Holiday Shopping Organization

Q. Every year, I wind up shopping for Christmas gifts at the last minute, paying extra for expedited shipping, and spending more than I wanted to - all of which adds to my overall stress. What do you recommend to make holiday shopping less of an ordeal?

A. You're not alone. With the myriad responsibilities at home and work that we all have to attend to, not to mention the social obligations in November and December, holiday gift shopping is a major stressor for many people this time of year. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make holiday gift shopping less stressful:

  • First, make a complete list and, like Santa, check it twice. Whether it's a handwritten list on paper, a Word or Excel document, or a note to yourself on your smartphone, your list should be complete and include the following:
    • Recipient's name
    • The target amount of money you want to spend on that person
    • Gift ideas for him/her, if any
    • What you eventually buy for that person
    • The total cost of what you spend on that person

Organizing for Job Searches

Q. I've been out of work for over four months. I've never been a very organized person, and I suspect that might be hampering my job search effectiveness. Do you have any organizing tips for job seekers?

A. Yes, I do. In this challenging job market, you need to do everything you can to give yourself a leg up on your competition, and being organized is one way to do that.

Here are some tips for making sure you stand out:

  • Keep track of your resumes. We've all heard that it's a best practice to tailor your resume to each job you apply for, but after you've applied for a few jobs, it can get confusing to remember which resume you sent to which potential employer. I recommend keeping an electronic folder on your computer titled "Resumes Sent" and putting in it a copy of each resume you've sent, incorporating the potential employer name, month, and year in the file name (e.g., "John Doe resume ABC Co Oct 2012").

Back to School Organization

Q. As thrilled as I am that school begins soon for my two children, I'm dreading the return to chaotic mornings and stressful afternoons and evenings. Do you have any organizing tips for parents of school-age kids?

A. Absolutely! Regardless of whether your children are entering kindergarten or high school, being organized will make school (not to mention home life) much easier and therefore more pleasant for them. I often say that being organized is a life skill everyone needs to master, and there's no better time to start than in childhood. Think of it as a lesson in self-care that will last a lifetime.



Q.  I subscribe to a daily newspaper, but I usually don’t get to read the comics and the Sunday magazine section on Sundays.  I enjoy doing all of the puzzles, and I won't recycle the magazine until I've completed them.  As a result, I have piles of newspapers that are an eyesore in my living room.  Do you have any tips for me?

A. Certainly!  Your question is not uncommon; I encounter this situation often.  For some people, it’s new recipes; for others, it’s books; still others struggle with catalogs they haven't yet read but want to.  As an avid reader myself, I can relate to wishing the day had 25 hours, just so I could have some time to catch up on my reading.

The first thing I want you to do is ask yourself is whether you truly enjoy doing the puzzles and reading the comics week after week.  Oftentimes, something that is originally pleasurable turns into a burden – another item to be completed on our endless “to do” lists – if we insist on doing it on a regular basis.

Q.  I have two small children, and I've never been super-organized myself, but I'd like to break the cycle and help my kids become organized.  Do you have any tips for me?

A. Absolutely!  As a parent, one of the biggest contributions you make to your children’s lives is teaching them life skills.  And one very important life skill is being organized, as it’s crucial for succeeding in school, at work, and in life.

Of course, as with all behaviors you want to instill in your children, teaching good organizational skills is best done through modeling that behavior yourself.  It’s a cliché, but it’s true — kids learn what they live.

Closet Organization“Oh, you’re a professional organizer?  You know, I struggle with organizing my [fill in the blank].  Do you have any advice for someone like me?”

As an organizer, I’m asked that a lot, especially in social settings.  I imagine something similar often happens when physicians are at cocktail parties (“Oh you’re a urologist?  I have this bunion that’s really bothering me.  Could you take a quick look?”)

Fortunately, unlike physicians, I didn’t have to attend medical school, I seldom am called into work in the middle of the night and, most fortunately, almost never encounter the sight of blood doing what I love doing – helping my clients organize, declutter and simplify their lives.

Are you a hoarder?Q.  Sometimes I watch those TV shows on hoarding, and I wonder if I might be a hoarder.  How can you determine if you just have a lot of clutter or you’re an actual hoarder?

A. Due the popularity of several cable TV shows depicting compulsive hoarding, many people wonder with great trepidation if they — or someone they love — are a hoarder or on their way to becoming one.  Lord knows, I’ve watched those shows before going to bed and then have felt compelled to make sure I didn’t leave the toothpaste out on my bathroom counter, out of fear I could become a hoarder!

According to the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD;; I bet you didn’t know such an organization existed), approximately 2% to 4% of adults in the United States (that’s 6 million to 12 million Americans) suffer from compulsive hoarding, which is generally considered to be a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  The good news is that 96% to 98% of adults are NOT hoarders.  But for those who ARE, the negative effects of compulsive hoarding are experienced by not only the hoarders themselves, but also their spouses, loved ones, friends and neighbors.

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