Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Passion Post: Tradition, Tradition!

"We do not remember days, we remember moments." - Cesare Pavese

As far as holidays go, I think Thanksgiving is pretty special for two reasons. One, it’s about giving not getting and gratitude doesn’t take up any space. Two, it’s about stuffing, not stuff. But seriously folks…

Here’s the best part: tradition! Traditions passed down through the years are what we remember about the holidays. We don’t always remember the gifts we receive or the disappointments of the day but we remember the rituals. Those are the moments that live in the heart; those are the moments that define family and each of its members. And traditions don’t cost a thing. Traditions can be started in a moments notice, whether planned or by happenstance. And these are what we pass down generation after generation.

There’s an age old tradition wherein the dinner host carves the turkey with everyone looking on in excited anticipation, chatting and giggling amongst themselves, their heads leaning in ever so slightly over the perfectly set table-oh wait, that’s this:

Norman Rockwell painting

Here’s our heartwarming version, which could more accurately be described as Joe, Jr. and Joe III goofing off with giant knives:


Many, many, many years ago the tradition of giving a baby the drumstick on their first Thanksgiving began. Not to eat, just for a silly picture, of course! The first existing photo of this ritual shows my brother Joe sitting on my Aunt Bernie’s lap. She has an enormous smile on her face so one could only assume that it all began with that smile (aunts are the best!). And so it is, each year that reveals the blessing of a child, we all gather round to watch a little babe’s bewilderment and confusion all the while snapping pictures and laughing. In years to come, each of these babies delight in seeing their photo and hearing the story of their initiation into our nutcracker family. It’s a story told over and over again, growing old but never wearing thin. That’s tradition!

Here Joe IV chomps on the drumstick and Joe III with Aunt Bernie and the smile that started it all: 

I’m sharing these moments from my family and wishing your family a season full of the moments that last a lifetime. You needn’t spend a dime; you needn’t fill your house with presents. Simply hold those closest close and treasure those that are yours and take lots of pictures so you can laugh at and mock each other in years to come.

 Happy Holidays 2017

What makes your family tick? We’d love to hear about your family’s crazy, mysterious and heartwarming traditions!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Keeping the Scoop

As I finished up a can of whey protein, I stood staring at a little plastic scoop in my hand. And like every other human my brain quickly and frantically searched for a use, a home, a reason to keep this odd little item that can only be acquired by purchasing a (fairly) specific product.  My brain cataloged all the client’s homes that I‘ve found these in, in friend’s homes, in my own mother’s home (in the utensil drawer when I was growing up - awwww). I thought ”Everyone seems to have one in their kitchen - everyone.” My brain, feeling encouraged, continued falsely assuming that it was growing momentum, “I could put in the sugar, the flour, the baking soda, salt, and anything decanted really.” At last the fog lifted.

Why was my brain so frantically thinking of reasons to keep the little scoop? Because it knows I’m well trained to resist such temptations and it had better act quickly if the fate of that little scoop was to live in my home, possible accumulating other little scoops, maybe someday getting a whole scoops drawer. But that was not to be!

Once I took control my brain turned on a dime and began down the familiar, well-worn path: Where would it live? Doesn’t everything scoopable come with another scoop? There’s nothing different between this scoop and a measuring spoon (which has a lot more uses). Everyone has (at least!) one and I use the same reasoning on them all. Conclusion: Goodbye little scoop!

It got me thinking about my own habits. This is pretty much what I automatically do when I encounter anything that I might want to keep, a cute button, an empty sauce jar, the ribbon wrapped around my new dish towels, and the scoop in the whey protein. All trash, really. Oh sure, appealing, eye catching trash but trash just the same. So, what to do?

Everything in my home passes the “keep test”, using the following questions:

Do I need, use, or love it?
What (very specifically) will I use it for?
When will I wear it? Really??
Does anything I own do the same job?
Where will it live?
Is it realistic to my lifestyle?

So let’s take the items above and put them to the test:

A cute button:
Do I need, use or love it?
Answer: It’s cute.
What would I use it for?
Answer: ------
Where will it live?
Answer: My sewing kit.
Is it realistic to my (non-sewing, non-crafting, non-remembering that I have a cute little button in my sewing kit) lifestyle?
FAIL!!!! Goodbye cute, little button.

An empty sauce jar:
Do I need, use, love it?
Answer: ------
What will I use it for?
Answer: What WON’T I use it for??????!!!!!!
Answer: ----
Does anything I own do the same job?
Answer: Yeaaaahhhhh.
FAIL!!!!! Goodbye empty sauce jar.

The ribbon wrapped around my new dishtowels:
FAIL!!!!! Goodbye ribbon.

The idea behind all of this is that you put some thought into an object before it earns, that’s right, earns a place in your home. Without thought, you’ll probably keep something you don’t really want; you’re just not sure what to do with. 
Put everything to the test. It only takes an extra minute or so at first until it becomes habit.

Give a little thought to every little thing and before you know it you’re recycling bin will be overflowing and your countertops will thank you for it!

The scoop that stopped me in my tracks

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Souvenir Confession

“Every year is a souvenir…that slowly fades away” - Billy Joel

As a follow-up to our Organizing Tour of Italy, we thought we’d chat a little about… the souvenir. Professional Organizers loathe nothing more than souvenirs (except maybe party favors!). Why? Well, if we’re agreeing that we should love, use, or need everything in our home then we should agree that a mass manufactured memory of somebody else’s trip might not make the cut. How do organizers jump to this conclusion? We find these memories in the back of junk drawers, in boxes under the bed, and on the bottom of the stack of never worn t-shirts (is that a tag??). Here’s the kicker, sometimes when we find them, they’re broken! This memory of someone else’s trip somehow represents so much more than that to us. Why can’t we throw away the “Hollywood” fridge magnet after it falls and breaks?  Maybe it represents a place we want to go, a place that we’ve been before and long to return, a once upon a dream we can’t release or maybe the memory of the person who gave it to us has been transferred to the object.  So “Hollywo…” gets thrown in a drawer. Here it is: I’m giving you permission to let go of all of the souvenirs. Let ‘em go!

Having said all that…I get it! You’re on a trip, you’re thinking about your loved ones back at home and you want to share the experience with them and let them know they were on your mind so far away. Look, there was no way Aunt Tootsie was going to Italy without bringing a little something back for everybody. I was conflicted; I even winced a few times looking through the same items over and over again. Full disclosure: Yes, I bought souvenirs.

But I did have a strategy. I was buying for young adults and children. I wanted to get something useful and I had full knowledge that things would be discarded and/or forgotten relatively quickly.

As I shopped, I completely understood that these souvenirs would never (could never!) hold a flame to the souvenirs that we got as kids. The utter joy of a giant pencil or a doll dressed in traditional garb or little boxes with the hope of treasures inside, the t-shirts, the peephole key chains with photos and the leather bracelets!! When I was a kid it was exciting when someone returned from travels, we’d sit at the kitchen table for hours listening to stories, looking at pictures and admiring our new treasures from far away lands. I think it’s a generational thing (hold on, there’s some kids on my lawn), we didn’t get stuff all the time and we didn’t see pictures of the trip as it was happening. So I kept in mind as I chose each item that the excitement wouldn’t even make it to school the next day.

I was okay with that and it helped to keep me within a budget. My souvenir budget was very small because my sole reason for purchasing was to see the smile on their face when I returned home. I saw it, I enjoyed it and I watched the value of the souvenir plummet. And I was okay with that, too, because I didn’t spend a lot! I did, also, try to buy things they would use - if even for a little while.

Here’s what I came up with:
My Goddaughter is married with a house so I did splurge a little more for: a Venetian glass bottle opener that matched her kitchen.
The college aged kids: shot glasses (parents read: bookmarks)
The boys: baseball hats
The 16 yo: an adorable Vespa keychain (she just got her permit)
The dog lover: a tiny glass German shepherd
The ‘tween: a bracelet
The younger girls:  change purses
The babies: t-shirts

I think I did okay and I’m pretty sure that at least one of the shot glasses is already broken. Totally cool - the smile was worth it!

My rules for personal souvenirs are a little different. I say, pass on the t-shirts, the posters, even the logo wine glasses and spend a little more for an actual, real present for your self. Get something you LOVE, something that will last and bring those vacation memories flooding back at a glance. Leather, artwork, jewelry, d├ęcor are all great conversation starters and worth the splurge - as long as you love them! I found a piece or two that instantly made my heart sing. I chose items that will last and that allowed me to be a little adventurous, too!

This rule goes for those with larger souvenir budgets, as well. If you’re getting something for your parents or for your best friend - get something that they’ll use or love. If there’s room in your suitcase, it’s also a great time to do holiday or
birthday shopping.

Many years ago, my mom came up with a great idea. She told everybody if they were going to bring her a souvenir, she’d like a Christmas ornament. Every year, as we decorated the tree we saw the memories of our travels. I started doing this as well and it is really fun to be reminded once a year of a really special time. The genius of it is that it all gets packed away until the next year! Another great idea  - beach towels!

Our friends and family mean well and really just want to share the adventure with us. I promise you that they never intended for you to keep clutter. I don’t think they’ll be searching for that statue of David on your coffee table. If you don’t love it, let it go! It’s the thought that counts - on both sides!

I know what you’re thinking. “My mother-in-law asks about that statue every single time she comes to my house.” Or “My best friend always brings some tchotchke back and I can’t get rid of it”.

Here’s how to handle the influx of souvenirs:

“I can’t wait to see your pictures and hear about your travels. Let’s swap stories when you’re back.” If you feel pretty certain a souvenir is on your horizon, help them out “Bring me back a postcard!” 

Then call us and we’ll talk about the postcards…

What’s your cure all for the souvenir clutter?

How many souvenir magnets are on your fridge? Do you use them?

Do you have a favorite souvenir ideas?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Italy through the Eyes of an Organizer

They say if you do what you love for a living, you’ll never need a vacation. I believed that wholeheartedly…until I took a vacation. My family and I went to Italy and I really focused on taking a break. What I realized was you can’t “get away” from organizing and I really didn’t want to escape entirely!

I found that whenever I saw something “organizy”, I was attracted to it and my hand flew for the camera. When I work with clients, sometimes we’ll do what I call a “quick and dirty”, which means we’ll go through a pile or box really fast so that a gasp or an “I LOVE this!” means your heart made the decision. This is a really helpful technique to help clients distinguish what’s important to them from what’s “meh” to them.  So, there I was strolling through ancient Italy and sure enough my heart was leaping left and right and as I’m want to do, I followed my trusty guide…

Well. I suppose I should start at the very beginning…a bathroom stall in the Paris airport. I couldn’t help but think “What a neat hook. Great way to add function and color to a bathroom stall. Well done, Paris. Well done!”

In Florence, they had lots of cute little shops with lots (and lots!) of cute little things, therefore, the need to organize, or at least vow to try (just like the States!). And as any PO will tell you, the decision to start is the first step. The decision to buy these cute little things (or not!) is the last step, after all the sorting and organizing.


I actually walked around with this little garbage can with the intention of purchasing it. I love garbage cans (I think it’s the best organizing tool for your money!) and this pencil sharpener looked just like the ones we have in LA.  I always walk around with items I want to purchase and 9/10 times I don’t buy them. I’m no psychologist but for me, I think it satisfies the “yes, you can have that if you want it” in all of us and by the time I get to checkout, I’m much more reasonable and I put stuff back. It really works, give it a shot! So after my tour of the little store with the little things, I no longer loved the little garbage can, but I still liked it enough to snap this pic! Isn’t it funny?

I’m always up for a little organizing humour! But seriously, it is!

I’m sure these Festival Feet are aces against “festival fodder” but I when I saw them, I envisioned my team organizing a new home for our clients. I didn’t buy them, but I wanted to!

At a restaurant the waiter announced to us (and my heart perked up!) that he likes to decant the wine into these great pitchers they have…I liked it, too! Clients have so many pitchers that they never use but really want to keep - just in case. Forget the water and iced-tea, how about decanting your wine into a pitcher when friends come by for lunch? Use what you got!!!! Loved it!

In Venice, we toured the Doge and I found these gems. Absolutely gorgeous woodwork throughout all the museums- they must have been SO organized, those ancient Romans!


My favorite find (also at the Doge) was this little box. I stopped here for a few minutes just to daydream. How was it used? Coins? Maybe the keys to the dungeon, cubby treats for the lions, fibula, extra iron hobnails, brass hooks for his lorica hamata (that’s right!)? The possibilities are endless - just like present day - a little box for pins, keys, coins, paper clips, etc. can tidy up any desktop or nightstand. Wise, they were!!

A couple of days in, we realized one adaptor was not going to cut it for 5 phones and a laptop so…off to the .99 store (in Italy!!). I’m a huge fan of the .99 Store and The Dollar Tree so I was game for a quick trip. Let me just say, my heart was not prepared for what I saw. It was fabulous! The jars, the containers, the color coding! Oh, the color coding!!!! Italy knows how to do a .99 store.

The gondola rides in Venice are quite magical. I imagine you’d need to take several (we didn’t) to capture all there is to see. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with laundry and so I was mesmerized by the old world simplicity of the clothing lines. Yes, I’ve seen clothes-lines before (I’m a New Yorker!) but something about these were kind of…well, beautiful.

At last (and alas), it was time to leave this beautiful country. Our suitcases were packed (the night before - highly recommend!) with rolled clothing (so everything fit) and we had the evening to say goodbye.

I’m vacationed and better for the rest. I’m ready and excited to take on new organizing projects. And I’m so grateful that I get to come home and do what makes my heart sing. No vacation needed…until the next one!

So I guess music, laughter…and organization, transcends language.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Resolutions 2017: We’re One Month In, Who’s Already Out?

How’s that New Year’s Resolution going? You were going to eat only healthy foods, work out every day and get organized among other things…you were going to fix all the things that are wrong with you. Sounds really…great. No wonder you lost steam already! Each year 42.4% of people never succeed with their resolutions according to StatisticBrain. The odds of you getting up on January 1st and changing your entire life are, well, not good.

One of the top resolutions every year is to get organized. My clients are always surprised how we begin organizing an entire house because we always start with these three steps:

      So many resolutions on based on beating ourselves up, pointing out where we are lacking, where we are not quite good enough. Look, your house didn’t become disorganized overnight and it won’t get organized overnight and that’s okay! Life happens and priorities shift - its part of the game.

           It’s a pretty lofty goal to organize your entire house. Start with a drawer or a cabinet or set a timer for 10 minutes and do as much as you can. Resolve to organize for 10 minutes every day or 10 minutes 3 times a week. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done and you won’t lose your enthusiasm.

Did you get that junk drawer cleaned out? Or did you make a dent in that pile of papers? Nice job! Celebrate yourself! Be your own cheerleader! Yes, paring down your coffee mugs and making the decision to donate that chair you’ve always hated are big deals - tell yourself “Way to go!” And keep it up…everyone loves a compliment!
      Can’t quite see yourself shouting “You’re a ROCKSTAR!”? Then call 21times Professional Organizing and we’ll do it for you!