How Much is Enough?

If only I had more (time, energy, money) I could (fill in the blank). Almost all of us have wistfully (or angrily) said that at some time or another.

Each person is unique. We all have our own stories. But wherever we are right now in our story, we have a finite amount of time, energy, and money. How we use these resources is what matters. Keeping a balance in our lives is important. Knowing what is enough for us and being content when we reach that is powerful.

Everyone has the same amount of time each day. How we spend it is up to us. Is it more important to organize the storage space or go to the movies with our best friend? Mindful consideration of how we balance our time so that we feel content and in control is key to our happiness.

Our energy level may depend on our physical and mental health and how we take care of our bodies. Do we consciously care for our bodies (food, water, sleep, exercise) in order to keep our energy level optimum?

Wherever we are right now with that energy, how we use it is important. Do we use the peak levels of our day working on an important project or do we scroll through social media? Do we check in regularly throughout the day to see what is going on?

Check in with how you use your money. Do you spend money each month to store items you no longer need? Do you habitually pick up a gourmet cup of coffee without even savoring it? Do you enjoy the rush you get when you find something on sale, only to come home and not even know where to store it? We need a certain amount of money to feel safe and comfortable so be intentional in how you spend it.

Start your days with gratitude for the time, energy, and money that you do have and then set a plan for how to intentionally use these gifts to give you peace and joy.

What’s Your Motivation?

You know you should………….

  • walk more
  • clean out your files
  • meditate
  • save more money
  •  (your choice)

But that project just keeps hanging out there. Every time you think about it you feel bad that you haven’t started  – so you have another cup of coffee and a cookie and read just one more chapter in that book.

I challenge you to look at your vision and motivation.

Why should I walk more?  It is important for me to keep my joints moving so that I can participate in activities when traveling and have the energy to play with my grandson. And when I look at the “should walk” that way, I might also see other activities that I might enjoy that would accomplish that vision. I can plan times to do a variety of activities to help me reach my vision

Why should I clean out my files? I know that tax time is around the corner and when that time comes, my vision is to walk into my accountant’s office with everything in order and without any stress over missing files or papers. I also know that I will save money if I have done my preparation so thoroughly that it will be an easy task for him to complete my forms. I have time now to schedule several short sessions to see that everything is in order and I envision waltzing out of a short session and going out to enjoy a nice lunch as my reward.

You get my point. Instead of having a lengthy list of “shoulds” have a vision of how you want your life to be. Then make a plan to bring that vision to life and schedule times to work that plan.

Pick one “should” now and work on your motivation and vision. I would love to hear what you have chosen and how you plan to work toward that vision. 

Organizing the Home Office

A new year! A fresh start! I would love for my whole house to have a magical reset button that would make it clean and organized. However, the reality is that I am the one who has to make this magic happen and it won’t be “poof” it’s done. That is why I use my Zone Plan to work on one zone of my home at a time. 

I start my year by working in my office zone. Now is a great time to clear out files and make room for the new year and to start pulling tax materials. So, I work my plan step by step.

  1.  What is bothering me? 
  • overfull files
  • project bins outdated
  • clutter 
  • unfiled papers

     2. How do I want my office to look and feel?

  • clean and uncluttered – open
  • welcoming
  • inspiring 

     3. What do I need to do to make this vision come true?

  • sort, label, and file all loose papers
  • clear all desk drawers, files, and surfaces
  • purge files
  • shred and archive old papers
  • set up current project bins
  • deep clean the zone

    4. Schedule time to do each task.

  • pull out calendar and see what times are available
  • schedule reasonable dates/times for each task
  • write the times on calendar as appointments
  • follow the plan

By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished as “good enough” and move on to the next zone. The office is now ready for regular maintenance until the next year. I always reward myself by putting a fresh flower on my desk.


Organizing Your Attic and Basement Zones

November is a great time to organize and clean out your attic or basement zone. It’s not too hot or too cold and you are probably already digging around looking for your holiday decorations. 

So while you are up there in the attic (or down there in the basement), look around. How do you use this zone? Develop a plan for this space. What categories do you store here?

You might store:

  • seasonal decorations
  • seasonal home items like fans or heaters
  • out of season clothes or sporting equipment
  • suitcases
  • household items you wish to keep but are not currently using
  • toys, clothing, or other items you wish to pass on to friends or family
  • archival paper

Get a feeling of how much you have in each category. By grouping the categories together you get a better idea of what you really will use and the condition of your items. How many suitcases do you really use? Have some of those seasonal decorations not left the storage area in years? Are family members really going to want the “stuff” you have been holding for them? Now is the time to purge the excess to make it easier to store and get to what you plan on keeping. 

Plan out a zone for each category. Items you access frequently like suitcases or pet carriers should be near the entrance of this area and items you do not plan to use in the next year like unused household items are best stored furthest from the entry. Leave space between each zone so you can safely retrieve or store items. 

Label all containers. Use large labels you can see from some distance. Even if a container is clear, it is hard to see what is inside if the lighting is dim. 

It helps to locate different holiday items if you use colored or themed containers to store your decorations. Still label the containers with the primary items. This keeps you from having to dig through multiple boxes to find the advent wreath or creche you want early in the season.

Take time to look through the archival papers. Are there some that can now be tossed or shredded? If you do this each year, it will make it easier to keep on top of the paperwork and easier to find what you need it the occasion arises. 

You will feel so much lighter when this sort and organization project is finished. When you tackle it again next November, it will bit be nearly so difficult. 

Interview Series: Hoarding Expert Dr. Becky Beaton

Over the next few months, we will be interviewing professionals who work with the hoarding population. We are asking them to share their insight on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder.

We recently interviewed Dr. Becky Beaton. Becky is a Licensed Psychologist (PH.D) with over 25 years of clinical experience. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NBCCH) Fellow, a Certified Professional Counselors Supervision (CPCS), and the founder and clinical director of The Anxiety & Stress Management Institute, located in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the treating psychologist on over 60 episodes of TLC’s popular series “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” Becky was also on Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show, CNN Headline News & Evening Express, and the Meredith Vieira Show.

With all that going on, one of her favorite things is watching a sunrise.

Questions and Responses:

Since the DSM-5 was published, have you diagnosed anyone with the hoarding disorder?

Absolutely! We were very excited to finally have the official diagnosis versus it just being part of OCD from the DSM-5 because as you know not every person who hoards has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and not everyone who has OCD hoards. They realized the neurobiology was different in someone who hoards from someone who has straight OCD unless they have both at the same time. Every time we find someone who meets the criteria, we do the diagnosing here at the Anxiety and Stress Management Institute.

If you are working with someone with hoarding tendencies, do you designate a professional organizer to go in and work with them inside the home?

We do refer out to professional organizers, hopefully you guys are getting the referrals (we are!) but it’s sometimes difficult for people to afford a therapist and a professional organizer at the same time. There are times when we have to find someone from the community to go in and help. We really feel like the therapist needs to go in at least once to see what’s going- preferably more. We train our interns here – we teach them about hoarding and how to work with people challenged by hoarding tendencies. They are basically free labor. They can go out into the field and be our supplement to the psychotherapist.

What common comorbidity issues do you find as you start working, are there times when you discover this is something other than hoarding?

I see quite a few. It depends. I often see PTSD. I see it over and over. They have had a trauma one of the traumas sets off the hoarding. Another comorbidity I see is Major Depressive Disorder. Sometimes it’s not hoarding. They don’t have the energy to clean up. Depression can go along with hoarding. ADHD, I see constantly. Treatment for that really helps. Social anxiety disorder where they don’t want to get out and see people. The hoard becomes their bunker.

How do you treat hoarding problems?

We use memory reconsolidation. You bring up an old memory and then we can change it. That’s why memory is fallible. Researchers have found that you have 5 hours to change it before it becomes restored. It restores in its new form. You can add insights to it. You can do things to it. Emotional learning. Bring in the senses. Recreate the memory. Plant a new idea in juxtaposition to the old idea. Anything that is robust will change the memory and alter the person’s perception. The science is backing up why newer trauma treatments work. Refer out for a couple of sessions trauma treatment that helps them view the world differently so they’re more open to learning new behavior patterns. Treat the trauma first and then work on the hoard. Exercise works better than any treatment. They will think more clearly. Exercise will help depression and ADHD.

Do groups like Clutters Anonymous or Overcoming Hoarding Together help patients?

My personal experience is yes for the most part. Sometimes there is a personality disorder in addition to the hoarding disorder and they do not do well in support groups. They can derail the whole group. For the most part they can become a cheering team. The support group help each other clearing out their things.

What do you think about task forces on Compulsive Hoarding – like one in San Francisco?

I think they are great. They provide resources and support.

What was your most difficult hoarding situation on the show: Buried Alive?

I have several that were pretty difficult. I’m a big animal lover. They learned not to send me on those shoots. There was one where there was a dog who was in bad shape, he was obviously neglected. That was one show where I cried. We took it to the vet and one of the vet techs ended up keeping it. The family was ok with it because they recognized they couldn’t take care of the dog. We also had to report the mother to the Department of Family and Child Services because of the condition of the home and what was happening with the kids. There was a whole wing of the home where there was no electricity. It’s really difficult when there is someone who can’t take care of themselves and who is being harmed as a result of the hoard.

Do you usually work alone or with a team? If you work with a team, who do you want on your team?

I tried a couple of times to work with a team, but I have found that trust and instinct are critical and very personal, so I prefer to work alone.

Can you tell us some of the big take-aways from doing the television show?

I learned a lot from the organizers I worked with on the show. For instance; about the Ideal self as opposed to the real self. The ideal self says I want to clean up the hoard to have the grandchildren over; the real self says I don’t want anyone in here touching my stuff so I’m going to continue hoarding. I’m happy that the show didn’t try to take on too much. We tried to do just one room. I learned about the Importance of being very respectful of pacing – slower is faster otherwise you can be hurtful. Be true to your word. If you promise not to touch something, don’t touch it otherwise you lose the clients’ trust. You will also traumatize the person. Be clear and stick to what you will do and not do. It’s important to teach clients how to organize. Prior to the show I didn’t have any training in organization. I learned how important it is that the organizational systems work for the clients. Really tapping into how that individual’s mind works and work with them even if their way to organize is not conventional. Celebrate the small things. Don’t mess with what’s working.


Thank you very much for this fabulous time spent together learning more about the work you do.

If you are or if you know a professional who works with people with hoarding tendencies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you, too!

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADHD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization.

Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.

The Beauty of Project Bins

I was chatting with one of the members of the Zone Plan program the other day and she was concerned about the papers scattered all over her desk and even cascading to the floor. Right now she was involved in several big projects – all ongoing at the moment. She had an art project coming due, bills and house papers, a party, and more. The papers stacks were growing and mixing together. She was obviously stressed.

I reminded her of the beauty of using project bins. Designate one bin for each big project. Some smaller projects can go into folders within a bin. Label these bins. Sort all of your papers into their individual projects and place them into their bin. 

When working on a project, pull out the papers from that bin. Work on the project for the time you have set aside for it and when that time is up, scoop up the papers and put them back into the bin. Voila! You have a clean desk. The bins can store on a bookcase or a cabinet or any convenient place near your desk. 

When you are working on your project at hand you no longer have all of your other projects screaming at you. You don’t have to worry about losing a paper from one project into a stack in another project. 

The project bin system is a wonderful way to keep your desk clean and alleviate the stress of multiple projects.

Organizing Your Kitchen Zone

When October rolls around I feel it is the perfect time to organize your kitchen zone. November and December will generate a lot of special cooking and baking. Before all of this gets underway, I want my kitchen clean and organized. I want all clutter eliminated and as much free counter space as I can arrange. Food drives begin to show up so this is a great opportunity  to donate any food that you have overstocked and clear out the pantry for your holiday cooking supplies. 

Kitchen Strategy:

  1. Motivation –  My main motivation for doing the kitchen now is to get it ready for all of the extra holiday cooking. I need all of the space I can find on my counters, in my refrigerator and freezer, and in my pantry. It’s time to throw out the mystery meat in the freezer and the year-old pecans in the pantry.
  2. Create Vision – I am going to spend a lot of time here in the next few months so I want this zone to be as inviting as possible. While in the heat of food prep, I want to immediately be able to get my hands on that special spice and have room on the counter to roll out pie crust and cookie dough. I want to feel comfortable when others are in the kitchen working with me.
  3. Brainstorm – Once I figure out my vision, I want to list everything that will need to happen to match that vision. Some tasks on that brainstorm list are: cleaning and clearing out the fridge and freezer, giving the oven a good clean ( I hate it when someone comes in and says, “something smells good” and you are just preheating your oven), replacing old spices and other cooking ingredients, better defining my kitchen zones (food preparation, cooking, dishes, food storage, an food serving).
  4. Write Out Goals – Writing out goals helps keep me focused. I make my goals specific and measurable. I print them out and post them on my fridge to cross off when completed.
  5. Develop Timeline – This is where your calendar becomes your best friend. Look at all the available times you have to work on your goals. Be reasonable. Instead of writing “clean the fridge” I break it down to clean the interior of the fridge, clean the interior door shelves, clear out the freezer, pull out the fridge from the wall and clean behind it and wipe down the outside surfaces. I plug in a time for each of this mini-tasks. 
  6. Follow the Timeline- Honor the scheduled times you have set aside to do the tasks that are on your calendar. If life intervenes and you can’t do that intended time, immediately reschedule.  By the end of the month you will love your newly organized and clean space and feel ready for the holidays.
  7. Reward Yourself –  When the kitchen zone is complete, I give myself a reward. It may be flowers on the table or a nice candlelit meal.

For more details on following this plan, visit my website and purchase my book, From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home .

The picture above shows a workshop on organizing the kitchen. Contact me to arrange a workshop on organizing your kitchen zone or any other zone in your home. ( or sign up for my Zone Plan Teleclass program where I guide you through a new zone each month. 

Finding Your Tribe

I speak for myself, but I can’t imagine anyone not wanting a group of friends that are there for you when things get rough. Close friends that will support you and hold a space for you. They are your sounding board and cheering section. They plant seeds of hope and ideas for wonderful things to come. When you find your group you hear yourself say, “These are my people!”

A tribe both gives and takes so there needs to be a balance with the understanding that at different times there may be a bit of unbalance as one of the tribe needs more attention. While thriving in your group you want to have fun and do things together. You want to share celebrations. This is how to really get to know each other. When you are a part of a tribe you show up for other members and speak up when you need them to show up for you.

You can have more than one tribe. When you join up with a group and you know that feeling of belonging and know that the group will give you joy and a sense of purpose you know that this is also your tribe. My tribes include my closest friends, my spiritual group, and my professional groups. All these groups feed me and make me happy and whole. 

Having said all of this, I have to say I am really looking forward to meeting up again in person with my ICD (Institute for Challenging Disorganization) group at the conference in a few days. What fun to hug, laugh with, and catch up with everyone while at the same time we share learning and innovative ideas. What a great tribe!

Adult Children – Dealing with Ilness and Death

I have written about this before but due to a tragic incident over Labor Day Weekend when a dear friend found her adult son dead in her home, I feel moved to address it again.

All newbie adults as well as any other adults that are single should be aware that they have responsibility for their health and financial records. Parents cannot get access to them without permission. Therefore, it is a good idea to have adult children sign a health care designation or health proxy in case there is an acute situation. This is also true with a financial power of attorney. If an adult child gets into a wreck and has brain damage, without a power of attorney the parent has no right to sigh up for benefits for him.

HIPAA is the acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information. Many health providers will request a person to sign a written authorization before they disclose protected health information. This is sometimes called a HIPAA release, HIPAA waiver, or a release of information authorization. This is what a parent should have for their single adult children.

And if you are the durable power of attorney for healthcare for your child and if you are currently authorized to act, you have the right to request and obtain information. If your adult child is older and financially independent, a durable financial power of attorney will allow you to manage their finances if they become incapacitate and unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Now, having said all this, it is time for me (again) to have a discussion with my single adult son.


Organizing Outside Storage Areas

Although here in Georgia temperatures continue to spike into the 90’s on some days, there are now some cooler days and the promise of fall. This promise inspires us to organize our sheds, garages, and other outside storage areas. It’s time to stash our summer equipment and muck out the debris that has been tracked in. 

Storage areas can get pretty messy and unorganized in a year. They are not in your main living area and therefore not so visible and annoying. It’s easy just to walk in and dump items “just for now”. This is especially true if you have purchased some new items that don’t really have a “home” yet.

Before you start on your project, take a good look at the way it is now. Notice what is working (don’t mess with that area) and what is not working. Envision how you want to use this zone. Your vision might include a place to:

  • park your car
  • store trash cans/recycling
  • store gardening tools and accessories
  • pot or repot plants
  • work on projects and store tools
  • store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  • store outdoor entertainment supplies
  • store extra household products

Bring everything outside or if this is a large or very filled area, pull out stuff by sections. Sort like with like. Notice if you have duplicates or near duplicates of some items. See what is broken and decide if you really need to replace it or to trash it. Make note of what you have not used at all this past year. Give away or sell tools you no longer use. The Tool Bank is a great place to donate tools for community projects. ( Get rid of expired seeds or old chemicals.

Next decide where to logically place your zones. Items that are used frequently are best stored near entrances. Seldom used items can go to the back of the storage area. As you group your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items together. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold small gardening tools. Use shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers because, for sure, you are going to want something that is in the bottom container. Label containers that are not clear.

Knock down cobwebs, look for any structural damage, sweep the floor, and start putting things away. You’ll be amazed at how much room there is now that all the items have been purged, bunched together and logically stored. 

Now, reward yourself! A hot shower and a cool drink might be just the thing.