Is Your Office a Hot Mess?! It Doesn't Have to Be!

“You’re not on top of things.”

That’s the message a disorganized office sends to your boss, your colleagues, or your family if you work at home. A messy office screams “constant overwhelm!”--probably not the foot you most want to put forward professionally.

In one of the stranger twists on the modern workplace, as technology improves many of us feel less productive. In some ways, all the tools we now have at our fingertips lessen our ability to accomplish things. How often do you say (or hear) that there are too many meetings or too many emails to get the basic elements of your job handled day by day? To say nothing of the Internet lurking in the background to snatch you away from focused time with Facebook, Flappy Birds, or Kevin Spacey’s twitter feed.

If you follow this blog regularly, you already know some of my tips and tricks from previous posts: declutter, purge, clean, label, etc. So let’s just assume those crucial basics are all part of whipping your office into shape. Now let’s go deeper than that and talk about other lesser known measures that will improve your personal organizational style--and send an alternate message to the world at large.

Plot your master calendar

There’s nothing like seeing deadlines written or typed in to a calendar to make them more real than dates that drift aimlessly around in your head. Whether you keep a digital calendar or an old-school paper version, get used to listing all important dates and deadlines as far out as you can go. You’ll feel more committed to the outcome--and things won’t fall through the cracks.

Find your sweet spot

Some people are most productive in the wee hours when the office is empty or the house hasn’t yet started humming; others don’t really get their creative juices flowing until their three o’clock cup of coffee. Get a leg up on your productivity by determining your sweet spot and how you can best harness it for your work day.

Exercise the “two-minute rule”

Productivity consultant David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, encourages us to relieve stress and make progress by identifying what can be done in two minutes and simply doing it. Whether it’s a phone call, a brief return email, filing some stray papers, or making an appointment for your dog at the vet, small tasks that can be done quickly and efficiently reduce our mental and physical clutter.

Keep notes

Keep track of calls, notes from phone conversations, and any other important “small stuff” in your work day in a spiral-bound notebook. No more random Post-it notes in random locations that never turn up when you need them! When you have these things captured together in the same place, it makes it super easy to backtrack and pull up info quickly. Or, if you’re only wired for digital, you can always use the “Notes” section on your smartphone or Evernote, which will sync notes, projects, photos, and files across all your devices.

Nurture your flexibility

The world changes fast these days; faster than it ever did before. One way to keep on top of things is to learn how to flow with change--and to have a sense of what Plan B might be if a client flames out or you have to scramble to do a presentation for a sick coworker. Instead of using your mental juice to be upset, judgmental, or resentful, channel your energy into embracing the change; it’s much easier to shift gears and move forward that way.

Clean up before you leave

This is so simple I can hardly believe I’m recommending it, but it’s one of those “so obvious you could miss it” kind of tips: arriving at an organized desk every morning gives you the sense that you’re ready for the day and what’s ahead. Even if all you do is put away files, neatly stack your in-box, and wash out your coffee cup before taking off at the end of the day, the energy of a fresh start awaits you in the morning. Use the last few minutes of your day to give yourself that gift.

Like management consultant Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” How great would it be if your hard work in “organizing” your office started broadcasting something different every day, like “Wow, you’re really together,” or “I can’t believe how much you can get done these days!” Give your workspace and your personal work habits a tune up, and let the compliments roll in.

Happy Organizing!


Are You Spring Ready? If not, read these tips below!

With the onset of spring; now is the perfect time for a little spring cleaning and organizing. 

3 Spring Organizing Tips:

1.  An organized closet is the first step to an organizing the rest of your home. You've heard it before, take action NOW and get rid of unused clothes and accessories (there are so many people in need of clothing if you are not wearing it!) If you haven't worn it in a year, you probably never will. Organize by type & color or just by color depending on how you function. Either way, your closet will look more appealing and your everyday routine will be easier.

2. Bookshelves are a great project for an immediate impact. Start by removing all the books and determining which you are keeping or donating (hardback books are like a piece of art, paperbacks are not as pretty). Changing the way you display books or accessories is a great change of energy to your space. Clean the shelves by using a soft towel to dust each book. You can organize your books by color and organize some vertically and some horizontally in a rhythmic pattern. This will relieve the monotony of rows and give a fresh, clean, and new perspective to your room.

3. Be ruthless when it comes to decluttering; If you don't love it, and/or you don't use it, it's clutter. Spring is the perfect time to embrace the Feng Shui art of uncluttered living. Feng Shui teaches that if energy can easily flow through a room, your life will be more harmonious and happy--and clutter is an obstacle to reaching this relaxed and calm state.Make it a quest of yours to be ruthless when it comes to your decluttering efforts. You'll have less to dust, less clutter to look it, an easier time finding the things you do use and less stress in your life.

Optimism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

You have two choices: look through cloudy glasses or wipe them off and see the beauty. The world will not stop spinning in 2017, nor 2018, just as it did not in 2011 nor during the great Y2K scare.

Redwood trees surround us. Water flows, peacefully along the Russian River, and arrives at our Pacific Ocean to a life of seals, salmon, surfers, and sharks. Today's gloomy rain and cold provides the life for the apples, grapes, peaches, and flowers we crave so much. Tomorrow's sun brightens and reflects the new growth on the fir trees and encourages the daffodils to move forward in their quest to bloom from now until March. Meanwhile, ladybugs burrow in the Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia) waiting for warmth to reproduce and protect the garden and spread beauty.

Continue reading John's article on the Sonoma County Gazette, here!

Springing Forward!

St. Patrick's Day is coming, but not before we have to change our clocks for daylight savings time! Are you feeling over-whelmed with all of the SPRING CLEANING that must be done?! Don't stress! Start off by reading our tips, but if that does not help - you could always reach out to us and we can help you SPRING into this new season! Check out our monthly newsletter for more informative tips and remember: How LUCKY are YOU to have all this STUFF?! We all have stuff - but we should take time to be thankful for all the STUFF we collect over time!

How LUCKY are YOU to have all this STUFF?!

With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, we encourage you to take some time to reflect and be thankful for all the STUFF we are lucky to have!  Are you managing your possessions with thoughtfulness and efficiency?  Are you feeling burdened by your belongings?  Read further for tips to give you a jump start on appreciating what we are so fortunate to have.

3 tips to jump start control of your stuff:

  1. Only keep and display what you love and appreciate.
  2. Keep your flat surfaces clear.
  3. Take 10 things to a donation center today!  Spread your luck!

Spring Cleaning Tips!

"Spring has sprung, The grass is riz, Wonder where the flowers is?" Ogden Nash

Isn’t it amazing how every year after the snow melts (or sometimes before!) the same thing happens? Spring shows up again. However, where you might be seeing daffodils, tulips, and sunshine, I’m seeing cobwebs, dust bunnies, clutter, and dulled windows. That’s because this season has “spring cleaning” written all over it for me.

Organizing and cleanliness are very tightly linked. Let’s face it, if a space is dirty, no amount of organizing is going to make it look good. And while the regular cleaning we do to keep on top of the daily build-up works great, there’s nothing like a full-on swan dive into the bottomless pool of spring cleaning that really gives us the opportunity for a fresh start.

Here are ten seasonal cleaning tips that will make your house look like a million bucks--and might even make you glad you dove in for the deep clean!

Set Yourself Up for Success

•  Grab a bucket or caddy and stock it with all the supplies you need before you begin; microfiber cloths, multi-surface cleaner, abrasive powder, squeegee, duster, rubber gloves, etc. Don’t ruin your momentum by having to retrieve something from somewhere else.

Break Out Your Ladder

•  Start with your ladder or step stool right beside you so that you can easily and safely access tough-to-reach areas. Use an extendable pole if needed for awkward corners.

Work Top to Bottom

•  Begin at the top of a room by dusting ceiling corners, light fixtures, and fans and work your way down by cleaning walls, windows, and surfaces before vacuuming up all the dust you’ve dislodged. If you do it the other way, you’ll have to vacuum twice.

Recruit the Family

•  If you have kids, plan a family cleaning day where everyone has his or her job--set up a garage sale, use teams to move furniture, get everyone to purge winter clothes before they get packed away. Involving children empowers them to learn these habits at a young age. Plan a fun event at the end as a reward.

Purge, Purge, Purge

•  A spring clean is a fabulous time to get rid of stuff. Pay attention to things that haven’t been used or moved since the last time you cleaned them. Bring a donate box and a trash bag into each room as you’re cleaning, and talk yourself into letting things go.  Ask yourself: Do I use it, do I love it, do I appreciate it?

 Consider Systems

•  While taking this up close and personal view of your space, think about what systems you might use to further streamline and organize. How can I best maximize the space that I have? Is there a better use for an existing piece of furniture? Use this as an opportunity to make improvements. You have more space than you think.

 Do the Things You Never Do

•  Vacuum under & behind furniture. Clean the fridge. Wash or dry clean curtains, and wash or dust blinds. Break out a lint roller, and take it for a spin over the lampshades. Dust light bulbs. Clean under the beds. Wash windows. Clean tops of cupboards. Scrub light switch plates and floor vents. Look for areas that don’t get much cleaning TLC during the rest of the year, and make them your priority.

Pace Yourself

•  A thorough spring clean can’t be done in a single day--especially if you don’t have extra hands helping out. Be methodical. Plan certain tasks for certain days, and do them over a couple of weekends or several evenings. Give yourself the time you need so that you don’t succumb to overwhelm.  Remember, a lot can be accomplished in thirty-minute blocks of time.

Make It Fun!

•  Crank up the tunes. Listen to an audio book. Open the windows, and let the fresh air in. Have something special in the fridge to look forward to when you’re done. Do whatever it takes to keep you on task and motivated.

Take care of and take pride in your belongings.  Stay on top of scuff marks, dust, paint touch ups, loose hinges, or any small fixes as they happen.  Same goes for hiring a handyman to do any bigger jobs you don’t want to take on. Keeping things in tip-top shape in your home will save you money and time. Who doesn’t want more time these days?

Remember those spring flowers we talked about at the beginning? When you’re finished, buy yourself a massive bunch of tulips or daffodils, put them in your best vase, and set them up on your newly polished table. Then sit back in a sunbeam, and enjoy the view.

Happy Organizing--and Happy Spring!


Sheryl's Personal Experience - Relocating Her Mom

2016 brought a major move for my mom giving me a new perspective dealing with the emotional side of relocation. Los Angeles was home for my mom, Cissy Coberly Hadley, for 77 years; except for 4 years of college at Berkeley. While we always respect the emotions of our clients who are moving, it is different when it is your parent. Until the last few years, she never thought that she would leave LA, my brothers and I never thought she'd leave LA; after all, three generations of Coberlys were born at the same hospital in downtown LA. It's never too early to start preparing for a move, and my mom is always ready months ahead of time for everything. She easily gets rid of things she doesn't want or need, which makes my job easier! She officially hired Org & Relo to execute her move since even the most exciting of moves are always stressful and chaotic.

Despite her hiring professionals (my brother, John, works with me and for this important move, we brought Bill in too), the reality of all of our emotions of her leaving friends & family behind, downsizing to 680 sq ft from 1800 sq ft, moving from a house to "life care community" in Santa Barbara when she really didn't want to yet, was daunting.  Fortunately, for her children, she made a wise decision to relocate as the opportunity arose for a great unit, when she is physically and mentally able. Adding to the overwhelming emotion of this life change, are the tasks of going through family albums, history, laughing about childhood memories, treasures, and really prioritizing what's important to have around you in your home since memories are really in the mind. Then, there is finding a new grocery store, pharmacy, your way around town, and of course a restaurant where they all know you (what fun is it if the bartender doesn't say hi when you walk in?!). We got her packed up, movers loaded the truck, said goodbye to Los Angeles, drove up the coast to Santa Barbara, and had her unpacked, organized, and art hung in 1 1/2 days. Then John, Bill & I jumped in a UHaul to the Bay Area to drop off furniture & family heirlooms from my mom for their own homes to enjoy.

Although I have done this for 12 years, it reinforced the emotional experience that moving is for the entire family.  Thank you to my brothers for all their hard work and ideas to help our mom settle in. Even though she has daily adjustments to a new town and way of living, it felt like a home!

Quick Tips: Controlling Kitchen Chaos!

1.    Unearth Secret Storage. Think outside the box.  Finding unique ways to use awkward spaces will help transform space that appears unusable to really useful

  • Use a Lazy Susan for storing canned goods, spreads and cooking oils.
  • Adjust your shelves to fit more contents.
  • Upright storage for cookie sheets and cutting boards, keeping everything in sight and easy to grab by adding a couple of inexpensive tension curtain rods inside a base cabinet!

2.    Customize Your Pantry.  Pantries are usually deep and awkward. Cabinet shelf dividers create more space

  • Use a Hanging Shoe Holder for storing kitchen tools or snacks!
  • Shelf Risers quickly help you find what you are looking for.

3.    Minimize Small Appliances. Keep you counters clear of clutter - only keep out what you use daily.

4.    Always Store Like Items Together. You will be surprised at how many of the same items you have, when they are all together!

5.    Get Rid of Bulky Packaging. Clear canisters let you see what have and what you are running low on

6.    Free Up Your Counter Space. Use hanging baskets to display fruit/vegetables, so that way you actually eat them; instead of letting them rot in the fridge or take up MORE space on your counters!

7.    Hang a Rack. Yes, just like the ones you have in your shower - but use them on the inside of a cupboard, underneath the sink to keep dish soap and sponges handy

8.    Too Many Cookie Cutters? Use a paper towel holder to store them!

9.    Pegboards. Hang a sheet of pegboard, add a few hooks and Voila! You've got plenty of versatile hanging storage!

10. Designate ONE junk drawer! Use dividers to maximize the space and maintain organization!

"100 Saves" Houzz Badge


Congratulations are in order!

The Houzz community has saved our photos to their ideabooks 100 or more times! Check out Organization & Relocation at

Organizing Olympics!

What has 206 countries, 306 events, 42 summer sport disciplines and more than 10,000 athletes?

Yes, the Summer Olympics start a week from tomorrow and our evenings are about to be filled with highlights of the best in the world as they compete in swimming, cycling, volleyball, gymnastics and soccer with so much in between. The Olympics this year are in Rio de Janerio, Brazil beginning August 5th through the 21st. Let us celebrate and cheer on our favorite athletes as they live their passion and bring about “A New World”.

Org & Relo truly admires people who just go for it and who strive to be the best at what they do. Most, if not all, Olympic athletes fit that description. Think about the logistics of getting that many people, that many events, that many systems in place for things to run smoothly...and all on the world stage! This is definitely not for the faint of heart. Inspired by these courageous men and women, Org & Relo would like to invite you to join our own Organizing Olympics!

For 17 days, in a parallel process to that day’s Olympic events, we will provide an organizing challenge for you to tackle. Encourage your family and friends to participate and go for the gold!

Some of the challenges may only take a few minutes, and some may take hours. However, you won’t have to be in the best shape of your life to compete in these Olympics, and you won’t even have to travel to Rio! You won’t need a fancy outfit or sponsor. In fact, many of these challenges can be done in your pajamas. You just need your willingness and your determination--and maybe a container or two.

Your homework to get ready for the challenge is simply to think about which area of your home or office could benefit from your Olympic organizing effort. Is it a cluttered desk? A bulging pantry? The play room? A master closet with sizes you haven’t worn in years?

Here’s how it will work:

  • take a photo of your space before you begin the challenge
  • upload it via our social pages or email it to
  • take and submit a photo of your space after you’ve completed the challenge
  • submit photos as many times as you want
  • share your progress, questions, and insights with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn
  • we will select a gold, silver, and bronze prize for best organizational effort at the end of the 17-day competition
  1. Gold Prize • 4 hours of professional organizing from Org & Relo (a $300 value)
  2. Silver Prize • 2 hours of professional organizing from Org & Relo (a $150 value)
  3. Bronze Prize • 45-minute phone consultation with Sheryl (a $67.50 value)
  4. Ultimate Gold Prize • A fresh, stress-free, organized space!

(*organizing services are for local (CO) participants only and may not be substituted for cash.)

Taking this on may not be easy but, in the end, you will feel like a winner. Just picture yourself in your organized space with the gold around your neck.


Happy (Olympic) Organizing!

Org & Relo Team


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Editing Your Kitchen, One Gadget At A Time

I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, and sharing it. I also love living in a town with a killer farmers’ market, incredible farm-to-table restaurants, and where the word “local” means business. 

With my interest in all things food, it naturally follows that I love being in the kitchen. Cooking is relaxing for me, and the kitchen is the hub of the home--what party were you at recently that didn’t end up there? My point exactly. And since, like many of us, I work full time, I want to come into a kitchen at the end of the day where it’s easy to make a wonderful meal. 

At Organization & Relocation, we know the only way to make this happen is if the kitchen is organized, user-friendly, and lean. That means an annual purge and deep clean that sets the bar high--but not out of reach.

We start by emptying and cleaning every single drawer. Cleanliness always infuses a space with new energy. Next, we sort like items on the counter and look them over with a discerning eye. Is anything repeated? What is that ancient cherry pitter doing here, anyway? Are there utensils that don’t get used because a sharp knife will suffice? If so, I encourage my clients to give them away or recycle them. Not having to paw through your utensil drawer for five minutes looking for that elusive peeler is a beautiful thing. 

We then transform the drawers with clear organizing trays, simply by puzzling together different-size trays that best accommodate the contents of each. The clear ones work well because you can really see what’s in them.

A “junk drawer” is essential to every kitchen, and it’s a great place to store those pesky things that never seem to have an obvious home--matches, pens, scissors, string, Post-it notes, etc. After the purge I suggest that my clients reassemble these random items (singing bottle opener, anyone?) in a different way to make sure they notice what’s in there. And yes: the junk drawer gets organizing trays, too!

Next on our thorough clean and purge list are the cupboards. It’s amazing how obvious the lesser-used items become when everything’s out and similar things are grouped together. Why are there so many mixing bowls? When was the last time that wok was liberated from its shadowy corner? We always attempt to improve the layout, depending on the client’s habits and favorites, as we replace items after the purge. We encourage clients to use the Org & Relo mantra: “Do I love it? Do I use it? Do I appreciate it?” This helps to make decisions without sentimentality confusing things.

Then come the food zones. Food gets edited with a ruthless eye, especially the classic, “This looks cool, I’ll try it tonight!” that’s still sitting there a year later. Shelves are wiped down and we only put back the items the client will use, grouped by type. Ergonomics are key to organizing any space, so we order in a way that makes sense for your needs—healthy and most-used items at eye level, baking items all together, pet food on the bottom (if your pet can be trusted!), sweet treats for kids on an upper shelf, etc. In the pantry we use containers with typed labels to group smaller items.  

Keeping our kitchens organized and ready for action makes cooking a meal at the end of a long day a surprisingly stress-free experience. And you know what? That may be the most delicious local ingredient of all.

Happy Organizing!

Holiday Bark Recipe

Snow crunching underfoot, houses outlined in sparkly lights, the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting out of the kitchen — the holidays are here again!

To kick off this holiday season, I attended Lifestyle Publications cookie exchange. It was a fabulous time with good friends, holiday tunes and lots of cookies. I brought chocolate raspberry bark for my “cookie” submission, and it was a hit! Boulder Lifestyle is featuring my recipe along with a few others in their current issue. Check out the full article and see my recipe below.


Holiday Chocolate Raspberry Bark

10 oz chocolate chips (at least semi-sweet, preferably 60%)

1/2 c. freeze dried raspberries, crushed

1/2 c. cacao nibs, crushed

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir in raspberries and cacao nibs and spread on wax paper on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer for approximately 15 minutes or until firm. Break bark into pieces with hands & enjoy!

**you can also substitute 3/4 toffee pieces (Heath) to stir in, spread on wax paper on cookie sheet, and generously grind sea salt on the melted chocolate before freezing.


Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate, and, of course, Happy Organizing!


Get Your Home Holiday Ready


“Tis the season for guests, entertaining, shopping and decorating. Keeping your home peaceful and organized with the demands of of the holidays can seem like a daunting challenge. Yet clearing the clutter and a little bit of organizing can help lessen stress, free up time and create some welcome ease. Here are our holiday organizing tips to keep you sane this season:

  • Make a central holiday calendar. Include holiday shopping, deadlines for shipping, decorating, sending cards, baking, parties and travel plans. This will have you feeling in control instantly. 
  • Clear out the clutter! Donate clothes, coats and toys kids have outgrown. De-clutter by putting your everyday decorations away while you have your holiday decorations on display.
  • Before you decorate, give your house a good cleaning. This way it will be sparkling and looking great in more ways than one.
  • Evaluate holiday decor. As you pull out decorations ask yourself: Do I use it, do I love it, do I appreciate it? Keep your favorites and donate the rest. 
  • Create a gift-wrapping station. According to Consumer Reports, the average person spends 3 hours wrapping gifts. Organize your supplies by sorting them into different categories: bows, ribbon, tissue paper, gift tags, tape, etc. Having an organized system will save time.
  • Clear out and clean out your coat closet. Make room for guests’ winter jackets and extra hangers. Clear the floor of odds and ends to store shoes and boots.  

Holidays are the time of year to celebrate life with family and friends. When we are organized there is more time to enjoy the season with those we love. 

Happy Organizing!


One Year Later: Some Thoughts on the Flood

Exactly one year ago, Boulder and its surrounding counties were in the middle of several solid days of rain that quickly became a thousand-year storm and a hundred-year flood. We were all affected in a myriad of ways by the destruction, sadness, and anxiety that resulted, whether our homes were impacted or not. Sometimes, on a crisp blue-sky day with the Flatirons sparkling in the sun, it seems surreal amid such beauty that such devastation could actually have taken place.

Like for so many, the night of the flood was a scary experience for me. I had been evacuated before for fire and had been woken up in the middle of the night by earthquakes, but this was a different kind of fear. My house and my office, two separate buildings on my property, are both in the flood plain.

By the time the flood started, it had been raining non-stop for three days. I had been on a relocation all day and got home at 9:30 that night. When I walked across my lawn I actually sank into the grass so deeply that the water filled my shoes. My neighbor told me to check my backyard, since hers was filling up. I watched in disbelief as my street became a river and water started pouring towards the house.

My stand-alone office is an outbuilding in my backyard. When I saw that the far end of the yard where my office and shed are was beginning to slowly fill with water, I raced out there to put everything up on the desks, unplug the electronics, and save what could be saved as it became clear that flooding was inevitable (if only I had remembered the files in the bottom drawers!) At the time, riveted by fear, I didn’t realize how lucky I was that my house had been spared. I measured 19 inches of water in my office--much less than many people had, but plenty for me. I had so much adrenaline and fear coursing through me that sleep was elusive for several nights. 

I am in the business of helping people organize and streamline their lives. What better time was there to offer my services? My team and I donated our time to several clients whose homes were destroyed; shoulder to shoulder we dug through kitchens, laundry rooms, living rooms, and basements of mud and soaking wet cardboard to try to salvage anything possible. One client had three feet of mud in her living room; another one had unwittingly opened her front door and ushered the flood in. I encouraged people to donate household items as freely as they felt they could.  So many families were--and still are--in need of replacing everything.

The camaraderie of our community during that time was incredible. So much caring, so many offers of help; neighbors checking in, friends who didn’t flood on Wednesday coming and helping on Thursday, to whom I returned the favor when they ended up flooding the next night.

I had my own clean-up project going at the same time I was helping my clients. It took six of us a full week to clean up the mud and filth in my 200-square-foot office, and then I had to replace the floor, some walls, carpet, and paint. (During that time my dining-room table functioned as Org & Relo’s makeshift HQ.) When the sun eventually came out and the waters receded I was amazed to see that all my new landscaping had vanished and that every single item in the yard had relocated itself elsewhere; chairs, tables, sawhorses. And here’s the real irony: I spent $5000 to get my office up and running again (neither flood insurance nor FEMA cover outbuildings) and then an unusually heavy day of rain on June 6th flooded it again. It wasn’t as bad this time, but reliving the stress was intense. Fortunately, I had learned a few lessons from the last time. I guess that old adage is true: when it rains, it pours.

I know things have settled down a bit since the flood a year ago--roads are repaired, schools are in session, debris has been carted away--but many people are still suffering tremendously. As of this week, 68 homeowners in Boulder County are waiting to hear if FEMA is going to buy out their destroyed properties so they can move forward with their lives. Shockingly, many dislocated people are still paying mortgages on uninhabitable properties AND paying rent where they now live.

Anniversaries always seem to make us reflect--speaking of which, it’s September 11th, already an emotional day in our country--and as I think back on lessons learned since the flood I thought maybe I could offer some insights. Nobody wants to think this could happen again, but if it did, my question is: How can we be even smarter in the way we set up our homes?

   Elevate items off the floor in basements and garages on cinder blocks; if you don’t have the room use quality plastic bins with lids (not cardboard boxes) on floors

   Keep a full set of important personal docs in an easy-to-grab place as well as backed up on the cloud

   Always store anything with an electrical cord on an upper shelf

   Evaluate storage areas--make a habit of purging excess, unnecessary “stuff”

   Keep gutters clear of leaves and debris and use gutter extenders to move water away from your house

   September is National Disaster Preparedness month--check out for more tips and tricks

I usually sign off with “happy organizing!” but it somehow doesn’t feel quite right after a post like this. I think I’d rather say thanks for reading, and to my Boulder readers in particular: may today find you in better circumstances than you were a year ago.

Stay safe and dry,


Not Just Another Pretty Screen: Digital Desktop Tuneup

Since more than 75% of American adults use computers either at home or at work, it’s probably time we got better at learning how to clean and organize them. I recently saw a computer desktop that had hundreds of files scattered across it like a bad case of screen acne. It made me realize that a cluttered computer desktop has the same unbalancing effect as a cluttered desk surface in your home or office--it makes you feel chaotic and mildly out of control.

Before we get into the nitty, let’s attack the gritty. Dr. James Francis, a British microbiologist, did a study a few years back in which he took samples from 33 office keyboards in London. He then compared these culture samples to swabs taken from toilet seats in the same buildings. Yup, you guessed it. The average office keyboard had germ levels up to five times higher than those commonly found on a toilet seat.

So what do you say we clean these germ factories up?

First power down everything. If you’re a stickler, you’ll want to go with purchased cleaners and cloths that are meant for computer use. If not, you can use common household items.

Clean your screen with a microfiber cloth or a cotton bandanna, as paper towels can scratch. Spray the cloth, not the screen, with an equal mix of vinegar and water and wipe carefully.

Use a dry paintbrush to dust the keyboard. A Post-It note folded over will get out any stubborn crumbs or mysterious substances (or you can blow off the keyboard with an air compressor for the same result). A Q-tip lightly dipped in alcohol will clean between the keys--just make sure no liquid finds its way below decks.

Lastly, clean the desk or area your computer is on. Wrap and label cables and get them out of sight.

Now that the housing is cleaned up, let’s get to the interior of your system. I’ll just give broad advice, and you can adapt the general ideas accordingly depending on whether you use a Mac or a PC.

First you need to decide which files can stay and which can go. Downloads you still haven’t referenced, large video files you’ll never watch again, rough drafts of reports long submitted...highlight all the ones you don’t even have to think about getting rid of and drag them en masse to the trash can. Don’t get into the micro details right now--just put any you’re not sure of into a Pending folder you can sort through over time. You should be left with only those files that are active and that you’re sure you want to keep.

Like any organizational project, you have to occasionally use a tool to simplify the process. In this case: folders. Set up folders labeled with the same general categories you use in your paper filing system--Home, Finances, Work, etc. You can also set up subfolders within these categories, but beware of going too deep with these. Now reassign the remaining files on your screen into the proper folders and organize them into a row from your pull-down menu.

If you automatically save to your desktop, folders will now allow you to save directly into the correct one. How fabulous is that? When labeling, make sure you’re concise but detailed so you can access the file you want efficiently.

Files you don’t want to get rid of but also don’t need to access often (if at all) can go into an Archives folder.

With your screen looking a little more Zen, snazz it up with a new wallpaper, and now let’s make sure your operating system is in tip-top shape.

   Get rid of apps you don’t want from your applications folder by using an uninstaller to capture the app plus all the associated files that can hang around and hog space.

   Update your antivirus software and run a full scan.

   Set your computer to use automatic updating to make sure your software is the latest and greatest. (Software obtained through these channels is trustworthy.)

   Clear internet data. As you surf around on the internet, you drag along bits and pieces that eventually slow down your system.

   If you’re trying to protect your privacy, you have to delete both text-based cookies and flash cookies. Different browsers use different methods. You can research them here.

   Back up to the cloud or any external system that works for you.

Sitting down with your cup of morning coffee to a sparkly clean and organized computer is a fabulous way to kick off your day. Set aside 15 minutes at the end of your work week to clean up folders, delete items, and make sure your screen is fresh-faced for the next week. Your Monday morning will thank you.

Happy Organizing!