Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area

Card Conundrum

What do you do with cards? I was challenged by a client the other day, who likes to keep all the cards she has received over the years. As you can imagine, there are a LOT of cards that need to be stored. So, I got to thinking, what do I do with them?

When I was a teenager, I would keep all my cards. As I entered university, I decided that I would keep only the cards that I really loved, and that could be added to my “pick me up” box – a box filled with things to give me a little “pick me up” when needed. When I got married, I did away with the box, and only keep a few, select cards now (note to self: get a memory box to house such cards – my dresser drawer is not sufficient).

Christmas cards are interesting in our house. As you may know, my hubby and I are Christians, so my Mom gave me a great idea (she probably read it on one of the blogs she follows): put them in a basket, and pray for one person each night.

On January 1st, I take all the old cards, cut off the front, and give them to a person at our church who sends them over to Africa (if they haven’t been written on) – they use them as Sunday School prizes. The new batch of Christmas cards go in the box, and we’re all set for the next year. That way we’ve really been able to enjoy them for a year, and are ready to make way for the new ones 🙂

Then there are the cards from our Wedding:

Having just celebrated our 4th anniversary this month, I have struggled with what to do with these cards. Every time I went to give them the old “heave ho”, I was overcome by the amount of love we received when we tied the knot. Couple that with reading cards from loved ones who have passed on, and I just couldn’t do it. So, imagine my excitement when I came across a suitable pin on Pinterest. The idea is to bind your cards in such a way that will make them easier to look at. So, I created my own version:

In the original pin, she had made one book, but I have no idea how she fit all those cards in one. Granted, in these books are also our wedding shower cards.

It was very interesting though, when I finally sat down to go through them, I also found sympathy cards (not that we got married, but my father-in-law passed away – just wanted to be clear), thank you notes (address to us, not others), and a Christmas card. It’s amazing how unmarked areas can quickly become a catch all 🙂

What do you do with the cards you receive? Please feel free to also cast your vote on this poll.


And I Don’t Iron My Sheets

Last last week, I was folding our laundry, and I got to thinking about my past blog post (I Don’t Like Shopping). It occurred to me that it might have come off a bit pretentious, as I sat there, all high and mighty, screaming for the rooftops my dislike of shopping, and therefore my theoretical lack of clutter.

However, just because I don’t like to shop doesn’t mean I don’t accumulate things. It’s truly amazing the amount of stuff one accumulates simply by living. As many of you know, I’m a Brownie leader with the Girl Guides of Canada. Being in this role means that I am “blessed” with old craft supplies, old Brownie books, and basically a bunch of stuff that other guiders don’t want to have hanging around their house anymore. My husband and I are also part time youth pastors, which means that we have curriculum, party supplies, and forgotten Bibles almost all the time.

Which leads to me to an extension of a previous post, Confessions of a Professional Organizer. Whenever I go to a client’s home, or tell someone that I’m a professional organizer, they will inevitably comment that my home must be pristine, to which my husband usually rolls his eyes, or snorts to indicate that that is certainly not the case. In response, I usually tell people that although I know where almost everything is in my home, it is not “pristine” by any means (unless I’ve had a weekend to actually get some housework done). So, no, I don’t iron my sheets. Actually, in all honesty, I just gave my mother my iron, because in the 4 years I have been married, I haven’t ironed once! Shhh! It’s my dirty little secret. We use the dryer, and try to hang it up right away (which isn’t usually executed as speedily as I would like, but whatcha gonna do?).

So, I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by my last post. That doesn’t mean that I won’t write a post on the global consequences of shopping one day, as I probably will. But, it does mean that although I don’t tend to get tripped up in this area, there are certainly others where I have more difficulty with.

Now, off to swiffer my hardwood floors! Once a month is about right, right?

What tends to clutter your home that you don’t purchase, but simply acquire through life’s activities?

My 3rd guest blog post for the Girl Guides of Canada. What have your experiences been when camping with kids?


As we are preparing for our annual spring camp, I can’t help but think back to the first time I went to Brownie Camp as a leader. I was a Junior Leader in our Unit for two years before I became a full-fledged leader. When the two main leaders left for university before the start of the year, and then the third leader moved for work a month in, I found myself and my best friend looking at each other saying “We can do this!” And we did, but it was a learning experience to say the least.

Now, this post is meant to be about organizing or cleaning, and I will get to that, but I just wanted to share a couple of “learned tips & tricks” for Brownie level camping:

1. Always bring an extra (or two, or three) pair(s) of mittens and hats. Inevitably, one girl will…

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Get Organized to Change Your Life

A guest blog post for a fellow blogger 🙂 How does being organized change your life?

Previous Post

I won! Please take a look at this Decluttering Diva’s blog 🙂

100 things 100 days

Total raised for your charities: $167

Call me cynical, but when someone does a giveaway online, I always wonder about the process. Did they close their eyes and point to a winner on the screen? Did they enter they enter their favourite reader 25 times? Did they just choose their best friend?

Here at 100 things, 100 days, we’re on the up and up. To prove it, I enlisted the help of my youngest (five-year olds are all about fair) to write down the names of everyone who entered, fold them in half, and draw one out of a bowl.

I taped the entire thing on my iPhone – upside down. Yep, upside down.

Then, my five-year old requested a re-take because he wasn’t happy with his pronunciation of the word congratulations.

And on play back, I realized that I sound exactly like Ma Ingalls on Little House On The…

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Let’s Get Digital

Paper. We all have it, but some of us have NO CLUE as to what to do with it! Here are a few tips to bring that mountain back down to a realistic, working, active pile.



1. Open your mail. I know that this might sound crazy, but it’s the first step. Also, open it right over the recycling bin. Why? Because inside most envelopes are flyers, pamphlets or brochures trying to sell you something you’ll never need. Open those envelopes and keep the one paper that you actually need.

2. Do something with the paper. Do you pay all your bills at one sitting, or as they come in? If you wait to pay them, have an area where you place paperwork that requires action. For us, we use the top of our filing cabinet. When we pay something off or update required information, then we file it. Right away. A lot of people hate filing, but it’s remarkable how quickly it can be completed if you have the right system in place, and if you are consistent with doing it regularly. With well labeled files, you know exactly where that paper belongs – quick and easy.

3. Cull your paper. Some documents you need for up to 7 years (for tax purposes), some longer (Will, Insurance, etc.) and some less (we only keep one year’s worth of bills, unless we’re claiming it on our taxes). Once your tax year is complete, put all the paper work for that year in a large envelope labeled with the year. Then, when the 7 years pass, shred it. Simple as that. If you’re only keeping one year’s worth of paperwork for a specific file, then as you put the most recent paperwork in the front, remove the last one (which should be a year old now), and shred it. One in, one out.

4. If you can manage it, go paperless. For my husband’s cell phone, we were charged $2 per paper bill – we quickly eliminated that. It will also  help with your paper dilemma. Create a good filing system on your computer and you can store all those bills electronically. No fuss, and no muss. Just remember to open those emails, and back up your computer regularly. I do like the idea of automated payments (especially for those that have difficulty keeping on top of things), but please review your bills – especially credit card bills. You never know when you might be charged erroneously, or spend more than you had intended.

How do you manage paperwork? How often do you file your papers? Have you gone electronic? Why or why not?

Use It or Lose It

This topic may seem similar, as I posted on something along these lines last year (You’ve Got It, So Use It), but who doesn’t like a little reminder now and then?

First, let me confess. I have a “collection” of those little floss containers you get from the dentist at your check ups. And by “collection” I mean 10. Seriously. Here’s the evidence:

It’s not that I don’t floss, I just don’t do it as often as I should. I’ve tried to remedy this by flossing on days with a “U” in them (Tuesday, Thursday and either Saturday or Sunday), so that if I don’t do it everyday, at least I’m flossing every week. Why? Because my husband told me that the plaque that’s on your teeth, and in your gums, can travel through your blood system, and build up in there. YIKES! That was enough to get me flossing more regularly…

Anyway, my point it this: I need to use this up before I purchase any more. And, if I’m not going to use it, then I can’t have it cluttering up my space. If you’ve ever seen our bathroom, you’d understand. But it’s not the size that matters, but the fact that anytime you want to get around it, you have to shuffle it around. And for what? If you’ll never use it, so why not let someone else be “blessed” by it?

Lastly, if you have so much of it that even if you used “it” at every opportunity, you still wouldn’t make a solid dent in it, perhaps you should split “it” and pass some of it on. Don’t let it bog you down just because you think you’ll use it “someday”.

What do you have an overload of? Will you ever use it? Please excuse me while I get to flossing 😀

P.S. While I haven’t completely depleted my body wash (please refer to above mentioned post), I’m getting near the end. Imagine that… But I haven’t bought anymore all this time! Saving space AND money!

What Is A Professional Organizer?!?

Yes, there is such a thing as a Professional Organizer. No, we don’t work exclusively with hoarders.

There, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what is a Professional Organizer? I probably should have written this one a year ago, but a meeting with a fantastic real estate agent (Albert Yu in the Toronto area, give him a shout) made me realize that I need to incorporate this somehow, and at least it’s better late then never.

A Professional Organizer is someone who has a knack for putting things into an appropriate place, and making it easier to find when needed. We set up systems in your home or office place to make your life easier. Sometimes this requires paring down, in order to make more space. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of rejigging the area you have in order to make it flow better. There are many different types of Professional Organizers as well: Residential organizers, small office organizers, corporate organizers, photo organizers, senior move organizers, garage organizers, and those who specialize in chronic disorganization and ADHD, to name a few. Many organizers cater to a mix of clients and specialties.

You may need an organizer. There, I said it. Sometimes, I need one, too! Here are some of the types of people I work with:

Busy Bee ~ Incredibly busy and high energy. Their commitments keep them going, but also hold them back from taking time to maintain the home. (I’ll admit, sometimes I fall into this category.) An organizer would come in and help set up systems to make maintenance as simple and stress free as possible. Also, setting aside a specific appointment to get organized will ensure it gets done.

Overwhelmed ~ Having various priorities has made making decisions too difficult – until now. Sometimes you’ve got too much on your plate (a sick parent, a troubled teen, etc.), which makes keeping up the home too much of a chore. However, those issues will pass, and when the smoke clears, you’ll look around to find a home with a lot of stuff. An organizer can help you to make those decisions you once found quite tough. A sensitive ear can work wonders when trying to decide what’s important, and what isn’t – which changes with time, too. It’s time to take back your home, and your life.

Relocation ~ You’re moving! But the last thing you want to do is take all that extra stuff with you. Don’t pay the movers for their time if you’re simply going to toss it on the back end. As you pack, go through your items and donate (or toss) that which you no longer want or need. Some organizers help with the packing and unpacking process as well, which can be a huge stress reliever.

Hoarder ~ There are many different types of hoarders. Essentially, it’s the inability (or severe difficulty) with letting go of object with little or no value, and extensive acquiring of such items. If a room is no longer able to be used for its intended purpose (can’t sleep on the bed, can’t cook in the kitchen, etc.), this is a pretty good indication. Organizers, in conjunction with mental health professionals, are able to help go through the items, although this is a longer process than the above situations.

Please note that I am not writing this as a promo piece. Whenever I meet new people, and tell them my profession, they always ask, “and what do you do?” So, I hope that this helps to shed some light on this new (not actually that new, maybe about 20 years or so) up and coming field.

Have you had any experience with a Professional Organizer? Have you seen any on TV or in the media?

Want to learn more? Check out the Professional Organizers in Canada, the National Association of Professional Organizers or the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

Can’t Touch This

Getting organized can be tough, but having someone else who is not on board makes it much tougher. Whether it be your children, or your significant other, you may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, and that your efforts are futile. However, let me reassure you that they are not. Let’s begin with the children.

For most kids, being organized (or tidy) does not come naturally to them. It is something that they need to be taught. There are two sides to this. First, it is essential that we help children to learn what to keep, and what/when to let go. If they’ve grown out of a piece of clothing or a toy, encourage them to donate that item either to another family member, or to a thrift store. Have them go with you to drop it off, so that the understand the process. Also, if something is no longer useful, help them to throw it out. It is incredibly important that they make the decision. If we simply do everything for them, they will not develop these essential skills, which will inhibit them later on in life. Also, throwing out (or giving away) items without their knowledge can create issues with attachment.

Second, children need to learn how to clean/tidy for themselves. If you are fortunate enough to have either a cleaner or a nanny, please allow your children to help them. When they move out, if they haven’t developed these skills, they will not be able to apply them to their own home – which will likely be cleaner-less for a period of time at the least. Again, these are learned skills, so be sure to include them in the various components of keeping a home tidy and organized.

Now for the big kid in the family – just kidding. Unfortunately, sometimes our spouse may not have developed these skills, so they don’t see the need to help out. This is a discussion you will have to have with your spouse, and this is exactly why I encourage all couple to go to premarital counselling before getting married. Yes, at our counselling we discussed who would take on which chores. It wasn’t written in stone as I primarily clean the washrooms now, but my husband almost always does the laundry, which is a nice trade off.

Again, however, it is important that you do not throw out (or give away) items that your significant other has not already approved. This can create trust issues, and if they are a “collector” of things, it will magnify the problem – trust me. They will find more items to replace the one that you disposed of, thinking that they wouldn’t notice.

Communication is key, and all relationships (children and spouses) take time. You can’t expect everyone to jump on board with you right at the get go. However, as they see your growing calmness, they will hopefully want to get in on your little secret. As they say “Keep Calm and Carry On”

Conquer Your Closet

Clothing is a tricky area to tackle. We might have bought it on sale. It holds memories of a past life. It holds hope that we will, one day, squeeze back into it. And more often than not, rather than dealing with it, we simply add to it, and neglect to stick to our self imposed “one in, one out” policy – a fantastic organizing technique, by the way.

So, I decided to bite the bullet. I needed to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to my clothing, and I’ve done just that. I didn’t believe that I had that much clothing. I have half of a walk in closet, and one 3 drawer dresser. How much could I possibly possess? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words…

Let me preface this whole experience by saying that I fully intended to organize my closet in the new year. I am a Brownie leader (Girl Guides for girls in grade 2 and 3), and I was making a Christmas tree craft with the girls in December, which required 6 wire hangers each. We have 20 Brownies in our unit this year, so that would mean that I needed 6 x 20 = 120 hangers. Someone had generously donated some hangers already, and I figured I was set. However, when I went to count them (the night before my meeting) I realized that I only had 70 hangers. Where in the world was I going to find another 50 hangers in 24 hours? I phoned a friend, but she wasn’t home, so I started going through our closets. “We don’t have wire hangers,” I thought. “We have a couple, but we mostly use plastic hangers.” Lo and behold, I had 50 in no time.

First, for the curious minds out there, here is the craft:

All you need to make this are 6 wire hangers, electrical tape, garland (long and full) and Christmas lights. Just wrap it around, and you’re good to go. A very cute, petite, tree.

Now, back to my closet dilemma. I had removed all of my wire hangers (I highly recommend doing this – wire hangers will stretch your clothes, and can rust), but now I had to put that clothing somewhere. Let me show you what my closet looked like one I had removed most of those hangers:

As you can see, most of my clothing is still here. You will also note that I was using those “handy” space saver hangers. Personally, I found that they took too much time trying to maneuver them, and they allowed you to be able to hang far too much clothing than most closet rods can handle. If you need additional space in your closet, go through your clothes before you purchase these devices. Next, what my closet looked like with no clothes on my hangers:

A little disorganized, no? In order to hang the “space saving hanger” up, you have to shove your clothes to one side, and I found the process too tedious. My next step was to purchase one type of hanger. I opted for the plastic hangers with the notched out top (to hold tank tops, etc.) – $6.99 for 20. I know that the wooden hangers are best, but I find that they take up far too much space. I’ve also read a blog where the person swore by the velvet hangers (they easily hold your clothes up, and are good for your clothing), but I’m not a fan of them aesthetically. But, to each their own. Here is my closet today:

I ended up parting with (donating) 31 items of clothing. I enjoy going into my closet now, as I don’t feel guilty about not wearing items I’m not in love with/don’t look good on me/I’m not sure whether they still fit or not – I tried on anything I wasn’t sure of before it went back in the closet. My pile of donateables:

Another tip is to flip all your hangers around, and when you wear it, turn the hanger back the right way. After 6 months, if the hanger is still reversed, donate it. If you haven’t worn it in 6 months, you probably won’t miss it.

One blogger put it this way: she was holding onto old clothes that “would never fit and if they did, I shouldn’t be wearing them” – readytochangenow

I was amazed at how good it felt to let go of clothing that was holding me back. If it doesn’t fit, you don’t love it, or you “shouldn’t be wearing it”, then let it go. Even if you did squeeze back into that high school outfit, would you really be proud to wear it in public again?