I’ve been there:  I see a fabulous bargain I can’t pass up, so I snap it up; someone kindly passes something on to me I didn’t ask for, so I say yes to protect their feelings.  In either case, I end up with something in my space that has no place.  Next step is to look around my home trying to find somewhere to put it or just plop it on the floor to deal with later.  The lesson to be learned is that if something has no logical, useful or permanent place in my home, it has no business being there.

One approach is to get rid of something else to make room for the new item.  If you have a sweater drawer so full that it can’t possibly hold another sweater, don’t buy or accept another sweater until you go through that drawer and give away anything you no longer wear, love or need.

Another solution is to learn to say, “no.”  I love the idea of “conscious shopping.”  Most of us become temporarily unconscious when we shop.  We operate purely on emotion rather than being rational.  Instead of asking the logical questions, “Do I really need this?” or “Where is this going to go when I get it home?” and “What am I going to use this for?”  We say, “Ooh, how pretty, and so cheap!”  Now what?

When beloved friends or family members offer you their cast-offs and you are reluctant to refuse their kindness, just say, ”Thank you so much!  Let me go home and see if this goes with the rest of what I have and I’ll let you know if I can use it.”  Make sure this person knows you are grateful for the offer, but that the unsolicited item may not be for you and you know they will want to make sure it goes to the perfect recipient.

Face it, there is very little we actually need.  Our spaces are already crammed with items we rarely, if ever, use.  First, ask yourself this question:  “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do I need, love or want this thing?”  Then ask, “Does it really have a space and a place?


As a Certified Professional Organizer® one of the services I offer is coaching new professional organizers to help them start their business and guide them to success.  Here are eight business strategies that can help any independent contractor build their business and position themselves for victory in a competitive market.

1.     Own your decision.

Whenever I am asked, “How do I start a business as a consultant?”  my answer is always the same:  “Say you are one!”  If you’ve made the decision to follow your bliss and do the work you were born to do, own it!  If you are starting out part-time and still working a job, forget to mention the job when someone asks you, “What do you do?”   Don’t say, I work at a real estate office, but I’m starting my own consulting business, just say with pride and confidence, “I’m a consultant!”

2.     Get comfortable with public speaking.

I remember the first time I spoke in front of a group.  My heart was pounding so hard, I thought everyone could see it.  But with time and practice, I can now face an audience with self-assurance.  Public speaking is a great way to get clients.  You are not only offering information, but also establishing yourself as an expert.  I was a member of Toastmasters International® for ten years and I cannot say enough about how helpful that was.

3.     Network, network, network. 

People are more likely to hire you if they have met you personally and had a first-hand experience of who you are.  When I first started my business in 1996, I joined the Chamber of Commerce and started meeting other professionals in my area.  I also networked at my church, within a business exchange group, and through a business women’s club.  Anywhere there are people, there are potential clients.  Decide what to call your business, get business cards, and tell everyone you know and meet about your service.

4.     Build a website as soon as you can. 

A website will help position you as an authority in your field and also serves as a great way for people to learn more about you.  Brochures are nice, but a well-developed website rocks!

5.     Become a household name.

Think of a hook – a story that might interest your local media.  Then pitch your story to your local newspaper or radio station.  When I first started my business, I called my local paper and said, “I have a great idea for a story!”  How could she resist asking, “What is it?”  I said, “How about a story tracking a senior citizen as they downsize from their single family house into assisted living?”  She was sold, but I didn’t even have a senior on board yet.  I contacted our local assisted living facility and asked if they could recommend someone that fit this category.  I was put in touch with a lovely woman and in a couple weeks we were front page news.  Paid advertising is great, but nothing beats free publicity.

6.     Ask everyone for referrals and recommendations.

One of the best proven ways to get new business is through a referral from someone who is well-regarded and well-connected.  Once you tell someone that a mutual friend, client or colleague has referred you, you already have one foot in the door.

7.     Believe your price.

One of the most frequently asked questions from people starting a consulting business is, “What do I charge?”  If you start out too high you won’t sound convincing, and the people to whom you are quoting your price will sense your lack of confidence.  If you start out too low, you may get the job, but you might end up feeling resentful and underappreciated.  Ask yourself, “What is a fair, but competitive price for my time and expertise?”  Other factors are how much you need to earn in order to remain motivated, to pay your bills, and feel valued.

8.     Trust the Universe.

Until you get established there are going to be times when business is slow and you might think you won’t make it.  If you truly believe you are doing the work you were put on earth to do, you have to have faith that the Universe will support that belief.  Hang in there and know that as long as you are giving it 100%, you’ll be ok.  So many times, when I reaffirm that truth, the telephone rings.

Many closets are so cluttered that just opening the door can make your heart sink. In an organized closet everything is accessible and there is a feeling of peace when you open the door.


How do you know when a closet needs organization?  If you can’t see what you have, can’t find what you want when you want it, and feel frustrated every time you look inside, your closet needs organizing.


Here are five steps to turn your jumbled closet into one you will love.


  1. Remove everything from the closet and spruce up the space. 

Wipe down walls and shelving, sweep it out or vacuum carpeting.  You are creating a masterpiece, so start with a clean canvas. If it’s a large closet, empty and clean it one section at a time to prevent discouragement and overwhelm.


  1. Make three piles: 1) things to keep, 2) things to sell or give away, 3) things to throw out. 

If you are organizing a clothes closet, everything you keep should fit, be in style and be ready to wear.  If an item is uncomfortable or ill-fitting, stained, ripped, worn out, outdated, or inappropriate for your age or the image you desire to project, it may be time to let it go.


If you are organizing a storage closet, the things you keep should be in good and usable condition and worthy of the space they take.


If an item is in good condition, but no longer useful for your lifestyle, box or bag it up for charity or your next garage sale, or to pass on to someone you know who may better use it.


If it’s torn, broken, cracked, discolored, or in overall disrepair, and not capable of being repaired or refurbished, it’s probably time to throw it out.


If you are uncertain about an item, move it to another location to look at it again later.  When the time comes to reassess your decision, ask yourself:   “Do I really love it?”  “Do I, or will I, ever use it?”  If the answer is “no” get rid of it.


  1. Take the “throwaways” directly to the trash, and the “giveaways” directly to your vehicle.

If your charitable donations are already in your car, the next time you are out and about you will be prepared to drop them off.  Another benefit of getting these things immediately out of the house is that you will create space within your environment that can be used for additional sorting, organizing and decluttering.


  1. Put back the items you are keeping so you can see and access everything easily.

There are several ways to organize a clothes closet:

  • By season:  hang the in-season items in the more convenient location of your closet and out-of-season clothes toward the back, stored in plastic bins, or in another location.
  • By use:  keep categories of clothes such as work, casual, evening, exercise or sports grouped together.
  • By complete outfit:  assemble everything for a single outfit together, including shoes and accessories.
  • By color palette:  group everything together that goes with black, same for brown and navy.
  • By  item type:  keep all items of the same classification together, such as pants, blouses or shirts, sweaters, dresses, etc.

Use your lifestyle to decide which system best works for you.  If you have to dress up for work each day, you may want to have complete outfits at the ready to minimize the amount of time you need each day to dress and prepare.  If you are under no time pressure when choosing your daily outfit, any of the systems can work.


Other ways to keep your clothes closets organized and clutter-free are:

  • Use sturdy hangers and avoid wire hangers as they rust, bend and do not provide good support for garments.
  • Whenever possible utilize the shelf and wall space to stack or hang items.  However, do not overload or assign too many items to one system.  For example, if you put up wall hooks for bags or purses, decide that you will put no more than three items on one hook.
  • By all means, keep as much off the floor as possible.  Stuff on the floor can be a safety hazard, as well as contribute to excessive and unnecessary wear and tear on garments.
  1. Prevent future closet clutter by making a commitment to maintenance and conscious consumption.

Make maintaining an organized closet an ongoing activity.   Organization is not a one-time job because things don’t stay organized without attention and maintenance.  Quarterly sessions scheduled into your calendar for regular maintenance can make keeping closets organized easier.


When shopping, ask yourself if you can use something you already own to fill a need before you buy something new.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will take it back if it doesn’t work or you decide you don’t need it.  Few people follow through on that commitment.


I cannot overstate the power and joy of organizing and decluttering your closets.  Once you start, you will feel a change in the flow of energy, experience increased satisfaction, and save money and time.  Remember, less is more. If you have only what you love, looks good, and what perfectly fits your lifestyle, you’ll have more confidence, energy and success.


Perhaps these following famous people can better drive the point home:


 True elegance consists not in having a closet bursting with clothes, but rather in having a few well-chosen numbers in which one feels totally at ease.   Coco Chanel



They should put expiration dates on clothes, so we would know when they go out of style.    Gary Shandling



I did not have 3,000 pairs of shoes.  I had 1,600.  Imelda Marcos

If you spend most days flying by the seat of your pants – disorganized, confused, feeling stressed and wondering what is falling through the cracks – an investment of 30 minutes each morning can help.


Here are five daily habits that can change your life and make your day better organized.  These action steps will take, at the most, six-minutes each.  The five daily habits have made  a great  impact on my life and on the lives of those I serve as a professional organizer.  I invite you to consider adopting them.


  1.  Take six minutes to make your bed shortly after you get up.  Think of it as the transition that completes your nightly sleep time and begins your daily activities.  Your bedroom will appear better organized and this task will provide you with your first successful accomplishment of the day.  At the end of the day, you will find that the experience of entering a nicely made bed is both comforting and calming.  Make this a ritual that affirms the importance of a restful night’s sleep and provides a symbolic beginning and end to the day.
  2. Take six minutes to center your mind and body.  Each morning, sit quietly for a few minutes to settle your thoughts and relax your body.  Listen to the sounds around you; imagine yourself in a serene and peaceful place; feel the beat of your heart; pay attention to the inhaling and exhaling of your breath.  This small investment in stillness will reap tremendous benefits throughout the day.  You will enter the day with a greater sense of well-being and a clearer mind.
  3. Take six minutes to eat something nutritious.  No time for breakfast?  Try to have on hand something quick and easy such as a banana, a bowl of cereal, piece of whole wheat toast, instant oatmeal or a granola bar.  Get something into your system to kick start the day.  Your mind and body will work better and your ability to be organized and operate effectively will increase.
  4. Take six minutes to go over your “to do” list.  One technique is to take a piece of paper and draw one vertical line down the middle and one horizontal line across the center to create four quadrants.  Use each quadrant to list different kinds of tasks you are facing for this day.  One quadrant can be for errands to run, another for appointments, a third for people to contact by email or telephone, and the fourth for action steps related to current projects on which you are working.  Now that you have your list, take a second look and realistically assess whether or not your list is too big for one day.  If so, eliminate the non-priority tasks.  Making a daily to-do list will reinforce your awareness of what’s ahead and allow you to visualize it all getting done effortlessly.  This will increase your chances of having a successful and productive day.
  5. Take six minutes to delete all incoming emails that are obvious junk.  Before you concentrate on the important business of the day, why not quickly clean out the spam and clutter in your inbox.  Not only will this reduce the amount of mail to which you need to pay attention, it will also bring what’s really important into better focus.

Total time invested:  30 minutes.  Results:  Priceless.


For more information on formulating your own “Five Daily Habits,” or to order a daily habits reminder bracelet, please visit my website at




Now is a great time to start decluttering your closets, cabinets, bookcases, drawers, toy chests, shelves – any space overflowing with “stuff.”

Letting go can often be difficult, but it’s true that clearing some of it out will be a good thing.  Creating more space would make life easier and help you feel more peaceful.  Also, think of all the people you will help out and make happy by donating or passing on your unwanted and unneeded extras.  In this age of recycling, it’s the right thing to do.

To help you make decisions and let go of stuff consciously and confidently, here are 10 essential questions to ask yourself while you are decluttering your space and your life.

1.    Do I own more than one of these?  If your answer is yes, ask yourself why you would need two or more.  Chances are, you own duplicates because you forgot about your original purchase and went out and bought another needlessly.  Pick out the best one and recycle the rest.

2.    When was the last time I used, wore, read or looked at this?  If it has been more than six months, you no longer need it.  Let it go.

3.    Does the condition of this item reflect the image I want to present?  If the item does not meet your standards you don’t need to hold on to it.

4.     If I throw this out, will I deeply regret it?   Tap into your intuition for the answer.  If you feel a tugging in your heart, set the item aside and take a second look later.

5.    Am I ever going to read, wear or use this again?   Just be realistic.  If you’ve outgrown, forgotten about or replaced this item, you probably have already dismissed it from your life.  Pass it on.

6.    Have I gotten all the possible benefit from this item?  If it has served you well and over time and become worn or outdated, you’ve probably gotten your money’s worth from it.  Lay it to rest; it has been a worthy servant (book, shirt, mug, etc.).

7.    Does this item represent who I am now, or someone I used to be?  What once was original and interesting might now be old hat (or an old hat).  If you have moved on to new tastes and interests, you can let what suited the old you go to someone else.

8.    If I had to replace this, would it be easy and affordable?  Just about anything can be replaced.  Venues such as craigslist, amazon, ebay, thrift stores and garage sales are fun places to search for most anything you need or want.  However, if an item is incredibly valuable, absolutely irreplaceable and you are still in love with it, don’t put it back into a box or the back of a closet.  Commit to finding the perfect place to display or use it.

9.    Do I have a sentimental or emotional attachment to this?  If it would break your heart to let Grandma’s tablecloth go, then by all means keep it.  But, if you don’t have room or are ready to let it go, take a photo of it and keep the picture instead.

10.  Is owning this item more trouble than it’s worth?  Some items demand more attention and maintenance than they are merit.   If your goal is to simplify your life, get rid of the high maintenance items and set yourself free.

Bonus question:  Do I really have space for this?  What is more important:  this item or your peace of mind and well-being?   Crowded spaces are energy thieves and safety hazards.  If you are cramped for space, you will always have to stumble over what’s in the way, or dig around to find what you really love, use and want.  Today is the day to let it go!


by Mary Sigmann CPO ® | Categories: How To Declutter | Tagged: , , , | No Comments

Spring is the perfect time to create a plan for clearing out, cleaning up and making way for the new.  Some people look forward to the process and the wonderful sense of rejuvenation and peace that comes with it, while others are overwhelmed by the thought of where to start.


Here are four steps to help you get started.  If you take it step by step, and task by task, you can make the seasonal transition a simple and graceful process:


Step 1.  Assess the situation.  Go from room to room and make a comprehensive list of everything you want to do in each room to make it clean and fresh.  Think in terms of what needs to be eliminated, cleaned, replaced or repaired.


Step 2.  Create categories.  Break your room-by-room lists of tasks into three groups:

  • Decluttering:  note items to swap out, store, donate, or sell.
  • Housework:   jot down what needs cleaning
  • Repairs:  list things to fix or replace.

Use this checklist for ideas.


o  Declutter the closets by donating clothes you no longer need or wear

o  Eliminate unneeded small appliances, cookware and dishware that are cluttering the kitchen.

o  Eliminate extra books you’ll never read again

o  Go through your craft supplies and recycle abandoned projects

o  Clear out the hall closet and store the winter coats, hats and gloves


o  Have drapes and carpeting professionally cleaned

o  Wash the windows inside and out and clean the blinds

o  Clean the refrigerator, oven and stove

o  Polish vinyl and wood floors

o  Clear out the cobwebs


o  Replace the welcome mat and throw rugs

o Swap out bedspreads and replace pillows

o  Replace the shower head, shower liners and curtain, and guest towels.

o  Replace the kitchen curtains

o  Replace burned out bulbs in ceiling fixtures or lamps


o  Fix dripping faucets or running toilets

o  Repair holes in walls or broken tiles

o  Touch up wall paint

o  Repair broken windows or torn screens


Step 3.  Dedicate time.  Set aside specific blocks of time in your calendar for these tasks.  Having a time line and schedule will better ensure your success.  Make an appointment with yourself to get these jobs completed and keep that appointment.


Step 4.  Get help.  For the bigger jobs, decide whether to do-it-yourself or hire a professional.  You can also enlist the help of family members or friends.  A Certified Professional Organizer® can assist you with the decluttering process as well as keep you motivated and on task.


Spring brings new potential to all aspects of our lives.   A thorough spring cleaning is a great way to revitalize and rejuvenate your home and yourself.  Now is the time to clear out and clean up!

Maintaining an organized and efficient home or office doesn’t have to be daunting. You can do it in 5 to 15-minute chunks.  Keep this list of small tasks in a notebook or post it on a wall or bulletin board. Whenever you find a few spare minutes during the day, choose one or two tasks and make good use of the time.


  • Clear the clutter from your desktop.
  • Return supplies and file folders to their proper homes.
  • Revise and rewrite your daily to-do list.
  • Start a box for things to take home.
  • Go through and organize a small pile of paper.
  • Pick anything up from the floor that doesn’t belong there.
  • Scan your email in-box for items to delete.
  • Read a short newsletter or article.
  • Update your voice mail message.
  • Make a list of phone calls you need to place or return.
  • Jot down a few ideas for your next business meeting.
  • Open, read and sort the day’s mail.
  • Organize receipts.
  • Go over and update your Outlook task list.
  • Pull out one or two overstuffed file folders and check for possible discards.
  • Review a project checklist.
  • Water the plants.
  • Organize a desk drawer.
  • Stretch your muscles.
  • Take a quick walk around the building.
  • Make an overdue phone call.
  • Transfer contact information from business cards to your computer.
  • Check over your calendar or appointment schedule.
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Create a mission statement.
  • Enjoy a healthy beverage or snack.
  • Take stuff to the building’s recycling center.
  • Organize your briefcase.
  • Relax and think beautiful thoughts.



  • Shake out all your throw rugs.
  • Clean out a kitchen drawer.
  • Wash the mirrors and glass on framed artwork.
  • Organize potting supplies in the garage.
  • Sweep out the garage.
  • Go through your hanging clothes and pull out six things for charity.
  • Put a load in the washer and start it up.
  • Clear off the front of the refrigerator or the bulletin board.
  • Check the pantry or refrigerator for expired foodstuff.
  • Organize your purse or briefcase.
  • Wash the dishes.
  • Clear off the seats and floor of the car.
  • Make the beds.
  • Fill a bucket with water and vinegar and wipe off the window sills.
  • Get out the vacuum and sweep the blinds.
  • Sort through catalogs and recycle.
  • Pull articles you want to keep from magazines.
  • Check coupons and gift cards for expiration dates.
  • Wash the fronts of all your cupboards.
  • Return CDs and DVDs to their cases.
  • Pull off the couch cushions and vacuum inside the couch.
  • Check the medicine cabinet for expiration dates.
  • Check all your battery run clocks to make sure they are still running.
  • Put scattered books, magazines, catalogs into a basket or bin.
  • Wash the bathroom, kitchen and entryway rugs.
  • Wash off the refrigerator shelves.
  • Clear out everything under the beds and vacuum.
  • Sort through kid’s school papers and artwork.  Put keepers in a folder.
  • Make a shopping or grocery list.
  • Take a walk, a shower or a nap.


Have you tried driving to work with a flat tire or empty gas tank? Children are often expected to straighten and clean their room facing similar obstacles. Picture a child trying to make a bed that is wedged between large pieces of furniture, or hang clothes on a rod twelve inches above their head. Make it easier for children to maintain their room by keeping things streamlined, right-sized, and compartmentalized.
Simplify clothing by making colors easy to mix and match and keeping only what is currently in use. Store or pass on anything that doesn’t fit or is rarely worn. Avoid morning chaos by helping your child pre-plan outfits for the entire week.
Decide how many toys and books your child can comfortably enjoy and keep the rest out of sight. Rotate once a month. If space in the child’s room is limited, create a play area in the basement or spare bedroom and keep just a few of their very favorite toys and books in their room.
Bottom line: Do not use your child’s room as extra storage space for you.Using your child’s closet to hold your out-of-season clothing, or stashing your luggage under their bed, does not foster a sense of “ownership” or encourage responsibility.
Inaccessibility to storage is a primary reason things don’t get put away. Lower closet rods and shelves so that children can reach them. Hooks hung low are easier than hangers for bulky coats and jackets. Utilize high spaces for out-of-season or rarely used items, or for toys and books on rotation.
Make sure furniture is the right height and size. Select a dresser low enough so that the child can reach the top. Provide a waste basket that is large enough for the amount of trash children typically generate.
Bottom line: Store small items in small containers, large items in big containers. Check out your local discount or home supply store for ideas.
Use small plastic bins or dishpans for loose items like socks and gloves. Keep school supplies and small toys together by storing them in lidded plastic shoe boxes. Nestle bins and boxes into drawers or on shelves to keep items separated and organized.Hanging shoe bags work well for various items that need organization. Small items kept in rolling carts with drawers can be wheeled into the closet when not in use.
Bottom line: Label everything. Items kept in drawers, shelves and storage
containers that are labeled are more likely to end up in their proper home.
Labels can be pictures or words depending on your child’s age.

by Mary Sigmann CPO ® | Categories: Teach Your Child To Be Organized | Tagged: | No Comments

Organized kids feel more in control and competent. The entire household is less stressful and runs more harmoniously. If your children establish habits which prevent tardiness, forgotten supplies, and lost homework assignments, they will be happier and so will you.

Teach your kids to plan ahead by encouraging them to ask, “What is my goal, what materials do I need, and what steps are necessary to complete the goal?” Teach the concept of “preparation” by discussing how to plan for future events, tasks or outings. Talk it through step-by-step. Have a planning session each evening to go over the next day’s activities.

Establish a practical routine for each task or responsibility that involves your child. There is security in consistency. Have a standard place and  time for doing homework, and a designated space for jackets, gloves, and backpacks. Set up a center for depositing school work and a regular time to go over it together. Allow your child to select a strategy that works well for them. If they habitually leave the house without their lunch sack or gym shoes, let them
decide the best way to remember.

Help children learn to make decisions by looking at the “who, what, when and where.” If the question is whether to go out for basketball, many things need to be considered. When and where are team practices? Are special shoes, clothes or equipment required, and how much do they cost? Who will pay for that? What about transportation? Are there conflicts with other activities or duties?
If the child develops a sense of how each decision impacts other aspects of their lives, they will make better choices as they grow older and life gets more complex.
Assign age-appropriate responsibilities. Give kids a role in the household which allows them to assist the family in operating efficiently. Explain how feeding the cat ensures the health of the family pet and helps out other family members who rely on them to do that job.
Help your child learn to anticipate the consequences of their actions. What happens if homework is not ready on the day it is due?  What are possible consequences of leaving a pair of shoes in the middle of the floor? Encourage kids to write down responsibilities on paper. A chore chart, or calendar showing what assignments are due and when, can instill respect for goals. Charting and list-making are skills that will have lasting benefits as the child grows older.

As your child begins to demonstrate behaviors that show pre-planning, consistency and responsibility, praise them. Let them know that they are capable, lovable and good. By all means set clear rules regarding behavior that will not be tolerated, but notice the good things too. You are instilling organizational and decisionmaking skills and building character – and doing it with love.

by Mary Sigmann CPO ® | Categories: Teach Your Child To Be Organized | No Comments

There comes a time for most people when they decide they need or want less “stuff.” Often individuals decide to downsize or eliminate some of their accumulated possessions because they want to realize the benefits of a simpler life. Some do it because they get tired of all the attention and maintenance that possessions demand. Whatever the motivation, decluttering is a process that can be accomplished easily and effectively and will also bringing greater peace, freedom and control into one’s life.

A great way to begin the decluttering process is to start “subtracting.” Look all around the house for anything that could easily be thrown out or immediately given away. The idea is to create some space and get the “energy” moving. Once you start to “subtract” you will experience greater well-being, and a more optimistic outlook.

Pick a place to start and stick to it until that area is decluttered. Many people get overwhelmed because they get easily distracted and never complete the organizing task they started. Once you complete an area you will be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment that will provide the motivation to keep going.

Whenever we declutter, it is normal to experience emotional attachments to our possessions. These attachments are not easy to break. However, if you take a realistic look at the condition of these things, you may realize that they are outdated, worn out or no longer useful. Although letting go of these things may be difficult, making the commitment to keep only what is truly meaningful, necessary and irreplaceable, can make it easier. Through the decluttering experience we can learn how holding on to too many possessions can limit our freedom and our space.

The most important thing to remember is that your attitude can make all the difference in the ease and success of your project. If you approach organization or decluttering  with the end in mind — a simpler, happier, more carefree life — you will enjoy the process so much more.

by Mary Sigmann CPO ® | Categories: How To Declutter | No Comments