Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holiday Tune-Up

Now is the time to give your home a holiday tune-up.  A little bit of planning now can reduce the stress the season brings:
Countdown Calendar
What can you say “No” to this year? Before the list of holiday parties and obligations get underway, examine what your goals are for the holidays. What would make it enjoyable and less stressful for your family?

Are guests coming?  Are you hosting?  What meals are you making?

Look at your list of To-Do’s and begin to put them on your calendar. Smead has a fun downloadable Holiday Events Calendar!  And remember to delegate, delegate, delegate when it comes to completing these tasks. Get your children involved...ask your guests to help with meal planning.

Gift Lists & Budget
Write out who you have to buy for and dig out those gifts you already bought and stashed away.  Have loved ones make an online Wish List. Consider reducing your list...do you really need to buy for your siblings and their significant other?  Make it just about the kids!  Or, agree to pick one name out of a hat for all adults in attendance.

On a budget?  Shop around your house first.  What do you have that you can re-gift? Research gifts you plan to buy.  Will it be online?  Be sure to give it enough time to be delivered.  Consider Amazon Prime - a one-stop-shop and free shipping for 30 days!

Locate Supplies
Gift wrapping - take stock from what you have left over from last year.
Holiday cards, stamps - are you doing hand-written cards or using an online company to send them out?
Decorations - drag them out of the attic or basement and consider parting with the ones you haven’t used in a couple of years.  Less you have to pack up later!

Remember that completing a task, like sending out cards, requires several little To-Do’s (personalizing the cards, finding addresses, buying stamps etc).  All of which requires different amounts of time.  Be sure to give yourself enough time to complete them while still trying to enjoy the task. After all, we should be enjoying the activities the holiday season brings, right?

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Robin Stankowski
Professional Organizer, Owner
RLN Organizing
Freedom from Clutter

Website:    www.rlnorganizing.com
Blog:          rlnorganizing.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Hoarding is not a choice, it’s a compulsion.

In my line of work, I meet people who often tell me that they need my help but are quick to point out that they are not hoarders. The TV show, Hoarders has shed some light on the good and bad of this problem.
I had the privilege recently to hear Matt Paxton featured on Hoarders speak.  He provided some interesting insights into what people who have this problem and their families/communities face.

Below are my notes:


The American Psychiatric Association deemed it a disorder in 2014.  It is a protected disability which means people can get the help that they really need.  Insurance companies are also starting to pay for therapy.
  • 5% of Americans are hoarders and that number is increasing, partly due to education and awareness about the affliction.
  • Those in the caregiving field tend to have a problem with hoarding...nurses, teachers and mental health professionals.  They are not selfish, they hoard for the sake of others.
  • Those who have a problem with hoarding are not crazy, lazy or sloppy.  They are almost always the smartest in the room!

How does it happen?
Grief + Time = Hoarding
There is always a trigger.  It usually is very traumatic like a death, a divorce or abuse.

To an outsider or a family member, it’s hard to understand how someone can’t just throw things out.  It’s not an addiction but it would be like throwing out an alcoholic’s beer.  It won’t solve the problem.  You must deal with the mental side first.

Collecting is something you do with your family.  Hoarding is when your
collection is your family.  Common in animal hoarding.

Happiness & Self Worth:  Self worth is obtained through consuming.  It’s short term.  
-Home shopping is an example where the boxes are never opened.  
-Cat hoarding provides someone love but cats in turn need little care.
-Starting projects gives one a sense of self worth but the project doesn’t get finished.  An example would be a need for blankets at the church.  You feel good being able to knit them but only finish 1 but not after having bought the supplies for 100.

This feeling is not that different from the highs from drugs/alcohol.


Getting Help
If you or someone you know has been affected by this disorder, there are more resources out there than ever before.

Hoarding Scale - see what level of hoarding exists.  Goal is to educate those at a Level I or II so it doesn’t get to a Level III, IV or V.  Deal with the grief when it happens.

Seek professional help - There are therapists that specialize in this disorder.

Team approach - It’s ideal to have a therapist, professional organizer, care manager and legal guardian working together.

Related professionals include but are not limited to: physicians, nurses, health department professionals, social workers, educators, researchers, municipal planners, code enforcers and ADD/ADHD coaches.

Other Resources:
ServiceMaster of Allentown - cleaning and restoration company

Monday, September 15, 2014

Be Prepared for Any Disaster

Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare. September is National Preparedness Month
How many times have you been prompted to get prepared for an emergency?  Did you actually act on it and get a plan together?  Are you taking your chances and think it won’t happen?  Or do you have a plan and think you are prepared?  Go through this exercise and see if you are truly prepared:

-Where are your extra car keys?
-Where are your flashlights?  Batteries?
-Where are your important documents?

Now, how much time did it take you to run around your home to find these items?  This little exercise even forced me to evaluate my preparedness- or lack there of!  I recently attended a seminar from Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management on preparing for an emergency.  September is National Preparedness Month and there is no time like the present to act on this!  So I did.  I took their advice, created my plan and wrote this article, hopefully to inspire others to do the same!

  • Weather (floods-most prevalent in PA, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, Winter storms, heatwaves etc)
  • Human caused (fires, explosions, active shooter and chemical spills).
Emergency Plan
  • Evacuation Plan - have 2 places to go to and practice your plan!
  • Teach others how to use medical devices.  Plan for language barriers (including sign language)
  • Look at your county’s evaluation zone for your neighborhood
  • Contacts - have people listed outside the region to contact.
  • Pets are the #1 reason people return to their homes before local authorities have declared it safe to do so, risking lives in the effort to save beloved pets. Visit Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART) for more information on how to prepare your pets for a disaster.
  • Create a Go Kit or Bag
  • Twice a year check the Go Kit/Bag supplies and be sure your Emergency Plan is up to date.

Go Kit or Bag
Prepare this ahead of time in case you need to evacuate in a hurry.  It should be easy to carry and waterproof.  Keep this Kit/Bag at home in an easy-to-get-to place that everyone knows about.  But also consider keeping one at work or other important areas where you frequent, like your car.  Dollar stores have cheap supplies for stocking this kit.  Items include:
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance cards, photo IDs, birth certificates, deeds and proof of address on flash drive or in a waterproof container 
  • Extra set of car/house keys
  • Credit and ATM cards
  • Cash, especially in small bills
  • Bottled water and food that will not perish - energy/protein bars
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • Medication:  Be sure to refill medication before they expire.  Keep a list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them and their doses.  Also keep copies of all prescriptions and your doctor/pharmacists' contact info.
  • Medical info/devices for each person:  blood type, glasses and hearing aids/batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Dress appropriately and wear sturdy, comfortable shoes, lightweight rain gear and a Mylar blanket
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household
  • Small regional map
  • Personal hygiene items such as soap, toothbrush/paste, feminine products, toilet paper and wipes
  • Child, pet or other special care items
  • Sign up for cell phone alerts (where applicable).  Stay informed through local TV, radio and social media etc.  The ReadyNotifyNorthampton system provides rapid text or email notifications and up-to-date information during a major crisis or emergency.  The above link also connects to other surrounding counties - Lehigh, Monroe, Carbon, Pike, Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne.
Need help getting your documents in order prior to a disaster?  Check out this great product, LifeinCase.

Shelter in Place
A great example of this is when a winter storm hits.  Yes, clearing out the bread aisle in the grocery store is a must but there are other things to prepare for: 
  • Pick a room with access to facilities ideally without windows/doors
  • Have enough supplies to last at least 3 days
  • Food that will not perish easily
  • One gallon of water per person/pet per day
  • Manual can opener and eating utensils
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery-operated radio with extra batteries
  • Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach and an eyedropper (disinfect water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials.  To disinfect water with bleach, add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water).
  • Personal hygiene items such as soap, toothbrush/paste, feminine products, toilet paper and wipes
  • Child, pet or other special care items
  • Old phone and jack because you won’t be able to charge your cell phones or cordless phones.
  • Cash because the ATM may not be working
If you have been instructed by officials to evaluation your home, do the following.  Realize that you may not have the time if it’s a fire:
  • Secure your home - unplug appliances, turn off utilities if instructed, lock doors/windows
  • Let family know where you are going
  • Dress appropriately by wearing comfortable shoes and layers of clothing
  • Grab your Go Bag/Kit
  • Do not use an elevator
  • Tune into your local radio station for evacuation routes
  • Go to the nearest shelter or safe place
So, it’s important to think about what you would do in an emergency.  Spend some time now to minimize the heartache and keep you and your family safe.  Check out the additional resources below for more tips and advice.

Additional Resources
Government/Nationals sites:

Back Up:


Robin Stankowski, Professional Organizer
RLN Organizing
Freedom from Clutter
Lehigh Valley, PA

Monday, August 18, 2014

Seasonal Organization for your Car

Top 5 tips to get your car ready for the Fall

To most of us, our cars are our home away from home.  Our family eats and sleeps here after all. We spend a lot of time commuting, doing errands and running kids to practice.  As the Summer comes to a close and you get prepared to transition your home and schedule back to the school routine, don’t forget your car!  Take some time before school starts to get it ready not only for the Fall but Winter too. (I know...boo!)  It’s a good idea to spend time ‘equalizing’ your car twice a year - Fall and Spring.  Just think warm and cold!

Clean Out:  Take all the Summer toys out and store away in your home.  Now is a good time to evaluate if these items are still in good repair.  Is that beach chair ‘sea-salted’ shut?  Run your car through the car wash and vacuum up the remnants of Summer.

Re-Stock Essentials:  Umbrella, pens, stickies, chargers, spare clothes, diapers, wipes, antibacterial soap, travel toys, bag of toiletries, pet items, paper towels, toilet paper and a small garbage bag.  Hate when you run out and forget to restock?  Make a list of these essentials, laminate it, clear packing tape will do and keep it in your glove box.

Emergency Kit:  Jumper cables, bottled water, flashlight, blanket, non-perishable snacks and first aid items.  Re-purpose a wipes container into an emergency kit

Shopping:  Make trips more efficient, keep your recycled tote bags and store coupons in your car. You’ll be sure never to leave home without them.

Seasonal:  Stock with the Fall sports gear.  Group together and store in a bag or bin for each family member.  This allows them to be responsible for maintaining their equipment.  Throw in your ice scraper, small shovel, rock salt and window washer fluid.  Don’t wait until you get caught in the first snow to include these items.

For more ideas on how to organize your car or other areas of your life, follow me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Robin Stankowski, Professional Organizer
RLN Organizing
Freedom from Clutter
Lehigh Valley, PA