine, and an article that caught my eye was titled An Ocean of Plastic. The article begins "The world's waste has formed a vast floating garbage dump that's twice the size of Texas – and it's working its way up the food chain. I was born in Houston Texas, so here's something to wrap your head around. When the article states that this floating garbage dump is "twice the size of Texas", this literally means you can begin from Houston and drive all-day and all night and still be in Texas. It takes about 1 1/2 half days to make it from Houston to New Mexico. So, imagine if you will, something 2x's that! The article continues "Welcome to the future", says Capt. Charles Moore, the commander of the 25ton research vessel call Alquita. He's standing in Kewalo Basin Harbor on the south shore of Oahu, holding up a jug filled with murky yellow liquid. Tiny bits of debris swirl in the jug, a cloudy mass of trash. Most of it is plastic. "This is what our oceans are like now...this sample was taken 1,000 miles southwest of LA. So it's not just one place - this is the whole ocean."

You can do your own research on the Great Garbage Patch. I do not recommend it however, it you have jut eaten a heavy meal. You will find that 40% of albatross chicks on Midway Atoll die from being fed bits of plastic waste that float ashore. Birds cannot distinguish between real food and plastic; but more disturbing to me was what this plastic is made from. These plastics contain concentrations of toxic chemicals, including DDT and PCB's. The birds and sea turtles are making this plastic their main diet staple and they are choking to death.

Here's a quick breakdown of plastic resin types:

#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Product examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, cough-syrup bottles

#2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE)/
Product examples: Milk jugs, toys, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles

#3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
Product examples: Meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes

#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)
Product examples: Cling wrap, grocery bags, and sandwich bags

#5 polypropylene (PP)
Product examples: Syrup bottles, yogurt cups/tubs, and diapers

#6 polystyrene (PS)
Product examples: Disposable coffee cups, clamshell take-out containers

#7 other (misc.; usually polycarbonate, or PC, but also polylactide, or PLA, plastics made from renewable resources)
Product examples: Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers, and medical storage containers

Now that you know what each of the numbers represents, here are the kinds you should look for at the store:

Safer Plastics

#1 PET, #2HDPE, #4LDPE and #5PP

These three types of plastic are the healthiest. They transmit no known chemicals into your food and they're generally recyclable; #2 is very commonly accepted by municipal recycling programs, but you may have a more difficult time finding someone to recycle your #4 and #5 containers, but more and more recycling centers are accepting these now.

#1 PET

#1 bottles and containers are fine for single use and are widely accepted by municipal recyclers. You won't find many reusable containers made from #1, but they do exist. It's also best to avoid reusing #1 plastic bottles; water and soda bottles in particular are hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.


PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). Although you can't recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.

Plastics to Avoid

#3 PVC

#3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is often used frequently in cling wraps for meat. However, PVC contains softeners called phthalates that interfere with hormonal development, and its manufacture and incineration release dioxin, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers during manufacture.

#6 PS

Extruded polystyrene (#6 PS; commonly known as Styrofoam) is used in take-out containers and cups, and non-extruded PS is used in clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups. Both forms of PS can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.

#7 PC

#7 Polycarbonate (PC) is found in baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. PC is composed of a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A, which has been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity.

Knowing just a sampling about the Great Garbage Patch is enough to understand the seriousness of this situation. Knowing that birds and wildlife are endangered is important, but this affects me directly. I love ordering fish, and some my favorite eating fish comes for the Hawaiian area. These fish have been ingesting PCB laden particles, and as I eat the fish, I also will be ingesting small amounts of the chemical. Over time, this can have serious consequences on my health.

So what can you do?

1.Contribute to organizations like Project Kaisei http://www.oceanvoyagesinstitute.org/project-kaisei/

that support growing awareness of this issue.

2.When possible buy materials not made of plastic if another material such as cardboard will do.

3.Learn about your communities plastic recycling. The most important thing you can do is to recycle your plastics and learn which plastic symbols are not recycled and stop buying those.

4.Tell you children, your friends and your co-workers that if they want to have a future with blue/green waters anywhere on the globe, then the fight is on.

A favorite website!!!!

Green website Highlight

www.greenopia.com – highlighting more than 50 categories on green activities from coast to coast. Look toward the bottom of the site for your city.

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Several months ago I had a potential client discuss with me the need to locate a “Green” desk. No, not the color green, but one that she could feel good about being environmentally responsible. This you see was her first attempt to change her buying and thinking habits.

I begin every organizing job taking inventory to see what my clients already have, but I know that there are going to be times when I will need to purchase products. So, purchasing now comes with an array of ethical considerations when I am faced with options that address my client’s needs.

The following is my process:

       I look what I call the triple bottom line.

As business owners I know you already understand the “bottom line” as dollars and cents, and we usually refer to money as the bottom line, when I look at sustainable business practices it is not the bottom line but the TRIPLE bottom line. There are three issues that I am interested in:

1.      People

2.      Profit

3.      Planet

 The Money element now is only 1/3 of what I am considering. So, looking at the desk question I look at all 3 elements, People, Profit and Planet.


When I think of planet first I think of “green or eco-friendly.” Can I get my client to buy what the earth has already paid for in the manufacturing process? If a product already exists then the object has already harvested the resources and consumed the energy to produce it. Some options are:

A.    One can then look at used office furniture stores, antique stores,

B.     Craig’s list or free cycle.

C.     Can we recycle it from something? For instance, the desk can be reclaimed from a spare wooden door. Repurposing or finding new life from what you already have is another great way to keep it simple. Re-cycling is something that becomes itself again, like the aluminum can that gets processed and becomes a can again.   

There are many examples to help you reach your desired level of eco-awareness. The following are to motivate and to inspire your thinking:

Reduce what is already in our lives – Conscious consuming citizens (people who contribute to society) vs. consumers- people who take away from society.

Buying happiness. (The promise) When we buy a product, seldom are we actually buying to meet the products intent. We buy the product to fulfill a promise of something wonderful. The new cookware is not just cookware; it’s the tool that will get the family around the dinner table building closer relationships. Becoming mindful of why and what you are purchasing is a great first step! 

Understanding that when you purchase a product, any product, even the water bottle you are purchasing the cost of water to make the plastic, the ink on the label, the transportation costs and the advertisements that made you buy that brand.

Reuse or repurpose. Imagination can really kick in when we give new life to objects that have more than one life.  This summer, before I trashed my wheelbarrow, I decided to use it to grow vegetables in it. What a great salad container!

Recycle. As an organizer, while working one-to-one, I have a unique opportunity to educate my clients on the benefits of a simpler and greener lifestyle.

Items that can be recycled:

  • Clothes
  • Chemicals
  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Papers

Did you know that even though we have extensive recycling program in most major US cities 78% of all aluminum and plastics find there way back into the landfill? 50% of all paper and 95%of all glass is there too.

I always ask about chemicals. Does my client have chemical sensitivities? Wood is often treated with formaldehyde with is not a healthy chemical and sometimes the glues used to attach the veneers to wood are made with things that are also not healthy for people or the planet.

Is it from something that is bio-degradable? Plastic bins are not biodegradable. Look at the substance and see if it is reclaimable or recyclable. Consider that if at the end of the products use, can it be reclaimed?

Look at the wood. Was the wood harvesting managed or is it clear-cut? With issues with clear cutting we run into erosion problems. Trees are equally big under ground as they are above ground. I’ve noticed that when an area is cleared for development, all of a sudden there are more floods in the area because there is nothing holding the soil together. Trees are also the lungs of the earth and they clean the air for us. Are the trees being replaced?

Packaging. Everything we get comes with some sort of packaging. At least cardboard is recyclable, but no packaging is best. Plastic packaging is almost always trash, so I take a look not only at the object that I am purchasing, but also the packaging. Can the packaging be reusable?

Transportation. When something is moved from A to B it takes energy. It’s not just that you are bringing it home from the store; its how many miles did the object have to travel to get it to the store. Where is the distribution center, where was it manufactured? For instance, you can couple local businesses that are close together. For example, if you have printing needs, are the printer and the binder close by? When you flip something over and it says “Made in wherever” is that close to where you live?


People make things. When considering what does “green” look like in this category. I have several criteria.

  • What is the condition of the workers?
  • Are they exposed to chemicals?
  • Is the object labeled as Fair trade? (Such items like food and handcrafted items have        been paid fairly for the work done). In the US that constitutes the living wage VS the minimum wage.


As stated we all need to be profitable. I hear a lot of protest from my clients early on in the organizing process when I suggest we use Eco-paper.”It’s more expensive,” they say. I then always address the economic component to what we do.

Shop Local- economics of how business is conducted.

Small Business VS Big Chains For every $100.00 that is spent in a local business the local business will pump $45.00 back into the local community; the chain business will only put by $14.00. The rest of it is going back to chain store headquarters. That could make a huge economic impact. When chain stores move in even under the disguise of lower prices; they are not only taking profits away from the local stores, but it is also having local economic implications. Local businesses owners also care in a way that you will not find in larger chain establishments. Quality of service; small business owners know their clientele and they take care of them on multiple of levels.

When purchasing products for my clients prior to my “green” awareness, I always considered three components; the purchase price, maintenance and the storage price for the items.

Now I consider four, and that being the cost to the Earth. 

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“Organization is not what you see in glossy magazines or on TV, despite the messages perpetrated therein it is not mastered by color-coordinated containers, prepackaged filing systems or someone coming in to do a “clean-sweep” on our clutter, just so we can go out and buy more stuff and have somewhere to put it. It‘s not about products or quick fixes. Organization is about living simply, paying attention to our actions, making conscious choices. Simplifying our lives, restoring balance and meaning, feeling connected. …These are the core of being organized. This sense of connection and meaning is what we hunger for and mistakenly try to fill with things.”

Definition by Claire Josefine - Spiritual Art of Being Organized

The Big Why ~ Organizers move from back door to front door

I figured out early in life what makes people happy. Give them a space that feels good to be in, is orderly so they are not frustrated trying to find stuff, and get them to figure out what’s important to them. I thought growing up that Interior design best suited these innate abilities, but I was proved wrong when I pursued a degree. What I didn’t realize then was that a new industry called “Professional Organizers” was about to be birthed, but that I would be in my mid-life when it came knocking at my door. When I heard the knock, I recognized it immediately and became a member of the National Association for Professional Organizers (NAPO).

The industry of professional organizing is truly unique. Organizers deal with the most intimate of life’s details. In my early organizing experiences, I began to witness my client’s consumer habits and a shifting mindset that was invading their struggles. Our society measures the health of our economy by how much we spend, and generally believes that more is better.  Yet it’s important to understand that it’s not about the amount of stuff – but the quality of the stuff and how it relates to our lives – that really matters. Clutter robs and steals all life from a room and those who occupy it. Clutter robs you of peace-of-mind. When you are constantly thinking about what to do with the stuff, it keeps you from thinking thoughts that can bring joy.  I also believe that it robs you of the blessings God wants to bring into your life.

In one of my defining moments as a professional organizer, I was called upon to help a 9/11 widow take care of her late husband’s personal effects. I knew that managing the emotions of this particular client would be difficult, but my hope was to maneuver his stuff sufficiently to allow her to move on with her life. Discarding and donating his items, however, was more involved than I could have imagined. Among the hats, record albums, tools, sports memorabilia, fireman articles and clothes, lived an incredible tie to memories.

Together, we ensured that the items that held the fondest memories received honor and respect, without relegating her home to be merely a memorabilia storage bin. We decided to create several shadow boxes to display the most prized artifacts, allowing her to hold onto that which mattered most – his memory – and giving her the ability to heal the trauma and to let go of all the other stuff.

Organization is truly transformative. When we take our clients out of the “stuff” mindset and help them see their possessions in relation to their life as a whole, then they can finally identify the things they want and need to hold on to. Early on in my sessions, I ask my clients to visualize themselves with their stuff. Every response illustrates them in the middle and the stuff surrounding them. No wonder they feel like they are suffocating, drowning or paralyzed by their clutter. With eyes still closed I ask them to move the stuff from around them to now on either side of them, like a road. They are now in the middle of that road and the stuff represents their lives of yesterday. Ahead of them is a clear road free of distractions and the weight the clutter has piled on them. They can either decide to keep the stuff with them; tying them down, or they can begin to lighten their load on their path. When they begin to see that they have a choice on their life’s journey, they are more wiling to understand their true relationship with stuff. It forces one to look not at the quantity at one’s stuff but at the quality of one’s relationship and one’s life. For me, that is the goal I want my clients to chase and for me that is true organization.

Our homes directly represent our lives – and if we let stuff get in the way, our health and our happiness suffers for it. The power of stuff is one we need to respect. If we give the power over to the stuff, then the stuff or clutter owns us. Our stuff becomes nothing more than clutter but if we can control it, we can change our lives, our communities – even our world – for the better.



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"Hi Eileen, Gee, we seem to keep meeting when you're being recognized for an accomplishment (last time I saw you was LA Awards in January, remember?) What can I say - you're an amazingly productive human being AND volunteer in both ICD, NAPO, and probably other places....and you write books in your SPARE time....I bow to this kind of time management genius, and admire your contributions and your ready smile. Thanks for what I know are years and years of cultivating excellence within NAPO News, and thanks for shepherding your committee to new levels by assuring the smooth transition to new leadership. It's a pleasure to see each new issue of NAPO News keep getting better and better (not to mention more graphically attractive). Thanks for all you have done and all you still do for NAPO. We're all the better for your contributions.

See you at the next time you're being feted/recognized/awarded an honor - a Pulitzer? Booker Prize? not sure all the honors out there for editors and writers but I suppose that's what is next for your biography....:)"

Kate Brown
NAPO Director  Board of Directors