Discard Responsibly

It’s spring and a prime time to get rid of the clutter and excess in  your home.

We all want it to just “go away” as quickly as possible but let’s think about how we go about it.

Books are sometimes very hard to let go but if you have made up your mind that it is time to let others enjoy some of your books while you enjoy some decluttered space, here are some places they can go.

  • Salvation Army
  • Used book stores
  • Local library
  • Local thrift shops
  • Books for Soldiers, Books through Bars, Books for Africa
  • Goodwill
One important thing about donating your books is to make certain that your old books do not contain mold or harbor unpleasant odors. If you put your tainted book into a pile with others, it will contaminate the whole pile.
Old electronics take up a bunch of space and we are often afraid of getting rid of it or we think it will take a lot of effort to do it responsibly. If it is a computer, you will want to back up your data and completely wipe the system. An easy way is to pull the hard drive and just physically destroy it. If it is a working computer (with a new hard drive) you can donate it. Otherwise recycle it during recycling events or check locally for places to drop off toxic materials. Recycling events will take almost all electronics. Some stores like Best Buy will take old electronics. Cords can be donated. Phones can be donated (after you wipe your personal data).
The important thing is that electronics should not just be dumped in the trash or dumpster.
If you are clearing out your medicine cabinet, read the packaging on the medicine for how best to dispose of it. You can throw some medicines in the trash if they are first placed in kitty litter or coffee grounds and then sealed in a bag. I prefer to put all medicines in a sealed bag and look for a community disposal program.
The important thing is to not flush drugs down the toilet because they will end up in our water system.
As you clear out your pantry of old food, you may find some that you want to donate to a food bank. Do not donate food that is beyond the expiration date or that is in dented or rusted cans. If you decide to dump the old food but recycle the cans and jars, be very careful those cans and jars are clean. Throwing in a can with food still stuck in it can ruin an entire batch of recycling. 
Enjoy your clear space but think before you toss.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Clutter Awareness Week

Next week is clutter awareness week. We don’t always see the clutter around us because we tend to get used to it. But even if we don’t notice it, clutter causes stress and a feeling of overwhelm.

Take a walk through your home. Pretend that you are getting ready for out of town visitors or that you are putting your house on the market. Notice if you have stacks of papers and other items on the floor or out on exposed surfaces. NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) states that the average American receives almost 15,000 pieces of junk mail in their lifetime. How much of that is hanging around in various parts of your home right now?

Clutter can impact your daily living. It can eat up your time as you look for needed items. Clutter can affect your health. You are less likely to cook healthy meals if you can’t find your kitchen counter and your fridge and pantry are packed tight with who knows what. You can trip over stacks of stuff in your home and fall. If your house is heavily cluttered, you will have a build up of dust, dander, pollen, and maybe even mold.

Clutter can cost you money. You find yourself paying late fees because you have misplaced bills. You buy duplicate items because you can’t find those scissors, folders, or the can of green beans in the very back of your pantry. You may be paying for a storage unit to store those items that won’t fit into your home.

Now is the time to plan. Set aside some time this month to tackle your clutter. Start off with a hot spot that really bugs you. Make a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish to declutter this area and schedule times to complete those tasks. By the end of March, have that one area clutter free. Enjoy that feeling and celebrate!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Living Room Using the Zone Plan

Spring is in the air… or should be soon. Spring is when I want to open the windows and doors and let the sun pour in. The first thing you see when you come into my home is the living room. For that reason, I organize and clean my living room in March.

Using the zone plan, the first step is to develop a vision. I start my day in the living room with my coffee and the newspaper. Later in the day, my husband sits in his chair with coffee and the paper and maybe watches some news on TV. Together we connect in this room to plan our day, the week, and our future. We entertain family and friends here and welcome people from out front door. My vision is that this room is welcoming and nurturing. I want everyone who enters to feel like they can exhale and enjoy their time here.

Papers, books, brochures, and magazines can accumulate as we relax and read/discuss the literature. It is a gathering place. Because I want this area to feel uncluttered I need to have a plan for handling the paper. Every morning, before I sit down, I make a sweep of the room and put away any papers that were left out the night before. Yesterday’s newspaper goes into the recycling bin. Magazines go into a basket until the next one comes in and then the old one is recycled. We also have a tray to act as a landing pad for that one book we might be reading or any brochures we are studying.

Multimedia like DVDs and CDs are stored in the living room. During this month I sort the entire collection. We cull out the ones we are ready to donate or pass on to a friend. I use a container system to manage our supply. We can keep as many DVDs or CDs as will easily fit into our containers. If they don’t all fit with some room to spare, then we agree on what ones can go to a new home.

While I am organizing this space, I give it a good clean and change out accessories to match the season. Gone is the nut bowl and winter candle. In their place, I have fresh flowers and a pastel candle.

When this zone is complete at the end of the month, I celebrate by having a nice glass of wine, a lit candle, and some down time with my hubby.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Clutter and Safety

I once helped clear out a home that had been damaged by fire. The house had been extremely cluttered with only pathways through certain sections of the home. The owner was an elderly woman who had difficulty walking. The fire started at 2:30 am. If not for her son who was there that night, his mother would very likely not have been able to get out alive.

When I go into homes and see exits blocked and the floor covered with clutter, I worry. When I go into homes and see clutter stacked all over the counters and on the stove and in the oven, I worry.

If the person living in those conditions had to exit the home quickly – in the dark – could they move out without tripping or getting disoriented? If they fell in their home or had another medical emergency, could first responders get into the house with a gurney?

When I work with clients in these situations, the first thing I address is their safety. Even if we do not remove anything from the home, we try to open pathways and clear spaces around at least two exits.

This blog is just a plea to anyone who knows someone living in this situation, please, without judgement, help them make their environment a safer place.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Routines and Meal Planning

I love to cook. I enjoy going to the farmers market once a week. I dislike shopping at the grocery store.

How do I max out my joy factors and minimize the stress when meal planning?

I have a routine.

Saturday morning, I:

  • look at my calendar for events on the upcoming week
  • look over my menu chart on the fridge from the previous week
  • pull out my stash of menus that I like or that I would like to try
  • determine what I will cook each day – paying attention to when I am taking food over to a friend, days I will have little time to actually cook, days we have to eat early because of evening meetings, days we have to eat late because of busy schedules, days we will eat leftovers
  • pull the recipes I chose to prepare and make a list of all the ingredients I will purchase – I have two grocery lists – one for the market and one for the grocery store
  • look at our running list of needed items and add them to the appropriate shopping list
  • type out the menu plan for the week on my template and put it on the fridge
Now I am ready to shop. I have all the fresh ingredients on the Farmers Market list. I love going there and picking out the exact piece of fish or meat I want, digging my hands down into the mounds of green beans and choosing exactly what I want, looking at the signs that say were the produce was grown so I can choose my vegetables and fruits with that in mind. Next, I am off to the grocery store where I make my run through and grab all that I need for the week. 
Back home, I put all the items away and take a rest. One of the items on my list each week is fresh flowers. Those will be in clean vases by the evening. They are my reward for doing the shopping task. 
I now know that I am set for the week and have my plan on what foods I will prepare. I have had people question this process by saying, “I don’t know what I’ll want to eat Wednesday evening”. For me, if I have the intention out there and I am looking forward to producing that meal on Wednesday, it will work for me and I know I have everything I need to prepare the meal. However, if another opportunity comes up, I can certainly make changes. 
Bon Appetite!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day – a day for romance! A chance to spice up the relationship and show some love.

You look around your love nest. You notice the piles of shoes by the front door. Then there are the piles of papers and magazines cascading off the coffee table and the CDs and DVDs scattered on the floor. The living room is going to have some serious work done to look romantic. Maybe just scoop it all up into a box that you stash in the spare bedroom and deal with it later.

But what about the dining area where you want to put out that romantic meal? It seems to be covered in projects, bills, used plates and silverware, along with clothes to fold and put away. It is definitely not ready for that special meal. Another box or two?

On to the bedroom for a hard look. More scattered clothes along with stacks of books and magazines. And all those cosmetics on every surface. This room is not ready for that special night even if the lights are low and you use candles.


OK, do what you can to salvage tonight but then go back and look around the common areas in the home. If you want a peaceful romantic feeling what are you going to have to do to inspire that romance?

Remove everything from those zones that do not match your vision. Have specific places for everything that does belong in that room and put those items away. If you are short on space, let some things go or look for another storage area.

Now, clean and polish those newly exposed surfaces. Put out some flowers and candles. Play that special music.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Being organized
Is romantic, too.

Enjoy your special day!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organize Using the Zone Plan

I keep my home organized by using a zone plan. I divide up my house into 10 zones. Each month I work on one area except for July and December. By the end of the year I have touched everything in my home and decided if it is still important and if it is still stored in a logical place.

January, I worked in my office zone.
In February I work in my spare bedroom. My spare bedroom has a closet that stores office/business items I need but rarely use and some archival files. When I work in my office zone in January, I purge items that I need to keep but don’t want in my office. These get dumped in the spare bedroom. by the end of January my spare bedroom is a mess with items stacked on top of the dresser or dumped on the bed.

It is very common when doing a big organizing session to have things that you want to keep but would best be stored elsewhere. This leaves extra clutter in other areas as you clean out and organize one zone. This is not a problem if you then move on and organize the space that has gotten messy due to the last project.

The closet in the spare bedroom is full before I start to work in this zone. The first step then is to reorganize and clear out the closet. As I pull out items, I decide if they still serve me. I may substitute items I had previously kept for a better version of the same thing. I purged some nice green notebooks from a shelf in my office zone. I donated some miscellaneous notebooks that had been stored in the closet and replaced them with the green ones. I clear out items that I have not used in the past couple of years as my style of presentations has changed. I pull and shred some client folders from my archival crate in the closet to make room for ones from my office that are not active now, but I feel might connect again at some point in time. I consolidate some office supplies, donating some of the excess. Then I wipe down the shelves, wipe the wall, and clean the floor. I put everything backs including the items that had gotten dumped in this space.

To finish the spare bedroom, I reorganize the dresser which holds off season clothing, gifts, holiday cards, and some memorabilia. Then all that is left is to deep clean the room.

By the end of the month, I have completed this zone and will move on to the next one. All this room will need until next February is weekly cleaning maintenance.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

What’s in Your Bookcase?

As an organizer, I help my clients determine what they want to organize and what they want to let go. Some things are relatively straight forward. Extra furniture that no longer fits the house, extra kitchen items that are no longer used, clothes that are dated or no longer fit, and old electronics are usually not too difficult to let go. But when it comes to books, there is a large group of people who feel like we are asking them to choose which of their children they should throw out into the cold.

While I never tell a client what to get rid of or what to keep, I do often suggest that what is kept have a place to be stored. So, if you are saving 500 books, let’s have containers – usually bookcases – to store them so they are not stacked on the floor or strewn haphazardly around the house. Honor what you keep.

I once went to do an assessment for a potential client who had several rooms with bookcases that went down the middle of the rooms as well as along the sides. Think public library stacks. It worked for him and the books were contained. He could and did part with a few and had his plan to honor and store the rest.

I have a client who has an enormous collection of professional books he has never read and probably never will. He reads the covers and some bits to see what the book is about but prefers to do actual reading on the topics from articles on line. He is preparing to move so we are having the discussion of looking at each book and deciding if some can be donated and how to shelve the ones he intends to keep. When I asked him why he kept buying so many books that he knew he would never read, he stated that he liked the idea of having his own library.

I recently worked with another professional who was feeling overwhelmed by the heaviness of her small office. She had 3 shelves of books that were hanging over her desk and stacks of items on her desk and under her desk.  As we pulled down her books and sorted through them, she could see that she had some that no longer needed to be in her library. She sorted her books into categories: trash, donate to charity, donate to Friends of the Public Library, put into a small lending library outside her office, put on shelves out in the main office that is shared by all who work there, a few to take home, and the rest back on her shelves. After the session, she had touched and reacquainted herself with all her books. She now only needed two of those shelves and had space for some decorative items as well.

As far as my own bookcases (one in my office and one in the kitchen) I sort through them once every year, dusting the books before replacing them. I usually have accumulated a few books through out the year either as a purchase or as a gift. After I have read a novel, I rarely feel the need to keep it. I would much rather pass it on to a friend or donate it so that someone else can enjoy it. My professional books are also re-evaluated.

For me, the bottom line is you keep what you love and use and those things that you do keep should be maintained and honored.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

How to Use a Body Double

Many of my clients use me as a body double at least part of the time. One client uses me as a double most of the time and told me that he was so happy that someone had come up with the term “body double” as he likes it a lot better than “babysitter”.

As a body double, I am near the person who is doing the project. Often that is all I need to do. My presence helps the client focus and stay on task. I am just a tool that allows them to get important tasks accomplished. I can even do this virtually using Facetime.

At first, some people are embarrassed by this arrangement. They realize that they are doing these chores all by themselves while paying me to sit there. They know they can do the work but at the same time they realize that they won’t if I am not there. This is especially true of ADHD clients.

Sometimes I am a combination of body double and assistant. I may sort the mail, open it, and hand it to the client one piece at a time. The client then does the task that is needed and hands it back to me to file if appropriate. We may chat a bit about what needs to be done but the client actually pays the bill, makes the call, or discards the paper.

A body double does not have to be a paid professional. A friend or family member can do the work of a body double if they understand what is expected of them. If they realize that they are being the best help by sitting near the person but not intruding. They can read a book or work on a crossword puzzle but just by being there the person will continue to work. I have had one client use her sister as a body double while she was the body double for her sister. One lived in Georgia and the other in Texas. They would connect by phone and for one hour would work on projects with just a word or two as they worked to make certain each was on task.

Once a person accepts that a body double can be an important tool to help hem, it can be a relatively easy way to move a project forward.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Importance of Flexibility

We all are aware that if a tree is not flexible in the storm, it will break. So, it is with us.

When the storms come, we must have the ability and the willingness to change or compromise our plans for the upcoming day or longer.

My husband is now recovering from a cancer. The radiation has made it very difficulty to swallow much food and so we are doing tube feedings for nutrition 5 times a day. This means both of us have had to adjust our schedules accordingly and this has not been easy. This will be temporary and in time the tube feedings will diminish and finally be a thing of the past.

Usually we don’t have such big things that change our day to day life, but frequently little things can require flexibility if we don’t want to become upset or stressed. Almost weekly, I have some client that needs to change their appointment with me. Almost always it is a very good reason. Sometimes it is just because of their lack of planning but then again that might be something the client and I are working on. The bottom line is that my day’s schedule must now be changed. I have the choice of what to do with that “found” time. I can choose to write. I can also choose to read. I can work on a project. What I don’t want to do is squander this time.

Most of us have had to deal with such schedule changes due to a car not working, power outage, broken appliances, colds and other illnesses. Instead of stressing about the situation, look for a way to use that time. I find it helpful to have a list of tasks with an idea of how long that task will take. If I only have 15 minutes, I can clean out a drawer or take a short walk. If I have 30 minutes I can work on a blog or read.

The key point is that when events disrupt our lives, routines, and schedules, don’t shut down. Practice flexibility. Discover other directions and not squander this time.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer