Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

We think we are easy to buy for, our list of needs is a mile long. Unfortunately, our family doesn’t quite see it that way. So unless you want to end up with a new set of dish towels and flowers, not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s best to take matters into your own hands.

You can create a gift registry and email the list (option will appear when you set-up the list) to your husband or simply send him a link to the registry search page.

Here are my recommendations by personality type:

Techie Mom: This mom wouldn’t be caught dead without her iPad. Her 2 year old is having trouble looking at board books because he swipes to turn the page. It’s difficult to locate paper in this house as grocery lists, schedules and recipes are all on the computer.

The Techie Mom would love an iPad or iPhone Cover, Crazy Keys USB or a Jane Marvel Metro Tote.

On-The-Go Mom: For this mom home has 4 wheels and sliding doors. She spends her days commuting, carpooling or driving to the airport. For her the term family dinner is when everyone eats their drive-through meal in the car at the same time. Between work, soccer, football and dance there just isn’t time for a meat and potatoes dinner.

The On-The-Go Mom would enjoy a Commuter Mug or Drink Tumbler. If she travels via air try a Jane Marvel Zip Pouch filled with luxe travel size toiletries. A Bungalow Trunk is also a great gift and will keep the back of the mini-van organized.

Organizer Mom: In this mom’s home or office everything has a place and everything is in its place. You’ll never find a junk drawer in this mom’s kitchen and her child’s legos are always sorted.

The Organizer Mom would love a Pehr Canvas Basket, Bungalow Rump Roost Medium or Large, or Chewing the Cud Canvas Storage. No need to hide this storage away. These items lend style to any room while concealing clutter.

PTA Mom: The PTA Mom (A.K.A. Team Mom) only puts down her clip board or notepad long enough to shower. She’s at her best in a group of unruly children or moms.

The PTA Mom would love a set of Dylan’s Combo Highlighter Pens with a Mucho Spiral Notebook or have her upgrade her look by swapping out that clipboard for a Semikolon or Bella Leather Portfolio.

Still Confused? You’ll find that a Lucky Minimergency Kit or a Minimergency Kit for Mom is a welcome and useful gift for any mom on your list.

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Posted in Business Gifting | 0

Organize Your Financial Records

Ugh, I just barely made it through tax time sane and sober and now I’m writing about it. Most people make New Year’s Resolutions; this year I made tax time resolutions. You know the kind, I’m going to keep my receipts organized, I’ll enter everything into Quicken and maybe, just maybe I’ll stick to my clothing budget.

I’m supposed to be an expert organizer so you may be wondering why the subject of financial organization has me stressed out. Well, I have a good reason (at least it seems like a good excuse, um reason to me). I moved twice in two years and one of those moves was cross-country. Prior to this, I had lived in the same house for 12 years. When you move, your organizing systems inevitably change. That once convenient spot for keeping bills to pay is suddenly not convenient in the new house. And in my newest house, my home office is the furthest room from the mailbox. Bills and receipts began to accumulate on the stairs, just hoping for a kind soul to drop them in their spot on the desk upstairs. It didn’t happen. I have teenagers and although I love them at this stage in their lives they’re souls are not very kind. So my bills and receipts didn’t make it upstairs and as I sat down to prepare for taxes I was completely and utterly overwhelmed. What should have taken an hour took an entire Saturday. I created the Financial Organizer and wrote the content, what happened to me?

I resolved to get organized so this doesn’t happen again next year. Here is what I did:

Created a designated incoming paper zone by hanging wall pockets inside the hall closet. This was as close to the front door and incoming mail as I could possibly get. Having your paperwork sorting center as close to the source of paperwork as possible eliminates any detours on the kitchen counter or other available surface. I don’t like to see bills and paperwork so I hung the wall pockets inside the closet.

I labeled the wall pockets. Bills, Medical, To Do, To File and School. It’s tempting to just get the bins in place, but if you don’t follow through with labeling you will very quickly have a disaster on your hands. Plus if you want your family to help, you will need labels. Keep your system as simple as possible. For some people to pay, to do and to file is enough.

Here is how I organized my financial records specifically:

In the bills wall pocket I keep my Financial Organizer. As bills come in I slip them into the pocket for the month they are due. I also collect receipts in here. When I sit down to pay bills each month I keep the paid bills in the pocket and place tax related receipts into the tax records pocket.

If a receipt needs to be kept for other purposes I make a copy. For example your car registration may be tax-deductable, but you may also want a copy in your auto file. If you buy a new printer for your business you may want a copy of the receipt with the manual for warranty purchases and a copy in your Financial Organizer for taxes. Make copies when you pay your bills and resist the urge to simply file the receipt. Anything tax related should stay in the Financial Organizer.

At year-end I’ll toss paid bills, like the water bill for example. If you take a home office deduction you may need to save copies of all your utility bills, you should check with your CPA first. You should also keep bank and credit card statements. Keep them sorted by month in the Organizer.

Once my tax return is done I’ll slip it into the Financial Organizer as well. There is a pocket specially made for it. In case of an audit I’ll have everything I need in one handy location.

With all the extra time I have because I’m so organized I think I’ll go shopping, I can’t be expected to keep all the tax time resolutions….

 

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Posted in Financial Organization, Home Office, Organize Your... | 2

3rd Annual Stationery Trends Awards

Our first appearance in the Trendy Awards! We need your help! Click on the link and “like” our product! Round one voting ends March 19th.

www.stationerytrendys.com

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Posted in Uncategorized | 1

Make Your Own….Pencil Cup

Over the summer I enjoyed a Martha Stewart Living article about shell art. I’ve always been a fan of beach décor, not kitschy beach themed accents, just simple furniture and accessories that remind me of summer.

Inspired by that article, I attempted some shell art for my office. Here is the end result:

and another

Want to Make Your Own?

BUY

•  Clear glass vase(s) from a hobby thrift store. These were very inexpensive less than $5 each.

•  Bag of miniature shells from the hobby store.

•  Starfish from the hobby store or a shell shop if you live by the beach.

•  Twine

TOOLS

•  Glue Gun

To make the starfish pencil cup simply wrap the twine around the cup.  Make sure that the front overlaps to build up the twine, tie off in the front.  Place a large amount of hot glue on the area where the twine overlaps and is tied off. Attach the starfish.  Even people that don’t consider themselves handy can tackle this DIY project. Super simple.

The shell pencil cup will take a little more time and patience, but not much more skill. Start at the bottom place the hot glue, about an inch at a time, and add the shells in a row.  Do one row at a time so that you can be sure it lines up.  Don’t worry about extra glue it gives it a shiny look that I didn’t mind. You can use needle-nose pliers to place the shells if that makes it easier.

I loved the shell pencil cup so much I made more to use as candle holders.  The shells look amazing with the glow from a lit candle.  Just remember, unless you’ve achieved a paperless office keep the candles at home.

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Posted in Home Office, Make Your Own..., Office Style | 5

Guest Stylist The Chestnut Orange

I thought it would be fun to have a guest stylist. Nicole Crowder, of The Chestnut Orange, caught my eye several months back. I’m a sucker for great photography and this blog has it. I asked Nicole if she would be interested in an office makeover. The deal was that I would provide the products and she would provide the styling. I didn’t provide any input on her product selection, she was the office stylist and this is her turn to be a “Jane”. I wasn’t sure how some of the patterns and colors she requested would look together, but she has great taste. The end result is nothing short of amazing! Her office makeover proves that an affordable, stylish, compact home office is possible.

Here is Nicole and her finished office:


Don’t worry the label is removable, she just left it on for the picture.

Here is a little about Nicole in her own words:

“Hi, my name is Nicole, and I’m a freelance food and portrait photographer and excitable thrift store seeker living in Washington D.C. I’m also a contributing photographer for two design and local lifestyle organizations: AIGA-DC and ReadySetD.C.

I’m a bit of a foodie with a borderline obsessive love for bread pudding and mac n’ cheese. (I’m trying to curtail this; failing miserably). You can most likely find me around town collecting vintage cameras or trying a new restaurant with my boyfriend, reading in the corner of a bookstore, or zipping around on my bicycle, affectionately named Andy. And of course, running my little labor of love, a multifaceted blog called The Chestnut Orange where I share everything from new music discoveries to recipes, fashion, and art and design. I love sharing the sweet things in life with people, and collaborating on great projects that are fulfilling.”

About The Blog:

The Chestnut Orange is a blog about all things “Sweet. Lovely. Bright.” I started blogging in 2007 as a way to combat a period of unemployment, and it was a great way to share little finds I was coming across via the internet or everyday interactions with people and stores. The Chestnut Orange is about spotlighting what’s new, what’s timeless, what’s vintage and inspiring and positive. The blog has been a great platform for discovering new music, food, design, friends in the online community, and my hope is to continue creating a warm, colorful space where people can always expect beautiful imagery and a friendly voice.”

A big thank-you to Nicole for this amazing office makeover. With talent like this she might have to guest style at our next photo shoot. If I can get her down to Florida maybe I can find out where she got that amazing scarf, and the earrings, and the necklace and the cushion on her office chair, and….[sigh]

Here are the products she used:

1. See Jane Work for Office Depot Dot Magazine File $6.74

2. See Jane Work for Office Depot Striped Magazine File available at most Office Depot stores. $6.74

3. See Jane Work for Office Depot Striped Stacking Desk Tray available at most Office Depot stores. $5.24

4. See Jane Work for Office Depot Striped Pencil Cup available at most Office Depot stores. $2.99

5. Thomas Paul Notepad Set $20.00

6. Susy Jack Pencil Cup $10.00

7. Jonathan Adler Pen $19.00

8. Knock Knock File Folders $9.00

What do you think?

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Posted in Office Organization, Office Style | 1

Organize Your….Meeting Notes

You thought your note taking days were over when you graduated; little did you know that you would be taking pen to paper for the rest of your life. Whether you end up in a corporate boardroom, the PTA or on a family reunion planning committee you’ll likely be forced to endure meetings.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that the only thing worse than a meeting is another meeting to discuss everything you forgot in the first meeting.

At this point you might be wondering whether this applies to you.  Is it really that difficult to write down what you hear?  The answer is yes.  In fact there have been numerous studies on effective note taking; The Cornell Note Taking System was based on such research.  Although these studies and systems have been directed at students, their recommendations offer valuable techniques for taking notes and retaining information whether it’s in a classroom or a boardroom.

I’ve been working since I was 15 years old and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to meet and observe the work habits of many successful people, one trait they share is the ability to recall information.  To write this post I sat down with several successful business women.  I asked them to show me their meeting notes and asked about their note taking methods.

Here are some basics:

Record notes in the same place whether it’s notes about a phone call, a meeting with your child’s teacher or a meeting at work.  Most people I spoke with have one notebook that they keep with them at all times.  They also hold onto their old notebooks for reference, not indefinitely usually about six months to a year.

Some women used composition style notebooks, others prefer spiral bound and some prefer pads in portfolios.

Here are some examples:

The women I interviewed don’t use divided notebooks they just keep all notes in chronological order, but if you’re involved in many different activities it might help to keep one notebook, but divide it into sections using Semikolon’s Sticky Tab Dividers.

Here is an example:

The Cornell Note Taking System recommends leaving a margin of approximately 2.5 inches on the left side of your paper. In that margin they recommend recording key ideas and facts for review.  For meetings you could use that margin to note follow-up or other important issues or action.

Here is an example:

Some women I spoke with don’t use the margin method instead they highlight or star action items.

Here is an example:

Review notes as soon as possible after the meeting. Enter due dates into your calendar or task management program. Add additional information where notes seem unclear.  The sooner you do this the more likely it is that you will remember details that you may have forgotten to write down.

If there is a printed meeting agenda it’s tempting to record notes on the agenda rather than in your notebook. Resist the temptation.  If you are using a full-size notebook you can attach the agenda to a page in your notebook.

Here is an example:

Otherwise simply copy agenda points into your notebook as you cover each topic.

Start each day with a numbered task list. Carry the list over from the previous day.  Pull tasks from your prior day’s meeting and add to the list.

Here is an example:

Here are some additional quick tips:

1. Try to just write down important points, if you try to write everything you hear you will fail.

2. Develop your own shorthand. Abbreviate commonly used words, names and phrases.  One person I spoke with records initials rather than full names.

3. If possible, stop the meeting and ask for clarification if you have a question or missed an action item.

4. Leave space between points.  If the meeting is informal you may jump back and forth between topics and will need to add additional information or clarification.

5. If it’s your job to record notes for the group send out an email with the typed notes as soon as possible. Record action items by person responsible at the top of the page, don’t forget to include due dates.  Ask the other participants to confirm that the notes are correct.

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Posted in Office Organization, Organize Your... | 1

Join Me At The ltdLive Conference

Pardon me for straying from my usual blog post content, but I needed to let you know about an exciting event that I will be attending, it’s ltdLive in Pasadena on February 1st and 2nd.

If you’ve started a business or are thinking about starting a business you won’t want to miss this event.  Get all your start-up questions answered and meet other women who share your passion.  I’ll be part of a panel on February 1st and would love to meet you. So if you can make it please pull me aside to say hi!

Here are the details:

To sign up or for additional information, including the complete list of participating speakers, visit www.ltd365live.com.

Can’t make it?  Don’t worry you can join me (@seejaneworkbuzz), Britt Michaelian (@MamaBritt) and Liz Dennery Sanders (@SheBrandLiz) for an ltdLive (@ltdlive) Twitter Chat (#ltdlive).  We’ll be talking about building your brand. It’s January 26th, that’s tomorrow, at 11 am PST or 2 pm EST.  You’ll even get an opportunity to ask questions.  Don’t miss it.

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Posted in Holly Bohn-Weiss | 0

Making Sense of Color Trends

Yes, yes, I’ve heard.  The Pantone color of the year is Tangerine Tango, shown below in case your internet has been down for the last few months and you have no idea what I’m talking about.

But what does this mean???  Does it mean you need to incorporate this color into your wardrobe in order to be stylish?  Does it mean you need to repaint a wall in your home or buy orange throw pillows for the couch? Don’t freak out just yet.  You are still stylish and trendy even if you hate the color orange.

Personally, I love it.  I can’t wear safety cone orange, but I can wear peach.  As for décor, the blue and orange color combination is one of my favorites.  As an orange lover I’m not too worried about the color of the year.  As a designer it’s a little irritating because it’s all I hear about. Can’t every color have a color of the year?  Why can’t they forecast the most popular shade of blue, green and orange?

I don’t have all the answers (just ask my husband).   And if you remember from past posts, designing is my second career, my first was as an accountant, but what I do know is that personal preference doesn’t change every year.  In fact, I don’t know a single person who has chosen their favorite color based on a trend forecast.  When I break down website product sales by color it’s about the same every year, no matter what the trend.

So don’t worry, buy whatever color you like.  Just know that orange accessories will be easy to find in 2012 so if you like orange or have wanted to experiment with it in your office or home this is the time to find it.

Brown and orange is a great choice for the office.  It has a luxe feel thanks to a well-known brand that shall remain nameless for legal reasons (but has orange bags and is completely out of my budget). Here is an example of a brown and orange home office.

Another office color combination I love is blue and orange.  Here is an example from a back issue of Martha Stewart Living. Spray paint an inexpensive plastic tape dispenser to the get the same look as the one in the photo.

So what do you think about the color of the year?

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Posted in Home Office, Office Style | 4

Time Management With I Heart Organizing’s Jennifer Jones

The whole blogging craze has me feeling a little inadequate. Not a “go out and buy a Corvette” kind of inadequate.  It’s the girl kind, you know the “she does it better” inadequate.  I visit great blogs, like I Heart Organizing and see entire homes that are both stylish and organized.  I don’t know about you, but when I finish one room it seems like another room has managed to come undone.  How do other women find the time? Well, I decided to ask the lovely Jennifer Jones of I Heart Organizing.

Holly Bohn-Weiss: I wanted to interview you because I think you’ve done such a great job of combining style and organization, especially considering you are a busy mother and blogger. I love the transformations in your house. What’s your favorite room?

Jennifer Jones: My living room.  It’s this vibrant green color that makes me smile whenever I walk in the room.  We spend most of our time there.  It’s the room I’m completely done with—one of the only rooms I can say that about.

HBW: Is your house always perfect?

JJ:I’m glad you asked that.  I get asked that a lot.  We are a family of 5 in a house that isn’t very big so a mess can look like a mess pretty quickly, but because we have so many systems in place we can also get it cleaned up quickly.  It’s lived in for sure.  I do show some pictures of it messy.

HBW: People ask me about my desk all the time.  “Is this really what your desk looks like?” No, of course not!  Trust me, people only think they want to see it messy.  A photo should be pretty.  On the subject of photography, who does your photography?

JJ: I do.

HBW: Are you professionally trained?

JJ: No

HBW: That’s amazing! You have great photography.  I would never know. I’ve been at a lot of photo shoots with highly trained photographers and your photography can compare.

JJ: Thank you. I am taking a photography class.  I just adjust my shutter speeds.

HBW: Impressive

JJ: [laugh]

HBW: Did you grow up with organized parents?

JJ: They were pretty average.  My mom and grandmother are collectors.  They have a hard time letting go and purging and I see that when I visit.  Growing up my stepdad would give me a garbage bag to clean out my room every couple months.

HBW: Were you always organized through the years?

JJ: I noticed it in high school when I would organize my backpack. Also I worked in life insurance and I managed a team so I had to be pretty organized. I worked 60 hours a week and commuted one hour each way between work and as a mother of three I had to be organized.

HBW: So that’s what you did preblog days?

JJ: Yeah, then it just got to be too much.  When I first stayed at home I would watch other kids.  That’s when I started blogging.  Then blogging started taking up too much time and I had to stop doing the daycare.

HBW: I see that you use binders a lot.  Do you use them for the business side of things as well?

JJ: I do.  Binders work best for me.  I can find exactly what I’m looking for without having to dig through a file.  I only use files for archive items, like tax returns or for the kids’ school stuff. I mostly use binders or go paperless.

HBW: Does paperless make you nervous?

JJ: I like that I can easily retrieve things online.  There is some risk that you have to manage.  We keep extremely important documents off site in a safety deposit box.

HBW: Do you have a backup system for your computer?

JJ: We have an external backup and are researching online backup systems.

HBW: Once you put a system in place do you ever find the need to fine tune it or redo it?

JJ: Yes, My projects are always evolving as I’m learning or being inspired.

HBW: When are you most inspired? Walking the aisles of stores? Middle of the night? Reading magazines?

JJ: I find inspiration everywhere, magazines were one of the places I turned first, but now the blog world has changed all of that.  There are so many amazing, creative and inspiring blogs.  I also love Pinterest and walking through stores like IKEA.

HBW: How do you balance work and motherhood?

JJ: There are days that are hard to juggle.  I’m growing faster than I anticipated—so managing all the emails, working with sponsors, giveaways and my Etsy shop is a lot.  There have been moments when I’m overwhelmed.  I have to chunk out my day and turn it all off when my family is home.  I work when they are sleeping or at school.

HBW: When did you start officially?

JJ: September 2009

HBW: Wow, you’ve grown so quickly.

JJ: I was featured on Young House Love soon after I started blogging.  The social networking, the Facebooking and a lot of other blog features contributed to my growth.  I also get a lot of traffic from Pinterest.

HBW: From your Pinterest?

JJ: No, I don’t upload my own work. My readers pin from my blog and then it gets repined.  It’s been amazing.

HBW: Do you teach your kids to be organized?

JJ: I work with all of them on being organized.  We have chore charts that help. We also stay on top of them and have them pick up when they are done.  The biggest thing I do is communicate that when we all work together or have a place for everything we have more time together as a family. My oldest son does have some organizing trouble. My husband crashed [décor blog lingo for a surprise visit] his desk at school and it was a total mess.

HBW: You better work on him he’s going to give you a bad rap.

JJ: [laugh] He just doesn’t have that organizing bug. They’re all so different.

HBW: How do you manage your time? Do you really turn it all off? Do you have a smart phone?

JJ: I do and it’s really tempting to go look when I hear the ding of a new email.  I’m getting better about ignoring those sounds.  There are so many things that make it easy to get sucked in, which is not fair to anyone.  I’m reading emails, but not taking action. Then I read the same emails again later so no one ends up getting my undivided attention, my readers or my kids.

HBW: What do you do during family time?

JJ: We have a thousand games, we play games even at dinner.  We’re never home during the summer, we’re traveling—going to parks, movies, relatives’ homes.

HBW:  I always feel like such a bad mom so I’m going off track here with this family time stuff. I’m trying to figure out if I can redeem myself.  What are all these games? This sounds like something I can do.

JJ: [laugh] Monopoly, a family dinner board game, a dice game.

HBW: I’m going straight to the store to load up my cart with games.  The only hard part will be actually making the time to play them. Do you schedule family time? 

JJ: I used to write it into my planner and now we just do it.

HBW: Do you schedule time for exercise? What things do you write in your planner? 

JJ: I usually record appointments and things the kids need for school. I’m not good about personal time. The blog ends up being my personal time.  Being a mom I’m not good about making time for myself.

HBW: Working moms sometimes get a rough deal because our family counts our work time as our free time.  When I get home from a business trip my husband wants to hand the kids over.  Speaking of husbands, do you schedule time with your husband?

JJ: Yes we do, his family is great for babysitting so we can go out.  Our DIY projects are our time together or we play games after the kids go to bed.  We spend a lot of time together with the blog.

HBW: Do you use a digital or written calendar?

JJ: I write it down.  I tried to go digital and didn’t like it.  I’m old school—I use a planner write everything down. I take it with me everywhere.  I use an Erin Condren planner. Everything she makes is personalized.

HBW: Do you use a wall calendar for your kids?

JJ: We have something newer we are using.  I’m getting schedules—I’ll be blogging about this in the future—every kid has their own schedule—I put their chores in there and their obligations for school, schedules, etc.  They stay the same from week to week.  I just put them in a frame.  My husband and I look at them every week.  They have their own calendar/chore chart. Combining it all into one place has helped simplify the process.

HBW: Do you often find yourself refining and redoing processes?

JJ: With every major life change my husband and I have rehashed what is working and not working and try to problem solve some of that stuff. Like when I started daycare or when I started blogging full-time. Every life change forces us to take a step back and reevaluate, but there are some things that evolve on their own.

HBW: It sounds like you guys communicate well.

JJ: I’m an over communicator.  We talk about the schedule—who will do what.  Do we need to schedule time away? We have a Sunday pow-wow. My husband is such a big help.  I look at single moms and I don’t know how they do it.

HBW: This is all really great advice for families trying to balance life and work. I really struggle with balance in my life.

JJ: The time-management thing is something I struggle with as well.  It’s something I don’t feel like I do well.  I don’t take time for myself.  I recently had to stop taking on clients.  My goal in 2012 is to not be so burned out.  This year I’m going to learn to say no.

HBW: That has to be really hard to turn away work?

JJ: I was a “yes” girl.  I wouldn’t turn away work.  It’s hard to go back to posting 4 days a week instead of 5. It’s hard to say I can’t make labels. My youngest is still home a half-day.  The number of hours in a day just isn’t enough.

HBW: Switching gears again. What are some hot stylish organizing projects on your list?

JJ: We have a big wall in our kitchen that I want to take down to better use the space we have in our kitchen living room area.  I think it could be a more functional space—easier to watch the kids—better storage—better flow.  We’ve been putting some pennies away and hope this is the year it will happen.

HBW:  Do you have magazine tears you save for inspiration? 

JJ: I have Pinterest.  I’ve pinned so many inspirational kitchens. I can pin pictures that have the traits I’m looking for.  Then I show my husband the commonalities.  If I show my husband pictures he gets it.

HBW: Do your kids have to make their beds in the morning?

JJ: No they don’t. I gave up.  It’s a time-management issue and it just wasn’t worth it.

HBW: Oh finally I feel better.

JJ: [laugh] 80-90% of the population doesn’t make their beds in the morning. It’s all so much work.

HBW: Any SJW products on your wish list? [You can’t blame a girl for trying.]

JJ: I go to your website all the time.  It’s so pretty and I love the bright colors, the stacking boxes. 

HBW: Our new storage collection will be here soon.  We will even have binders to match the See Jane Work Basics.

JJ: Everything I can put in a box I will put in a box.

HBW: That’s the perfect ending to this interview.  A great organizing tip for any space—put it in a box!

Jennifer is in the process of creating a new home office in her basement.  While I eagerly await pictures of that completed space, I’ll share her current “closet” home office to inspire you.

Click here to visit Jennifer’s blog I Heart Organizing.

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Posted in Home Office, Office Style, Time-Management | 8

Kitchen Counter Clutter, An Interview With Melissa Picheny

Holly Bohn-Weiss: How did you get started?

Melissa Picheny:I had a natural desire to help friends and family get organized. I found that once they could let go of old habits they were able to move forward with their lives.

HBW: That’s a really profound observation, we could probably stop now [smile], but I have too many questions. Were your parents organized? Were you organized growing up?

MP: My mom was very organized, but my dad would hold onto things. My room was pretty organized, but I placed an emotional attachment to everything I owned. After moving to the city [NYC] and into a tiny apartment there was one weekend that I was stuck in my apartment and surrounded by my stuff. There was a particular moment that I was staring at all of my stuff and I began evaluating my things, questioning my reasons for holding onto them and it was a life-changing moment. It started with tossing just one item, but once I started letting go of these “things”, it felt so good I kept going. I spent the weekend going through my entire apartment and donating or tossing what I no longer needed. That process definitely changed me; helped me grow up. I loved the way I felt and I knew I wanted to help others have that same feeling of letting go.

HBW: When did you actually start organizing as a business?

MP: In 2004. I started doing it part-time for two years, while I was working as a TV Producer. It was a natural transition because producing has a similar skill-set to organizing. You have to be able to visualize the end result and all the little steps it takes to get there.

HBW: So you were a TV Producer and organizing on evenings and weekends? You must be organized. I’ve known people in production and that is one crazy busy job. I don’t know how you did it. Those are two very demanding jobs.

MP: The word lazy is not in my vocabulary. [Laugh]

HBW: Obviously! Were you scared to leave your “real” job?

MP: Not really. I had this blind faith that it was going to work out. Kind of like when you first fall in love.

HBW: That’s such a great analogy. I imagine that most entrepreneurs experience that same feeling or they wouldn’t take the leap.

MP: I have been very fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of encouragement from friends and family; my parents were really supportive. I also took a very methodical approach to starting the business. During the two years I still had my other job I was building the business on the side. I saved money, created a business plan, and networked. By the time I took the leap to organize full-time I had enough organizing clients and booked my first staging job.

HBW: So would you consider yourself a type A personality? Do you think all organizers are?

MP: When I saw that you were going to ask this question I went and looked it up. I realized that if I’m looking it up then I am Type A.

HBW: [Laugh] That’s going to be the gold standard now for assessing whether or not someone is Type A. So now we know you’re Type A, but what about Type C. Everyone tells me I’m Type C, which stands for crazy because I’m not only obsessed with organization, but I’m obsessed with closets and storage being perfect—you know matching containers and labeling.

MP: [Laugh] No I’m not like that at all. If you’re too perfect it will make you crazy. I tell my clients that on a daily basis not everything has to be in its perfect place; it’s not realistic. You have to be able to live and enjoy life. I tell my clients they are successfully organized if they can put it all away within 30-60 min. Let’s say someone calls to say they are stopping by, if you feel comfortable having them come over because you can get everything in its place, then you’ve reached the goal.

HBW: You have so many great one-liners. That’s a great way to assess personal organization. It’s ok to have stuff out, but can you put it away quickly when you need to? I want to ask you a million more questions, but I better get to the subject matter. Have you ever struggled with kitchen counter clutter?

MP: No

HBW: Really, never—that’s annoying I thought everyone did. Is it a major problem for your clients?

MP: It’s a big problem.

HBW: Is it a problem for people with kids or everyone? I like to blame my kids for all my problems so I’m just checking.

MP: Many people struggle with kitchen counter clutter-or KCC as I like to call it-whether they’re single, married or have kids.

HBW: KCC, I’m using your buzzword for Kitchen Counter Clutter, was a struggle for me because my kitchen is very visible from anywhere in the house and I didn’t want ugly organizing stuff all over the counter. Have you had this same concern from clients?

MP: Clutter is debilitating no matter where it is. It just happens in the kitchen because it’s a home base; it’s where most people use as a dumping ground for all of the “stuff’ that comes into their home.

HBW: You work in NYC and with the popularity of the TV Show Selling New York I think everyone wants to know if the people in those luxurious 5th Avenue apartments have a problem with clutter.

MP: I work in those apartments all the time. Kitchen Counter Clutter is not a financial issue; it’s a time-management issue.

HBW: So the only difference with those clients is they have the space for a dedicated area in their kitchen and can afford to build custom cabinets to your specifications?

MP: Yes [laugh]

HBW: I’m jealous. Is there one system you recommend or do you come up with a new plan for each client?

MP: I create an individual plan for each client so there is no one method. You have to consider someone’s personality and schedule before creating their system. The one commonality is teaching them to make this a priority, to better manage their time and to learn to deal with things immediately rather than putting them off.

HBW: Without giving away your trade secrets can you tell us what steps someone should take to come up with a plan?

MP: Set aside time. Evaluate incoming paperwork. Make rules. Set locations.

HBW: Can you give me an example of a rule?

MP: Well a lot of city clients get their mail as they come into their building and then they have the ride in the elevator up to their apartment. I encourage them to use the elevator time to make decisions about each piece of mail. By the time they get into their apartment they can quickly put it where it goes, rather than piling it on a counter or chair because they know where everything should go.

HBW: What are some tools that you use? Go to places for supplies? [Whispering] Please say seejanework.com, please say seejanework.com. Just kidding, be honest tell me where you go.

MP: [laugh] I do go to See Jane Work a lot. I also like Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Container Store. I like to go where there is a nice looking consistent offering.

HBW: Favorite products?

MP: It’s hard to recommend products because everyone is so different.

HBW: I can understand that. I am sometimes hesitant to recommend a product because people with organizing issues run out and buy it thinking that that one product is going to solve their problems.

MP: That’s so true. That’s why I named my firm declutter + design. First you declutter, and then you design. Don’t buy ANYTHING [she didn’t yell anything, but she did emphasize it], until you have a plan. I also try to repurpose items in my client’s home, there’s no sense in buying more stuff if it’s not necessary.

HBW: Do you have an area for paperwork or a junk drawer in your kitchen?

MP:No

HBW: Nothing, what about take-out menus?

MP: Nope I use Seamless Web. [www.seamless.com, sadly this is not available in all cities.]

HBW: What about a junk drawer? I have bins in my junk drawer so everything has a place, even little pieces to my kids’ toys. [I thought she would be impressed that my junk drawer is organized. I was wrong.]

MP: Why do you keep pieces to the toys?

HBW: Well they break off and if I throw them away the kids get upset.

MP: Do their toys have a place that they belong?

HBW: Yes

MP: Then why don’t the pieces go there as well?

HBW: I guess because I’m too lazy to take the tiny piece to their room. I could have a weekly family meeting and everyone takes their stuff and puts it away or I throw it away.

MP: That’s a good idea.

HBW: Thank you so much for talking with me today. When I’m next in NYC let’s have lunch [I’m really just trying to find a way to get into her house and look in her kitchen drawers.]

Melissa is like a therapist. She led me to a solution rather than suggesting it for me. She didn’t even come to my house and she helped me get organized. But wait, I’m supposed to be an organizing professional. Now I can’t decide if I feel better or worse.

To learn more about Melissa and her services visit her website at www.declutteranddesign.com.

Here are some fun images of kitchens that Melissa decluttered and designed.

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Posted in Organize Your..., Time-Management | 9