Archive for the Category ◊ Household ◊

• Friday, June 07th, 2013


Does your calendar work for you? This is a discussion I have had with MANY clients.

Here are a few things to consider when shopping/contemplating a calendar:

  1.  Having only ONE calendar format (digital OR paper) SIMPLIFIES and ensures you aren’t double booking.
  2. Make sure the calendar is the right size for your needs.
  3. Using a pencil allows you to make quick and clean changes.

I just ordered my new academic calendar/weekly planner (July through June–great for moms!). I have loved this style for 5 years now and this year one of the colors is HOT PINK! I love the two page monthly layout that has lines!  This is a HEAVY DUTY product and they come in different sizes, colors and options. I have had NO issues with the pages or the cover tearing. 

Sunset Academic Weekly/Monthly Appointment Book (800-905A) | DAY RUNNER

The beautiful colors of a tropical sunset help ease your school scheduling.

2013/2014 AT-A-GLANCE® Sunset Weekly/Monthly Appointment Book, 8 1/2in. x 11in.

• Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In my line of work, I come across medication (prescription and over the counter) that my clients no longer use or it’s expired. Flushing certain medications down the drain has found to be harmful to our water source. Fortunately, many communities offer drop boxes for these medications.

I checked the three counties in my area and ALL of them have multiple drop boxes. You will find the drop boxes in police or sheriff departments. You can find out where to go by searching “medication drop” and the county you are looking for.

Here is what you need to do before dropping off the medications:

  • Keep the label on.
  • The name of drug needs to be visible.
  • Black out any personal information. This includes your name, prescription number, doctor’s name and the scan bar.

When I drop off medication at Neenah’s police station, I get to see a piece twisted metal from one of the twin towers in the front entry. Maybe you will find something significant as you help keep our environment cleaner and safer!

• Monday, October 17th, 2011

For years, I have encouraged my clients to use a timer to help manage their time. It can also help reduce procrastination. Think about what you have been putting off. How much torture have you been putting yourself through just THINKING about it?

Here’s a great example of how I was procrastinating something that took me FOUR minutes to complete.

My daughter and I went apple picking a week ago. We ended up with two reusuable grocery bags half full of apples. When we got home, the bags were put on the side counter until I decided what to do with them (besides the caramel apples and apple crisp that we made that day). For the most part, our kitchen counters don’t have much stuff on them. I like to find a place for things. I just couldn’t decide what to do with the apples so they sat there. Yelling at me.

My dilemma was that I wanted the apples to last awhile. This meant they needed to be in a cool location. The garage would not be good because the weather fluctuates so much and there is the potential of them freezing (or little creatures finding them). The basement fridge is too far away and we may not eat them fast enough (because they would be forgotten!) which would be a waste of money. I decided I wanted them in the upstairs fridge but that’s a whole shelf devoted just to apples.

Well…duh, it finally dawned on me to use a container so I could stack the apples up in the fridge and not take up so much space.

I happen to be fixing a cup of tea when figuring this out and I played beat the timer for how long my tea needed to steep–4 to 6 mins. I set the timer for four minutes and rushed to the basement to find a container. I found a plastic container that is vented–like a veggie bin. All the apples fit and into the fridge the container went before the timer went off!! What an adrenal rush and no longer were those bags vexing me.

What is vexing you that you have been meaning to get at and don’t think you have the time? Break the task down into 20 minutes. Can you devote 20 minutes? Set a timer and go to it. You would be surprised at what you can get done in that amount of time.

When you try the timer technique, please let us know the outcome. If you have questions about what is a good timer to use, ask.

Ready, set, (press the timer button) GO

• Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I have recently started doing top to bottom needs assessments in clients’ homes and offices. We go through the entire space, the client has time to explain what the issues are in each area and I will ask questions about each area. Then, we sit down and I fill out the need assessment forms for each area and project task sheets. The project task sheet can help pin point what will be most impactful as a starting point. All the forms will be left with the client.

The assessment normally takes 2.5-3 hours. Some clients ask more questions and don’t mind it going longer. They may plan on doing it themselves and will pay the extra to get that knowledge. I guarantee that you will have more knowledge and drive once I leave.

The clients I’ve done these needs assessments with have been so appreciative to have so much of my expertise in writing. They know they can get started on their own, or we can schedule time to work together. Here’s what one client said about our time together recently:

“Jennifer’s visit to my home turned wishful thinking into reality. I had run out of energy and desire to conquer the ever growing pile of business papers collecting next to our family computer, and the boxes of photos, books, and unused teaching materials in the basement. I was also frustrated at the ongoing miscellaneous items that kept piling up on the counters and tables with nowhere to go with them.

Jennifer systematically went through each room, hallway and storage area, and came up with wonderfully creative ideas for downsizing, de-cluttering, organizing, and rearranging my home to make it more serene and user friendly. As we (Jennifer and I) sat at the kitchen table discussing goals, projects, and tasks, my daughter and I began to transform the counter top into a more functional and eye-pleasing workspace just by removing unneeded pieces and appliances. Cooking dinner that evening was so much more efficient and relaxing. I became re inspired to tackle the piles, and visualized how all of the suggestions could give me the home environment I desired. Thank you Jennifer for your keen eye and no nonsense approach to clutter. I look forward to an ongoing working relationship with you until my goals for home organization are reached. ”

Mary C – Neenah

What are you waiting for? Schedule your needs assessment today! 920-725-2502.

Category: Household  | Leave a Comment
• Thursday, June 03rd, 2010

School’s out!! If you stop by your child’s school it will look bare, cleaned out. That’s because every child’s home now has 12.5 inches more stuff in it per child!!! At least it feels like it doesn’t it? What happens to that pile? If you’re lucky, it stays neatly in the backpack until your angel systematically separates everything out and shares all their earthly goods with you and then get rids of most of it. Yeah right!

More often then not, that pile gets dumped on a table, a counter top, or the pile/pack combo sits in lump somewhere for WEEKS pleading for you to look at it. How much time do you spend moving it, stepping over it, stressing about it, telling the kids to take care of it?

This year try something new. Tell the kids that the papers are going to be gone through right away. Get it done BEFORE you do a fun activity. Decide what the piles will be. If there are a lot of papers, I suggest that YOU be VERY SELECTIVE in what you look at. Enjoy this process. Ask the kids to pull out the special projects and homework assignments they are really proud of. Go through those first. Then decide what else you want to tackle. If there are lots of are projects (which bulks up many memory boxes), ask the kids to pick their favorites, and you keep only a couple additional if you see some really good ones.

The point is— get through this NOW. Just do it— NOW. Don’t let that mole hill turn into a mountain!!! Happy summer.

• Thursday, April 01st, 2010

A Cutesy Tote Does Not Solve All

If your home has serious organization issues, you may find yourself wondering: How did it get this way, or I don’t even know how to begin. This proves that process ultimately trumps pretty. “It’s not about focusing on pretty. The ultimate goal is to make your home work better. If we don’t fully address the issues, they all come creeping back.” Jennifer Strachan said, owner of In Its Place Professional Organizing Services of Neenah. To begin, Strachan focuses on the home’s high traffic areas that need the most TLC. She then defers to Julie Morgenstern’s (a global, Oprah-approved organizing expert) SPACE acronym:

  • Sort
  • Purge
  • Assign (a home)
  • Containerize (store for easy retrieval)
  • Equalize (maintain and re-evaluate system)

“Having these stages really helps people take a step back as they decide what really needs to be done with a certain area,” she added. “Let’s say we’re working with a closet. We all know what closets are supposed to hold based on their location— which means your hockey stick could probably find a better home. That concept alone really helps when going through the sorting and purging steps.”

It’s All About Making Decisions

In order for anyone to stick to a home organization plan, it needs to be realistic and intuitive. As the owner of Organizing Unlimited in Menasha, Sheryl Ruedebusch focuses on the overall vision of a room or space, followed by an assessment of the current function and, lastly, an action plan. She calls this the CDR, or Creating Desired Results, method. “I’ve noticed that people tend to get hung up on clichés or what they see on TV; decluttering does not mean you’ve got to throw out everything that you haven’t used,” Ruedebusch said. “Tome, clutter is defined by postponed decisions. And the CDR method helps you make sense of those decisions as you put things where they need to go.”

Let’s Do This

Process and strategy are everything. But we all learn through example — that’s why we’re giving you some proven tactics to streamline your home’s common catch-alls.


Experts reason that we wear 20 percent of the clothing in our wardrobe 80 percent of the time. “With the exception of eveningwear and classic outfits, look to donate the clothes you haven’t worn in years,” Ruedebusch said. “We’re all reluctant to get rid of clothing. But think of the pleasure donating can bring to someone else.”

Recycle all wire hangers, and opt for a uniform clothes-specific assortment. (Bed, Bath & Beyond’s swivel hangers for skirts and dresses are great.)

Use every square inch of space. Hang shoe racks on the back of the door. Classic belt hangers with multiple hooks are also a good solution for hanging camisoles, bras or scarves.

Assemble a few key outfits on hangers including accessories. Not only does this save on some hanger and hook space — it makes last-minute packing and outfit changes a snap.

Strachan recommends thinking long-term when it comes to closet organization. “I had a client that changed an entryway closet into a pantry, so they had no place to hang their coats. They reasoned, ‘Oh, we can put the coats in the front door closet.’ Did they? No. That’s why I try to be realistic by asking my clients: Is this something you’ll stick to after the honeymoon period, after a long, hard day?”


Ruedebusch organizes around four key elements of the kitchen—cooking, food prep, holding food and cleaning. “You want to store the items you use most often, first; then you can dump, donate or store the rarely used pieces in a more remote location.”

Arrange your cupboards according to these elements. Put your everyday dishes and silverware by the dishwasher, the cutting boards near the knives and so on. Specialty appliances, like rice cookers, juicers and breadmakers can be stored in secondary places—like garages, basements, or even entryway benches.

For those who are always hunting for the oregano: Try alphabetizing your herbs and spices, and arrange them in a cabinet rack.

Plastic drawer trays are your best friend, and often come cheap from dollar stores. Pickup a few different sizes to streamline your large utensil drawers.

Organize the food in your fridge by type: drinks and small containers on the top rack, leftovers/prepared meals on the middle and whole/unprepared goods on the bottom. Strachan also orders her deep freezer according to food and prep type. “I don’t necessarily consider it efficient. It’s more like me being lazy, and not wanting to sort things over and over again.”


Whether you dig bankers boxes, desk drawers or a covered bin, filing systems really are indispensible —and should be divided into two categories: important documents for later reference (taxes, investment information, paid documents) and documents that need tending to (bills and invitations).

Rather than housing a to-be-burned-in-the-fire-pit box for confidential papers, invest in a paper shredder.

Binders are great for organizing special projects, committee work and warranty information for autos, electronics and appliances.

Instead of going crazy with Post-it reminders, organize an office command center—complete with a bulletin board and dry-erase board. This can absorb any and all paperwork you might have hanging on the refrigerator as well.

for the Green Bay Press Gazette

• Thursday, January 07th, 2010

When Abby and Chester Shaffer get home, they know where to put their coats, shoes and other items in a room off the garage.

“They each have their own spots,” said mom Katy, 31, of Neenah, who has a 7-month-old daughter in addition to Chester, 2 and Abby, 4.

In the house, many of the kids’ items, from back packs to toys, have designated spots, which often eliminates the need for a search and rescue mission for missing articles.

“I explain that they need to put them back there so that when they want them again they know where they are,” Shaffer said.

Her children are learning skills such as responsibility, stewardship and cleanliness, skills that are helpful now and later down the road.

“(It) teaches them responsibility and prepares them for life to be self-sufficient,” she said.

Shaffer grew up learning similar skills.

“My mom always had a place for all our stuff, and I remember growing up being told if you can’t find a place for it, then you must not need it,” she said.

The added benefit to raising organized children is that it helps to cut down on some of the stress in the house, Shaffer said.

“I am a very organized person, usually, and when there is a great deal of chaos I get frazzled,” she said, adding that having an organization effort in place “helps me remain calm too and allows for more time to do other things instead of wasting time looking for things or picking up after them or retelling them the basics they need to do every day.”

Start them off young

Organizational traits can begin at an early age and follow through adulthood, said Lea Schneider of Pensacola, Fla., a professional organizer and owner of

“You are not born organized,” said Schneider, author of Growing-Up Organized: A Mom-to-Mom Guide. “You learn to be organized.”

Children model from their parents, even in areas of organization, she said, noting that parents should take time to give their children an lesson in organization.

“Instead of just fussing, explain why organizing the project, space or time will make their life easier,” Schneider said. “Demonstrate how to do it. Practice with them. Give them steps they can follow and then stand back and just supervise.”

Tackle one Thing at a Time

With busy lives, families can be lost as to where and how to begin with teaching organization, Schneider said.

That was one reason behind her book. As a mom, she knows how crazy things get when she tries to do it all for her family.

“As a professional organizer, I’ve been in lots of homes and often found myself making the same suggestions over and over,” she said. “I realized there are lots of moms looking for solutions.”

Schneider recommends tackling one area at a time.

“You can’t decide you want everything changed immediately,” she said. “That would be too overwhelming for both you and the children.”

Instead, pick what needs the most work, be it a routine to clean rooms or peaceful homework time.

Once a goal has been set, “sit down with the kids and tell them your goal,” Schneider said.

And then get the kids involved with the process.

“Ask them for ideas and take the time to listen and incorporate them as you much as you can,” she said. “The more you bring them on board, the more success you will see.”

Be Flexible and Look at the Big Picture

Teaching a child to be organized also requires some flexibility, said Jennifer Strachan, a professional organizer and owner of In Its Place Organizing Services in Neenah.

“Whatever the system is, try to make it a flexible system,” she said. “As your children grow, so do their needs and wants change.”

For instance, when her daughter was a child, Strachan converted a small space in the basement into a dress-up area.

“I really wanted to have a divided space so she knows this is where your stuff is supposed to go,” she said.

But by looking ahead, Strachan decided to put in shelves that could be used for other storage in the future.

“It has worked out great,” she said.

Be Age Appropriate

When starting with young children, consider simple tasks such as putting socks in drawers and putting clean spoons into the drawer, Schneider said. Children also can help label their toy bins with pictures.

“Very young children can begin to organize physical space by learning each thing has a home,” Schneider said.

For older children, they “can learn time management,” she said.

“Doing so, they will learn how to allocate time for sports, practices, activities, homework and chores,” she said. “Often, parents will ask them over and over to do something and they get a response of ‘later.’ This is because they can’t see the big picture of ‘later.’ Teach them how to do just that.”

Keep it Simple

The key to keeping lids on an organized-minded track is to keep instructions simple for them, Strachan said.

“You have to keep things pretty simple and easy to get to and easy to use for them to want to maintain it or they will stop doing it,” she said.

Job charts listing specific tasks are one way to help kids know exactly what they need to do.

“That can be a brain saver for Mom and Dad,” Strachan said. “Some kids just do better with reading versus listening.”

Schneider said a wipe-off board is handy for readers.

“For non-readers, you can use a picture list,” she said. “They can check off the list. This teaches them to think ahead plus to be responsible for their own belongings and time.”

Strachan uses a spiral-bound notebook, each with the names of the children. Inside are items that need to get done.

“It’s so freeing to me because I’m not worried and I will look at that sheet,” she said. “I think that kind of gets their attention. I don’t need to be constantly reminding (them).”

However, as children get used to an organization system, repetition will be needed, Strachan said.

“Don’t expect your children to figure it out the first or second time,” she said.

Stick With It

The road to an organized child may have bumps and detours but in the long run, your children will appreciate the skills they learned.

“They’re going to be on their own at some point in time,” Strachan said. “It’s not going to get anywhere if I’m doing it. I think they need to have responsibility.”

Schneider agreed.

“Teaching your child to organize their belongings, their space and their time will benefit them through school and into the workplace,” she said. “It seems to me nearly every employer in every field lists organized as a required job skill.”

Moms also can let go of the need to do it all, Schneider said.

“Being part of a family means not only embracing the joys of family life but participating in family life,” she said. “Children can and should learn how to participate in keeping the house organized and manage their own time and own belongings. It’s all part of being a family. The lessons your child learns from you will be a gift they take with them their whole lives.”

By Linda Dums • For The Post-Crescent