organizing


self-portrait with compost, recycle, trash signsat solar living instituteA famous amphibial puppet speaking of the color of his felt famously sang, “It’s not easy bein’ green; It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.” “Green” has seeped into so many things – far too many – that the word has been overused to the point of being meaningless. This is precisely why, two years ago, a group of professional organizers decided to redefine their specialty from green organizing to the more ecologically- and holistically-infused environmentally-conscious organizing.

Steeped in the traditions of voluntary simplicity and sustainable living, this work stems from the values and ethics associated with helping others adapt simple lifestyle changes that support them wherever they are on the environmentally-conscious path. It’s about building awareness and engaging in dialogues to guide clients to a place where they can observe and effect change in the choices they are making each and every day.

Most of us are already working to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible, and environmentally-conscious organizers encourage these practices and more. What will create more impactful and lasting change is exceeding these foundational R’s and allowing ourselves to go deeper.

Take, for example, the multi-faceted practice of reducing. Choosing the path of less packaging, reduces the need to recycle or throw away resources. This is especially powerful when you consider that 25% of landfill contents in the U.S. is product packaging. By reducing consumption of single-use disposable plastics (i.e. packaged and bottled water), we reduce the need for more fossil fuels while reducing the risk to ecosystems from oil drilling and transport of these resources. Reducing the need to store cases of plastic bottles creates more physical space while having the added health benefit of reducing your family’s exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor found in certain plastics. The effects of our choices can be cascading.

When we begin to make time and allow ourselves to rethink our choices, refuse what we don’t need, repair what needs fixing, and let food waste rot into nutritious compost, we’re moving closer to what’s most important in our lives. That’s often the end goal of organizing for many of our clients: creating the time and space to do what matters most.

Each of us has the power, through small acts each day, to make ripples of change in the places where we will see and feel those shifts most directly – in our homes and communities. As Kendra Pierre-Louis wrote in her book, Green Washed, Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet, “…consciousness is a starting point, not an end point.” As we stand on the precipice of Earth Day 2014 (April 22), where are you going to start? Hint: It takes one small step.

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This piece was originally written for and posted on NAPO’s Get Organized Blog.
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They quietly enter our homes by way of auctions, thank yous, prizes, presents, the mail, and even purchases. Infused with good intentions and the hopes of putting them to use sooner than later,  gift cards, gift certificates, store credits, coupons, and promotional cards often wind up sitting around longer than we ever intend.

Between my own house and those of my clients, I’ve encountered small collections of these papers, plastic cards, and torn- and cut-out coupons languishing in baskets, stuffed into folders, magnetized to the refrigerator, shoved in overburdened handbags, tucked into jacket pockets, lost in piles ‘important’ papers, lost in piles of things to sort, stuffed into bags of mail, and waiting in the foyer. (more…)

catblogpost2smI couldn’t believe it either. I had no idea a cat could eat a blog post. But she did. I hope you realize this is possible only at that delicate intersection where the cyberworld meets the analog world and where the waiting-in-a-pile-on-my-desk-to-be-filed paper world meets the filed paper world.

I’m terribly allergic to cats, so I cannot take credit for having a feline who enjoys some 100% recycled post-consumer paper content in her life. If I could claim to have any influence on a cat, I suppose that introducing it to sustainable paper would be an excellent, albeit unusual, place to start.

Obviously, Stretchy the cat had good taste. She chose the pages that were about the magnificent Christmas shoe tree that stands on of her back porch this time of year.

kitties3_sm copy 2Stretchy lived downstairs and was one of my landlady’s two kooky felines. (All cats are kooky, right?) I learned that Stretchy liked eating paper during the same conversation in which said landlady asked me for a new printout of the blog post for her archive. I never thought to ask how selective she was and if bank statements, greeting cards, or gas bills were ever victims of her nibbling ways. Did she liked the taste of photographs or the glue of postage stamps, too? Maybe she had a thing for little shoes, and she pined (tee hee) for the return of the holidays when the collection would come out for her to admire. Maybe she tried on the shoes when no one was looking to see what all the fuss was about.

The little shoes are epic and their numbers vast. When Sven and I were in Germany this fall, we brought home what we thought would be a nice addition to the holiday collection. A kitchenware vendor at the Volksfest in his hometown managed to find a little shoe cookie cutter in his collection of small useful objects. We delivered the shoe, a little high heeled number upon our return, and have since found out that it was put to use – for making holiday cookies! Obviously, it was a very multi-functional gift filled with lots of creative potential. I wonder if it may eventually hang out with its footwear friends.

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Wishing you a festive and delicious solstice and holiday season.

This post is dedicated to Stretchy Gordon.

This post may be a bit out of the norm for my blog, but it feels necessary. If you’re a reader who is gleefully facebook-free, this will probably bore you to pieces. I’ll be back to my more typical musings shortly!

If you’re a facebook user like me, I’m certain you’ll agree that the unpredictable and ever-changing algorithms and other under the hood shenanigans by the folks over there have led to nothing short of frustration. I use facebook as a research and communication tool for both my business and personal life. I follow a plethora of companies, nonprofits, fellow bloggers, and many other entities from whom I learn and get turned on to information that deepens my civic, intellectual, and social involvement.

Pages I’ve “liked” stopped appearing in my newsfeed long ago. New “likes” seldom showed up. After some searching online for answers, I dabbled my way to this conclusion: organizing the pages I “like” brought them into my newsfeed!

For the sake of your sanity and my own, I wish to share my initial process which may very well be obsolete in a week or two if facebook launches another upgrade or algorithm. In the short term, at least, I’m happy. Maybe you will be, too. (more…)

In early 2008, the following email was sent to the general listserv of the National Association of Professional Organizers’ San Francisco Bay Area chapter (NAPO-SFBA):

I’ve been contacted by…Rebuilding Together, the national organization that does Habitat for Humanity type rebuilds and remodels of both private homes and non-profit organization’s facilities.

I was a construction captain a few years ago on a fabulous remodel of the basement of the Larkin Street Youth Center and last year did assessments on two homes…

Apparently there are projects in communities all around the Bay Area, but if you’d like to team up with a corporate sponsor and do some great work while showing off your organizing skills and NAPO’s community spirit–please let me know asap.

Really? A unique opportunity to stretch one’s organizing muscles, volunteer for an awesome nonprofit and cause, AND be part of a team that positively impacts the lives of strangers? “Please do put me on the list! I’d love to help if the timing’s right,” I responded to my colleague, Victoria Roberts-Russell.

Two weeks later, another email landed in my inbox. This one contained descriptions of various projects that could benefit from the input of a professional organizers. I signed on, completed a project, and was hooked. When it was over, I wondered how we could get more organizers on board with this seemingly natural partnership and began conspiring with Victoria and our enthusiastic associates at RTSF. (more…)

Organizing can be this way: You start with a desire to make something better and more efficient. You get started on that single task, but then you find that one thing leads to another, and suddenly you’re going on an unexpected journey around your home or office. Sound familiar?

The interconnectedness of the seemingly disparate parts that make up workable and efficient systems is among the many features I love about the organizing process. It takes you places, it helps you discover things, and it lets you improvise along the way. There are no “rights” or “wrongs” but what works for you, the individual. The process can be overwhelming and a complete diversion that ends in a larger sense of disarray than you could ever have imagined. I’ve been there. Who knew that giving laundry day a lift would provide one such voyage. (more…)

It may come as a refreshing surprise to learn that I am not immune to impulsive purchases. The most common are farmer-generated and occur at outdoor markets year-round (at least here in the San Francisco Bay Area). Visually inspiring and delicious, veggies and fruits often lead to impromptu desires. That’s me (right) communing with a bundle of scapes at a friend’s farm stand at the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market in Seattle last month. The temptation was strong, but I resisted them despite the lure of their curls!

But here’s a first for me: while leaving the Mission Community Market last night, I got side-tracked not by produce, but by a towel. (more…)

When you think of love songs, I bet lines like “Oh baby, baby, baby, baaaaaaaaby, I love you” and other word conglomerations of that ilk come to mind. These songs run the gamut of happy, sad, mournful, or even overly goopy.

Leave it to my sweetie to write a song for me that speaks to what we value, not to mention what I spend my days navigating in varying degrees while I make a living. The lyrics go like this:

Shed
by Sven Eberlein

I’ve got a closet full of things
don’t know how they made it in
there’s that sweater I don’t like
and the tapes left behind by my friend Mike

I’ve tried to clear it out before
but all that stuff keeps getting more
my house is looking like a store
and now I can’t even close the door (more…)

girl in witch costume for HalloweenHappy Halloween! While most people are doing their autumnal digging out of costumes and ideas for trick-or-treating and upcoming holiday festivities, my little organizer self likes the seasonal ritual of shedding. The trees drop leaves and begin to expose themselves to the cold while I exfoliate the underused or no longer relevant pieces to simplify and refine my wardrobe. It’s an activity I seldom plan, but one that spontaneously happens at least twice a year. How the spontaneity happens is hard to record, but three years ago, I captured one such episode:

I was perplexed by the amount of time it was taking my partner, Sven, when he disappeared into the bedroom to put away the small bundle of clothes he unpacked from our weekend away. Did the exhaustion from the drive and the days of relaxation overtake him? Curiosity got the best of me, so I went to investigate.

(more…)

suitcases

My earliest memory of a packing list was a piece paper Scotch®-taped to the inside lid of the trunk that followed me to summer camp. It was an itemized rundown of every thing a camper needed to survive a four- or eight-week summer session away from home. If I recall correctly, it included how many of each item to bring and/or a space where my parents could fill in how many of each item was packed. Underwear and towels were accounted for along with calamine lotion and toothpaste. It was a portable accounting of all I had to keep track of and bring back home. After summer camp, a packing list had no place in my world…until a few years ago.

(more…)

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