A donation for a favor

“Paper is a big challenge. The mailman always brings more.” I hear some version of that sentiment quite often. Even after they have gone through the process of opting out of credit card and insurance offers, a large percentage of my clients struggle with an influx of unsolicited mail. Envelopes filled with pre-printed return address labels, bundles of cheesy seasonal cards, calendars, and the occasional random penny or nickel, yield slippery piles of unruly papers. And all the senders of these “gifts,” invitations, and pleas want is a donation for their good cause. Ninety-some-odd percent of the time, their attempts result in generous contributions to recycling bins and short-lasting relief on the faces of these clients.

Mind you, I’m all for good causes. I spent many years working in the nonprofit educational realm – art and natural history museums in NYC and San Francisco – and volunteer in my spare time. Nonprofits depend on the support of individual donors, and I’m happy to contribute to their betterment of our world and ways each year. But I had a lapse recently when, for the first time ever, I became a museum member. (One of the great benefits of museum employment was free museum entry at any reciprocating institution. I miss that.)

Weeks after my membership welcome arrived in the mail, so too did a solicitation from another museum. Oh dammit. That’s right. Nonprofits sell our information to other nonprofits, and in my case, the unsolicited mail cycle was resuscitated. I stopped that train mid-track by phoning both organizations to ask that my name be removed from all mailing lists and to request they do not sell or distribute my information. The unwanted mail ceased.

As we find ourselves in the midst of the season of giving, sharing, and storytelling, my hope is this little tale can contribute to the betterment of your desk, entryway, dining room table and/or countertop as the new year begins.

It is extremely rare to find a “donate” page on a nonprofit’s website that provides a box for you to specify if your donation is in honor of someone/s, write a note or message to the organization, and/or allow you to opt out of being added to their mailing list. So here’s what I do. I resort to a tried and true approach and mail a check with a letter. The basic version goes something like this:

To whom it may concern,

Enclosed please find my donation to [awesome nonprofit]. I am happy to donate because of the meaningful and vital work you do.

In exchange, I wish to ask the following: Please do not add me to your mailing lists or sell my information. I hope you will honor my desire to provide support without being inundated by mail that I do not wish to receive. My mailbox is on a diet : )

Sincerely,

P.S. Perhaps you’ll consider adding a box to the main donation form page on your website for donors like myself to donate quickly while providing us with an opt out option at the same time. I bet it could help save you time and resources in the future.

Less paper to manage yields more time for things that matter. Think of all the things you can do if you minimize your time shuffling unwanted mail.

And that, my friends, is my gift to you!

There are few more checks to be written over here…

Organizing gift cards and their little friends

giftcards_insta72

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. Continue reading

Finally! I can see what I “like” on facebook

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. Continue reading

Before and after

I am often asked about the lack of before and after photos on my website. I’ll be frank and say it: as a genre, they all sort of look the same, and without context, I find them to be quite uninteresting.

Generally speaking, before and after for organizers illustrates various forms of disarray transformed into various states of tidiness, and predictably, organization. To my eyes, these “results” are partial results as they simply show physical and surface alterations that have occurred. Little is told about what has happened and not a thing is said about why.

When I use photography in the course of working with clients, it is a tool to document a process — before, during, and after. When I choose to share the photos, it is to tell a story about the journey — the benefits and changes for the client and the decisions and observations we made along the way. Oftentimes, the physical changes barely scratch the surface of the shifts that manifest for and/or within the people themselves.

For example, here is a set of before and after photos of the area beneath a client’s kitchen sink…

What do you see? A little less clutter and a little more organization? Yay! We like that. Mission accomplished. Were some containers moved or removed to make it look better? But of course! As before and after images, they do the trick, right? To make my point, the answer is “not really.”

Here’s the story: Continue reading

Paper purge 101

a messy desk covered with piles of paper

Because it’s still early in the year and you are determined to make a dent in your resolution to declutter and get better organized, how about starting with a little paper purge? By removing what you no longer need now, it will be much easier to file, find, and retrieve what you do need later. A paper purge almost always provides great relief, and it often turns up that piece of paper you’ve been looking for.

How to do a paper purge? Continue reading

A shoe fetish for the holidays

Christmas treeFrom a distance, it looks just like any other bedecked Christmas tree. But this one, residing in the back room adjacent to my neighbor’s kitchen, is a little different from the one in the living room. (Yes, she has two.) You have to get close to see what I mean. This tree is aptly and affectionately called the shoe tree. Continue reading

Slow down and make room for what matters

a road sign that reads "time to slow down"

This piece was written for and  published in The Noe Valley Voice, December 2010/January 2011.

The beginning of a new year presents a fine occasion to hit the proverbial reset button and get oneself back on track or onto a new course altogether. It is a time of new beginnings and in many ways, too, a revisiting of the old.

So as the last of the holiday season’s nogs and bubbles are sipped and the glitter and pine needles are swept away, allow yourself to slow down and sit down to think about your resolutions and goals for the new year. What habits and ways are you ready to shed or revise? Continue reading

In times of change, there is always change

a red question mark painted on a piece of concreteChange is a bloom full of possibility and a wide river of uncertainty. It is a giant question mark, though in the case of the photo to the left, a question mark spray-painted on a piece of cast-off concrete. Change often rings of uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes all sorts of possibility.

We are creatures of comfort. We get used to things just the way they are and when derailed from our normal routines and proclivities, the situation we are confronted with can be an unexpected adventure, a challenging inconvenience, a paralyzing halt, or anything in between. Our individual and unique sets of life circumstances and experiences, values and dreams impact how changes affect us.

One of the privileges of the work I do as an organizer is being front and center with my clients as they go through the many shapes, hues, and volumes of change. In the realm of the change by choice, I have guided and assisted clients as they Continue reading