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Tips & Tricks from the Experts in the Industry

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  • 26 Nov 2017 8:32 PM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®

    The Set-Up for Success

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    For even the most novice cooks, between now and the end of the year, many kitchens are about to get a workout. We may be hosting parties, holiday meals, trying a new recipe or two, participating in pot lucks, or baking with friends and family. Wouldn't it be great if everything we need is at our fingertips--clean and functional for when we need it?

    So often the tools and items we rely on at this time of year are somewhere in the back of cupboards, sideboards, or stored on basement shelving. I recommend gathering, cleaning, and staging the items you know will be needed in the coming weeks. In last week's post ( https://www.getorganizedcolumbus.com/the-ready-made-pantry ) we talked about a well-stocked pantry for the holiday season; for now, let's focus on the items we will likely need in the kitchen and dining areas.

    Let's Talk Tools
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    It is not just about having the tools, it is about cleaning them and testing them to make sure they are functional with no surprises. It is worth noting that many of these items are occasional-use items and can be removed from your immediate cooking area once the holidays are over to save space.

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    1. Meat thermometer
    2. Turkey Baster
    3. Full set of measuring cups and spoons
    4. Food Processor and all needed extension parts
    5. Emersion Blender and/or mixer
    6. Counter top roaster or sous vide
    7. Mixing Bowls
    8. Sharpened Knives
    9. Electric carving knife
    10. Peelers and Garlic Press
    11. Zester and juicer
    12. Baking pans
    13. Dough roller
    14. Those pesky holiday cookie cutters
    15. Baking racks
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    And don't forget the specialty cookware like Belgian waffle makers and panini presses, which may finally get the chance to earn their shelf space when hosting guests.

    Kitchen Staples

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    1. Aluminum Foil
    2. Wax Paper
    3. For extra convenience--oven liners can come in handy this time of year
    4. Twine
    5. Roasting Bags and plastic wrap
    6. Sil Pats/Baking Liners
    7. Toothpicks
    8. Food saver containers--especially those which guests can take with them
    9. Cherished recipes--I suggest locating and scanning them to have available digitally. I really like that you can have on record which recipes were used by year; it's fun to look back on and review.

    Let's Set the Holiday Table

    So many times we store away pretty dishes and service items, and holiday plates and mugs, only to forget them when guests appear. We can avoid forgetting our cherished holiday keepsakes by reviewing and cleaning inventory to have ready for guests. This is also a good time to remove any items that you are no longer interested in using.

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    1. Dishes, chargers, and paper plates--We can finally use the holiday pattern! 
    2. Silverware and extra cutlery--Hate to say it, but if you use real silver, now is the time to polish
    3. Stemware
    4. Service Ware
    5. Platters and gravy boats
    6. Hors D'oeuvre plates or extra small plates
    7. Napkins--cloth ones may need washed and pressed
    8. Tablecloths and Placemats--may also need laundered
    9. Centerpieces--you may not have these stored, but it is still a good time to plan for them
    10. Candles and candle holders
    11. Punch Bowls
    12. Cheese cutters and condiment knives
    13. Pitchers
    14. Extra salt and pepper shakers
    15. Trivets

      For Good Measure:
    1. This may be the time to clean the oven and microwave
    2. Make sure your large cutting boards are sanitized


    And don't forget, the most important thing to have in your kitchen might be an extra ounce of patience and presence of mind to enjoy being in the moment with family and friends. Now that you have a list, don't be afraid to get everyone involved and delegate tasks. The more we are engaged in the process, the more invested we are in the joy.

    Cheers to you and yours!

  • 14 Nov 2017 4:51 PM | Anonymous

    They've already begun... Black Friday ads, urging us to bust out of our turkey comas during the wee hours the Friday after Thanksgiving (or even Thursday night, before the pumpkin pie has settled in), open our wallets, and buy... lots of stuff.

    The problem is, most of us don't need anything that's for sale on Black Friday (or Cyber Monday, it's more comfortable, order-from-your-couch cousin). Buying things just because they are "on sale" is a recipe for bringing anxiety-inducing clutter into our homes, going into debt, and eventually harming our environment as landfill waste.

    (My only caveat to the anti-Black Friday movement: If you actually need to buy something that's on sale on Black Friday, by all means, go for it! Two years ago I bought my son Reese an electric scooter--his #1 Christmas present request--on Black Friday. I couldn't have justified the cost of this item if it hadn't been on sale. So there, I've shopped on Black Friday and I liked it! Perhaps I should stop writing this post right now...)

    But I would argue that there is a difference between shopping for a specific item and shopping to shop. I urge you: ignore the latter.

    For some people, Black Friday shopping is akin to family bonding. I get it. I've been there. If you have a family shopping tradition, consider a different type of bonding activity this year. Some ideas:

    • have a board game marathon
    • binge-watch a favorite TV series
    • hike a local nature trail
    • bake cookies
    • visit an art museum
    • put up holiday decorations
    • make a craft
    • create an obstacle course in the backyard
    • volunteer to clean up an elderly neighbor's yard
    • lend a collective hand at your local homeless shelter or other charity

    There are truly limitless ways to bond with the fam that don't involve running up credit card debt and adding clutter to your home!

    Another idea: if you want to shop, buy toiletries, socks, underwear, towels, linens, hats, gloves, and winter coats to donate to a local homeless shelter. These are high-need items at all shelters, and this type of shopping adds untold goodness to the world.

    One last type of Thanksgiving weekend shopping that's Rose-approved: Small Business Saturday. Money spent at local mom-and-pop shops stays in local economies, which is good for all of us. It's hard to overspend at these types of shops, as the items are usually more expensive (AKA not made in sweatshops). Plus, you'll find truly unique gifts.

    So, I urge you: let's make Black Friday a little better this year. Find a way to bond with your family that doesn't involve trawling the mall, and if you do shop, shop smart by using your dollars to provide relief to our neediest citizens or to support local businesses.

    If you'd like more tips on how minimalism can add more "thanks" and "giving" into Thanksgiving, watch my recent news segment for Good Day Columbus. 

    I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

    Rose Lounsbury is a minimalism coach, speaker, and author of the Amazon bestseller “Less: Minimalism for Real. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalism coaching company. Rose spends her days writing, helping clients clear their clutter, and soaking up the moments with her husband and their wild triplets. Rose is a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and has been featured on Fox News Good Day Columbus and WDTN Living Dayton. She calls lovely Dayton, Ohio home.  If you’d like to contact Rose for a speaking engagement or help with a minimizing project, you can email her at Rose@RoseLounsbury.com or visit her online at RoseLounsbury.com.

  • 03 Oct 2017 12:50 PM | Janet Jackson


    Does anyone remember the Seinfeld episode when Jerry talks about a rental car company “taking reservations” but not “holding reservations”? That scene is playing in my head as I write this article.

    We all attend meetings. We show up with paper and pen (or tablet and stylus). We listen. We contribute. We even take notes. But then what? What I see so often is that when the meeting ends, so do the thoughts and even worse, any action. Things get written down but may or may not get done. It seems that we “take” notes but we don’t “hold” (or process) our notes. Let me share this profound notion:

    If you take notes and don’t process your notes, there was likely no point in taking them.

    When you return from a meeting, instead of setting those meeting notes aside, take a few minutes to process them. Move any key information or decisions into the best location for recall. Do any quick tasks that might be required of you. Move any action items that require more effort (or your delegated items) to your To Do System. This will ensure you (or your assignee) stays mindful of the assigned items and Things. Get. Done.

    May you have blessings and balance,

    Janet Jackson

    PS If the concept of a single To Do System is foreign to you, send me an email. We need to talk. J

  • 09 Aug 2017 1:10 PM | Janet Jackson

    Things have been a little crazy around here, thus the delay in sending this newsletter. In the last few months, we’ve overhauled my general business site (check it out! www.OrganizationSolutionsLLC.com), continued our monthly Express Trainings, recorded many eLearning sessions, and migrated to this newsletter tool, while also continuing to serve clients and businesses via consulting, training, and speaking.

    And on Thursday, I ran out of gas.

    So, Friday morning, I took some time to pause and reflect: Was I/Organization Solutions, LLC still even heading in the right direction? It is way too easy to get sucked into the demands of it all and keep driving (fast) without looking at the map, watching for the right exit. (That sentence literally occurred to me during my morning of reflection. I knew right then it was going to be my next newsletter.)

    So my question for you: When is the last time you made a pit stop, personally or professionally? When is the last time you paused to reflect if all that you were doing was even what you wanted to be doing? Was all the driving taking you to your desired destination? Or further away from it? For that matter, do you even know your destination? If it’s been awhile, I encourage you to carve out an hour or two and have that internal conversation. (I recommend a journal…you’ll look less crazy.) It might take longer than just one morning; so, do be patient with the process.

    For me, it turns out that I am still headed in the right direction. I just needed to refuel. Whew!

    May you have blessings and balance,

    Janet Jackson



  • 16 Jul 2017 10:44 PM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®

    If you look at what constitutes most piles of stuff or paper, you will likely find 90% of it is unnecessary or no longer useful and one or two things may be something of value. The lonely thing of value tends to be the glue that holds the rest of the useless items together–and useless items tend to proliferate. This is actually how most piles originate and grow. The pile then becomes a source of aggravation rather than a good place to return to find things.

    Furthermore, if you tried to label this pile for longer-term keeping, it could not be described in one category or word. It would likely be called “Miscellaneous.” We seek to eliminate the Miscellaneous Label with clients as they generally represent a mishmash of things that aren’t valuable enough to be categorized. What might seem like a simple fix to store a few unrelated things temporarily becomes just another pile of unfound and unused items.

    As an example, f you were to look inside your miscellaneous paper file, you might find things like a couple kept business cards, loose papers about upcoming events that have passed, an old list of things to do, some receipts, an advertisement with a coupon to your favorite store, a recipe, and the vaccination card for your child’s school records. They have been in a MISC file for months now, and you had to review them again to remember what was placed in this catch-all file. There is one item of value–the vaccination card--that should be filed away in a specific place such as Vital Records for that person. The other items can be managed in other ways or discarded/recycled: the business cards can be entered in your Contacts list and tossed; the recipe can be found online or can be photographed and kept in your favorite digital program i.e.; Evernote; the coupon is likely expired; the to-do list is no longer relevant; and the receipts should be reviewed to see whether any impact taxes or need to be kept for proof of ownership. Most likely the receipts will be eliminated too.

    From this example, you can also create real file categories that might be needed, instead of the MISC label: Contacts, Recipes, Coupons, Receipts, Vital Records, etc. If something is important enough to keep, then it really should be important enough to have a category that won’t create a bottomless, mismatched pile.

    So give it a try–attack one of your miscellaneous stacks and see what you come up with! Start by eliminating what isn’t needed/expired. Then apply categories to the items that remain and assign a better labeled home. Let us know how it went!

  • 23 Jun 2017 8:23 PM | Deleted user

    One of the main services offered at Pixelwinx is custom photo albums and slideshows.  We love putting our creative mojo to work for our clients.  We also get to ‘travel’  along on special trips, celebrations, new babies,  and love captured in their photos.

    That being said, it may surprise you to know that most of the time, Pixelwinx picks out the photos used in creating the albums and slideshows.  This fact is usually met with skepticism by our clients and leads to the #1 question we hear at Pixelwinx.   “How do you know what pictures to include?”

    Usually, the conversation goes like this: 

    Client - “How do you know what photos to choose for albums and/or slideshows?”

    Pixelwinx - We know & we’ve been doing this a while.

    Client - “Really? I don’t have to pick out the pictures?”

    Pixelwinx - Nope.

    Client - “But how do you KNOW?”  

    Pixelwinx - We know.  

    Client - “Really??  How could you possibly  know what pictures I love?”

    By this point we are getting ’that’ look - you know the one where you are trying to be polite but don’t really believe what the other person is saying.  Now when we choose photos for our client’s project it doesn’t mean they are not involved in the process. We have an initial ‘get to know you meet up’, then prepare a few layouts to make sure we are on the right path, use our client’s feedback & make revisions. But we really do choose most of the photos used in the layouts. 

    Kim,  ‘Designer Maven Extraordinaire’ & I talk about this topic often so I decided to interview her about it and share her answers.

    Tamara -  When choosing photos what do you look for when working with client photos?

    Kim -  A good photo creates an emotional response.  It’s so true.

    Tamara -   What do you look for from a design perspective:

    Kim -  I see lots of photos of the same subject and lots of care in the photo taking angle. People in the photo are looking at you while taking the picture.  I also see lots of different angles of the same subject -  horizontal/vertical shots. The quantity of photos taken is also more than other subjects.

    T - What do you consider when creating a custom design for a client?

    Kim  -  I love designs/spreads with the same color palette. If I don’t have enough of one color, I make sure the second spread is in a complimentary palette. Sometimes photos that are not great palettes can be significantly improved by changing to black and white.

    T - How do you handle the huge quantity of photos?

    Kim - I would rather put in one great photo that tells the story than multiple good photos of the same shot.  I’m looking for the photo that tells a story.  The subject is front and center in photo, not a stuck in a corner like a postage stamp.

    T - what do you discover about your clients in their photos?

    K - After we work with a client for a while - we discover their special places, routines, events, vacations - always using the same birthday hat or going to the same beach or lake for year after year.  The photos will include a location where photos are always taken or in front of the same fireplace.

    It’s also fun to see what different families take pictures of - food, swimming in the pool, playing cards with Grandma, or doing puzzles. Families have favorite traditions, vacation spots, love Grandma’s apple pie, sunset or fishing off the dock.

    T  - Do people take good photographs?

    K -  Many people have a good eye for taking photos - whether technically trained or not. Other people - not so much .  It’s all relative.  Just because a photo might not be National Geographic material doesn’t mean they are not special, meaningful and beautiful to that family. Everyone takes photos for a different reason - some people take photos of silly things - like a pineapple or shoe or a tiny fish in the water.  You can’t really see the fish but it represents the moment they are trying to capture. I always look for the items each family takes photos of consistently. Remember the favorite Uncle who never smiles ON PURPOSE?

    T - Do clients have different photographic ’styles’?

    K -  Some clients take lots of posed photos - very formal, proper, dignified, showing the moment. Other clients are more about movement, running, action, capturing the story, thru their creative side.

    T - Is it different selecting photos for client’s books than your own personal albums?

    K - While we love to see your photos and often get emotional viewing them, we are not emotionally attached to the people or places in the photos. That helps us more easily select photos while still experiencing your people as our people & get a glimpse of special moments of love, family & traditions. If I limit the photos to the good ones, I’m more likely to remember the details - because you are putting your camera away and actually participating & investing in the memory vs capturing it or the photo.   Most of our parents were learning how to use a snap & shoot camera & the photos show that but they still capture life. Unless you were a photographer with a darkroom, photography was sort of a crap shoot.  You got what you got when you picked them up at the Drug Store. You learned as you went & no matter what some folks always had a finger showing up in the picture;).

    We’ve learned how to take MANY photographs but still not necessarily good ones.  The photos we take now are about documenting EVERY SINGLE MOMENT.  There is less care in picture taking because we can delete the bad photos, except we rarely do. Many of us never even print the photos. Our kids know how to take pictures & document every single second but have no interest in saving the photos or printing them.

    Several of our clients have kids who have begun to ask for books about their lives - like an antique  - because they are not familiar with the printed page or photo albums to look through. YIKES! Kids want to see themselves at different ages, hold the book in their hand, talk about the stories.   Books capture their stories, growing up & don’t need any special technology.  

    I’ve been trying to put this into words for a long time and one day I was listening to an audio book by Brené Brown.   She was discussing her research & used the phrase “data with a soul”. AH HA!  That finally captured how special photos are to us.  Pictures are ‘pixels with a soul’.  They mean more than just the people, paper, or places in them. They have a soul. Now if we can start to take back control over the quantity, filter out the good ones to share, talk about the memories, we can create & preserve our "data with a soul”  forever

  • 25 May 2017 9:47 PM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®

    Travel is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but getting ready to take a trip can be stressful!  Being organized with travel lists can take the stress out of your preparation.

    These three types of travel lists should be comprehensive enough to encompass all things travel: Pre-Travel Tasks, Packing List, and Vacation Activities. We always recommend using an electronic device to create and store lists (instead of paper).  And we give double points to those who sync the action items from the list to their digital calendars!

    Pre-Travel tasks that can be accomplished well in advance of your trip include:

    • making pet arrangements
    • booking transport to and from the airport
    • stopping mail (most zip codes can do this online) 
    • pausing any home services
    • arranging childcare if necessary
    • paying bills that will be due while away
    • filling necessary prescription
    • gathering passports and travel documents. If you print boarding passes and the like, you can do this well in advance as well

    For packing, we find that  separate lists for clothing and for toiletries is most helpful. Pack away the items that you can early, leaving only the outfit and toiletries that you need up to departure day. For toiletries, remember there are limitations to liquids and other personal care items. Think travel size! Consider also the potential for shipping clothing and necessities to your destination. This can be a safe alternative to checking bags and can reduce hassles at the airport.

    Now, while you are on vacation, is there a once in a lifetime experience awaiting you?  Make sure it is not sold out by doing some research and planning before leaving home. Booking excursions and making reservations ahead of time ensures your good time, helps you manage your vacation calendar, and keeps you from “working” to have a good time while you are away.

    A word to the wise, travel experts recommend that you not post your travel information or destination locations on social media until you are home. This could help prevent any potential crimes here or there.

    Happy travel preparations!

  • 01 Apr 2017 12:12 PM | Olive Wagar (Administrator)

    Thrifty Organizing Solutions

    It doesn’t have to be expensive to be organized! I enjoy looking through books and magazines for clever and practical organizing ideas. However, I hardly ever go with the most expensive option. Seeing those pictures helps me to visualize new possibilities. Then I challenge myself to create a similar effect with a thrifty alternative.

    My all-time favorite book of ideas is Country Living’s The Little Book of Big Decorating Ideas: 287 Clever Tips, Tricks, and Solutions. Each page is a full color photo of simple ideas that make a big difference! I even managed to find a used copy of the book after I had checked it out of the library multiple times.

    Some of their great ideas include:

    #16—skateboards used as wall shelves

    #33—old ladder used as a towel rack

    #47—metal tray used as a message board

    #51—stepstool used as a side table

    #62—stack of vintage suitcases used for storage

    #85—fruit crates used as wall shelves

    #264—shadowbox filled with prize ribbons

    Sometimes I simply notice what items are available at less expensive stores. It gives me the opportunity to try out an organizing solution without making a major investment. Sometimes I upgrade to a better version, but often the cheaper item solves the problem.

    Here are just a few of the useful items I have discovered:


    drawer dividers; plastic dish pans; cubical bins


    clear shoe, sweater, or file boxes; decorated storage boxes


    wreath storage box; wire baskets; 10 drawer file cart


    12 pocket vertical organizer; 24 pocket door shoe organizer;

    cubical shelves; free standing clothing racks

    I do enjoy browsing at The Container Store! It would be quite easy to spend a lot here.  However, I can say without hesitation that my favorite lower priced item is their crystal clear drawer dividers made by Inter-Design. They instantly upgrade any drawer to fabulous and add a simple touch of luxury. I have used them in my kitchen for utensils and in my vanity for jewelry.

    I was helping my brother organize a small bedroom closet a few weeks ago. The closet rod was simply too high and rather awkward to use. We found a free standing clothing rack at Wal-Mart that was perfect. It even included 4 shelves on the side and a shelf across the top. The bonus was the note on the box that mentioned no tools required for assembly! And less than $40! It actually transformed his closet. He can enjoy this simple solution every single day. As he put it, “I actually like using this!”

    Don’t rush out to get the most expensive “must have” organizing item. Take time to reuse or recycle items you already have. Be willing to try a different solution. Enjoy the challenge of thrifty organizing!

    Olive Wagar

    The Compassionate Organizer


  • 16 Mar 2017 4:07 PM | Janet Jackson

    Since Daylight Savings doesn’t really save any daylight, here are some tips that really will help you save some time every day…

    • ·         Do just one thing at a time. There’s a lot of time - and energy - wasted by going back and forth between tasks.
    • ·         Set a timer and focus. Focus on that one thing while the timer is running. When the time is up, get up and take a quick walk even if it’s just around your desk. You’ll feel like you made some progress and will be refreshed to continue or start on the next task.
    • ·         Check email on your terms. Instead of letting emails constantly interrupt you, turn off the automatic notification alert and choose when you will check and process emails.

    In Outlook versions 2010 and later,
    1.       Click on the File Tab and select Options
    2.       On the Mail tab, go to the Message Arrival section and remove all check marks
    3.       Click OK

    May you have blessings & balance,

    Janet Jackson



  • 30 Jan 2017 2:39 PM | Cathy Van Volkenburg CPO®

    2017 – Let’s Get Organized!


    Certified Professional Organizer

    Cathy Van Volkenburg CPO®

    With 2017 in full swing, many people put “Getting Organized” at the top of their list.  It is exciting to find inspiration on Pinterest , houzz and other fun websites. As a Certified Professional Organizer and Design Consultant for The Container Store, let me give you one big piece of advice as you begin your project. Don’t go to the stores and buy containers and bins first! Many people are tempted to buy pretty storage containers and all kinds of cool looking products before they begin the process of organizing. Save purchasing until the very end of the process for the best results.

    Steps to Maximize Efficiency in Any Space:

    • What is the end goal? Less stuff? Quicker Identification?
    • Gather Like Items together
    • Sort and Purge:  Duplicates? Unloved items? Broken items, ill-fitting clothing? Donate, trash or sell!
    • Create Zones for Remaining Items: Every day items get front and center stage, less used go high or low
    • Containerize – bins for out of season, bins for loose items like socks, shoe boxes for less frequently worn items. Buckets for toys…
    • Evaluate and maintain

    Only after you have gathered like items together can you possibly make decisions on what you have. When your 35 silk blouses are together in a category, and you notice that 12 of them are black, you may want to donate 6 of them that you never wear! Suddenly you only need space for 23 blouses instead of 35.  Now you are on the right track for maximizing efficiency based on what items are serving your lifestyle right now.  Good job!  Now treat yourself to some pretty products that will make your space attractive and easier to maintain.

    This process applies to pantries, kid’s toy areas, garages and more!  AFTER you have gone through the above process, you will be able to purchase containers that make sense for the quantities that will be stored. 

    Final tip for maintaining the system you have worked hard to organize:  Use clear containers so you can see what is inside OR use LABELS so you can find what you need in a snap!

    My favorite labels: Smead Poly Pockets


     Use blank business cards for labels that can be changed easily and seen from a distance! Comes in many sizes! Stick ‘em on and go! Find what you need quickly- save time!

    Cathy Van Volkenburg CPO®

    Accent on Organizing

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