This Professional Organizer wears Pink!

 

Five years ago this month, I heard the dreaded words from my doctor “ You have breast cancer.” I will never forget that day, that moment, that fear. In an instant my world came crashing down and all things stopped. All future hopes and dreams paused and I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to fight Stage 2 cancer. I was emotionally paralyzed.  It didn’t seem to be real. It was also very unbelievable because I was in such good shape. My oncologist kept saying “ You are in the best shape of your life. You are strong to fight this. ” Cancer doesn’t give those that are “healthy” a break. It doesn’t matter healthy, skinny, overweight, old, young, or underweight, etc. It comes when it comes and I believe it was the Providential hand in my life intervening

We are entering the “pink” month. Everything is pink because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  We will even see football players in the NFL wear pink to show their support. I still shake my head at that one. I remember at that time I loathed the color pink. I couldn’t wear it and wouldn’t wear it. I refused because that would mean I’d have to admit cancer was real in my life. I was in complete denial. But I needed cancer, yes “needed” cancer, and I didn’t know it then. It turned my world upside down for the better.

Five years out from my diagnosis I can see how cancer was meant for my good. I can actually thank God for something so terrible and horrific. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that experience. Cancer did several major things for me.

First it weeded out people that weren’t authentic in my life. Those that ran and hid needed to exit my life. God was taking me deeper and only those that would withstand the trial would come out on the other side alongside me. Under the most stressful time of life, people show their true colors and unfortunately, losing those people hurt worse than cancer but ultimately it was for my good.

Second, it brought new friends into my life. Loyal friends, nurses and doctors gave me the love I needed to carry through. They saw me at my worst and still loved and cared for me. One new friend I made will always hold a special place in my heart. We bonded in a Starbucks bathroom showing each other our scars and wigs. That was so deeply meaningful to me because she understood. We had only known each other an hour but from that day till the present, I know when I call her to talk, she gets it. No one in the world understands quite like she does.

Finally, I think of all the women I have interacted with through my business since 2011. I have provided organizing services for female clients across the city of Chicago that have battled cancer or that have had a sister, aunt, daughter, grandma or mother battle cancer. I never knew cancer would help me be a better professional organizer.   The amount of empathy and understanding towards my customers makes me serve them with passion and grace and less judgment. Gratefulness and remembrance overwhelms my heart during this month. I cringe as I remember the pain, nausea, and exhaustion but smile at the new friends, greater empathy and deeper sense of meaning to life.  And today I wear pink!

 

 

Share
Posted in Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Decision Making: How to Become More Decisive

 

Youth Decision Making Concept, Top View

Have you ever stopped and thought about how many decisions take place during an organizing session? I would say hundreds even thousands of decisions are made in a matter of a session in one day. Either my customer is making the decisions if we are working on a project together or if my team is unpacking a whole house, we are making the decisions all day.

It goes to show that professional organizers need to be good decision makers and need to know how to lead someone into making decisions wisely and quickly. The clock is ticking when we decide to go through an entire master closet, so making decisions fast is a learned art and a valuable skill to have.

Of course there are decisions we make each and every day that have nothing to do with organizing. I was discussing this concept with a friend over coffee. How does one become a better decision maker? How does a person become more decisive?   I’ve been told I’m a fast decision maker and I’ve always thought of myself as being able to make decisions but recently this year I realized although I’m great at making decisions for work, I have neglected making personal decisions. Someone pointed this out to me and I was so shocked. They point blank said “You are not making decisions for yourself. “ I was convicted to start making decisions in my personal life instead of being paralyzed by loss and fear.

It got me thinking as to what prevents us from making decisions and I believe these are the top reasons So consider these thoughts. Can you identify? Which are your triggers in delaying decision making? The more we know about ourselves the greater opportunity we have to start working on these hang ups and start making decisions.

  1. Fear-  “What might happen if I choose ___________?

Most choices can result in several different outcomes so the fear that plagues us is the fear of the unknown. On very large decisions, I would agree that fear is a healthy trigger to stop us from doing something stupid.  On small matters, there shouldn’t be any fear.  Just in case the result isn’t what we wanted, we can always rectify the situation and change course. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst case scenario for an outcome if I make this decision?”  On small matters I’m confident the worst case scenario is always fixable. No big deal. Slow down for the huge, life altering decisions.

  1. Lack of Information– “ How can I make this decision if I don’t know______? “

You are absolutely right. Find information, research or read enough to help you make an educated decision. Now understand, do just enough. You don’t need to read books and volumes or spend gobs of time and energy doing this. Do your due diligence and limit your “research time”. Otherwise you’ll be bogged down and never make the decision.

  1. Lack of Confidence“ I always make the wrong choice.”

Not true. The more you practice making decisions and the more you change the lens how you look at making decisions the better you will become and you will start to believe in yourself. Avoid negative self-talk. Negativity is getting you nowhere fast. It’s actually hurting you in the long run.  Just because your parents, ex-spouse or cruel friend accuses you of it, doesn’t make it true and doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to change.

  1. Others influence or opinion“ I can’t decide that because of ___________.”

This blank can be filled in with words such as my boss, spouse, sister, coworkers, and parents. Stop giving your power to other people. When I say power, I don’t mean you’re king or you’re the president. I mean you are capable of making your own decisions if the impact of that decision is first and foremost on yourself, go ahead and make the decision.  Clearly I don’t want you deciding to sell your home without consulting your wife, but on all matters for yourself decide to decide. You have the freedom to. Others don’t have a hold on you and should not have a hold on you. If they do, you have unhealthy boundaries with those around you and I would recommend reading the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud. My life changed after reading that book.

  1. Loss“I emotionally can’t handle making that decision right now. “

That is perfectly fine. It is perfectly acceptable to be grieving or mourning a loss that prevents you from making a decision. Should the loss paralyze you indefinitely? No, but there are times in life when you are thankful just to make it through one day to make it to the next day without forcing yourself to make a decision. When you are under that much grief, stress, or sadness no one should be making decisions that they will regret later. I think losing something in our life also helps us clarify what we really want and what we really value. Out of all that loss and grief comes clarity and purpose.

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St.

Chicago, IL 60631

Share
Posted in General Organizing, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Being Mindful of Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the summer, I attended a very large leadership conference. I believe there was close to seven thousand people at this two day event. You could imagine the parking lots were completely full, lunch lines took an hour to get through, and women’s bathrooms were always jammed. As an introvert I looked for the “quiet room” as often as we had breaks to escape the masses of people. The conference was very inspiring but I noticed something that related to organizing while consistently waiting in line for the bathroom during those two days.

I noticed women that were mindful of others. I noticed women that cared to pick up after themselves. I noticed women leaving the space better than when they found it. As I washed my hands each time I went, I saw other conference attendees wiping down their sink space, picking up lingering paper towels, and tossing garbage others had left behind. It dawned on me that these same women probably have organized homes and work places! I couldn’t believe that they took the time to make the space in a public bathroom better than when they found it. I will say none of the restrooms ever got gross or disgusting.

What if we had this same mindset at work or at home? What if we cared enough for our coworkers and family members to pick up after ourselves and leave the kitchen counter tops or bedroom floor better than how we found it? What if we stopped blaming others, pointing fingers, and waiting for someone else to care enough to pick it up?

Whether you have roommate, a spouse, a coworker, a shared desktop space or vehicle, may this story inspire us all to be mindful of our surroundings and to be mindful of who is coming after us. Do we care enough and take time to help others?

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard ST.

Chicago, IL 60631

Share
Posted in Bathrooms, General Organizing, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Up with Stuff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Break ups, splits, getting dumped, divorce, moving out, moving on brings some of the worst emotional pain imaginable. I’ve been there and have done it three times in the last three years. I’d choose a broken ankle or the swine flu any day of the week if it could prevent my heart from feeling like it’s been torn in half. It makes me say that I’ll never let anyone in ever again. I don’t think I could survive more emotional pain because there’s no cure for it, only waiting for time to pass.

You might be wondering how this has anything to do with organizing. Here’s my point. Breaking up with stuff after breaking up with a person has to happen.  Allowing stuff to remain around us that reminds us of the person is a recipe for disaster. It drags us down, paralyzes us and leaves us stuck.  When I encounter people that have been through hurt and loss in relationships, the amount of freedom they find when we ditch the ex’s stuff cannot be expressed in words.  They find permission to move on and let go. For one client, it was furniture that her ex left behind. Once the furniture was sold on Craig’s List, it was as if she could breathe again. She wasn’t aware of the hold it had on her emotions until I encouraged her to get rid of his stuff.

Pictures are also an obstacle. Get them off your phone by downloading them onto your computer. Then drag all of the ex’s photos into one folder. Organize them into one place and you’ll never have to look at them again until you can stomach it. Or you’ll end up deleting them at some point. Regardless, don’t have them floating around your computer or electronic devices to make you sad anytime you see one pop up. Be swift, thorough, and diligent to get this task done. Social media such as Facebook or Instagram would be trickier. Delete them on the feed. Bury them quickly by posting new feed or go off of social media for a little while.

Where ever you are at in your break up journey , consider what is left behind that affecting your heart and mind. How can you lessen the blow and begin to heal. There’s no right or wrong way of doing things but removing items is the first step.

The way I handle ex’s stuff is it gets thrown into bins or bags and I toss it in my crawl space under my house. Yes, I would never recommend that typically as an organizer because most people would never revisit the stuff and it would sit there for years. However, I have a method to my madness. You see I pack up all the stuff, get it out of my sight and then later after time has passed I pitch the stuff with a fury. How much time? That answer all depends on how fast I can heal and get over the person. My most recent breakup is the hardest to figure out.  I can’t fit a ladder and fourteen pots of flowers from my deck into my crawl space. He planted a million beautiful flowers for me and every day I pass them on my deck and it drives me nuts looking at them. I thought about not watering them and letting them die a long slow death, but I’m still debating that one.

Happy healing to you (& me) !

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St.

Chicago, IL 60631

Share
Posted in General Organizing, Memorabilia, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Organizing the Intangible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever felt disorganized virtually or electronically? Whether it is email, photos, or files, being disorganized in any of these areas drives me bonkers as if they were mounds of clutter in my house. Recently for me it was multiple ways to sign into Google that really made me stop and organize all my Google accounts. I had three emails to sign into six different Google apps. I was very disorganized with all my Google accounts and recently I said “Enough is enough. You have to figure this out Amber. Start consolidating.”

So day after day and about a week later, I had figured out all my accounts, apps and which went where. I talked to Google three times during this time period and they were super helpful to point me in the right direction.  The biggest lesson learned is that each Google service (for example Google Plus, Google Pages, Google Adwords, etc) are all separate. You have to log into each and every one and change the settings to all point to one email log in.

I’m thrilled to say I completed my Google project and all my applications through Google are now connected to one Gmail account.  If you’re a tech person you’re probably laughing at me writing this right now but for me, this was a huge accomplishment. I’m great at organizing, not technical stuff and despite that weakness , I want to practice what I preach even in my computer environment. This exercise taught me a lot about organizing the electronic or intangible part of our lives and I’m convinced it’s just as important as organizing our, closets, kitchen cabinets, toys and garages.

Consider other areas of your life that are not tangible but need to be organized… bank accounts, investment accounts, time, thoughts, and ideas. All of these can’t be held and sorted but all are equally important to organize, track and consolidate!

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard ST.

Chicago, IL 60631

Share
Posted in Computer organization, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Paralyzed by Paper

 

 

After walking into two homes covered in paper last week, I thought it’s time to write about mail once again. You’d think that mail shouldn’t be an issue or wouldn’t be an issue anymore with our technology to go paperless, but there are still several people that struggle with mail coming through their front door.  Each home saw eight, yes eight garbage bags of paper find their way into the recycling bin. Only one small one inch thick stack of paper was kept as permanent records or tax records that needed to be filed or scanned in.

So what did I do? Glad you asked. This was my process and you’re welcome to follow it yourself.

First, I went through all the backlog of mail. I zipped open hundreds of envelopes. Obvious junk mail was tossed without even opening them. Several paper cuts were encountered J

Second, I kept one bill of every type (for example Com Ed, Verizon, etc) and one statement (Chase Checking, Mortgage Statement, BCBSIL Explanation of Benefits) of every type.

Third, myself or the client started logging into the website of each and every bill vendor and statement vendor. When an account needed to be created, we would set one up and record all usernames and passwords.

Fourth, each bill was made paperless and autopay

Fifth, each statement was turned onto paperless or an e-statement.

Lastly, one household was inundated with mail from charity asking for money. We counted about thirty five different charities. Guess what we did? We called each one and removed the address from the charity mailing list.

You may be thinking, all of that is a lot of work. And yes you’re right. It took a while and was very tedious work. But I’ll tell you the pay off. No bills will be late, less mail will come through the front door, and I’ve equipped them to maintain organization without me. I wouldn’t be a good organizer if I just “cleaned up the mail piles”. We need to get to the root of the paper problem as organizers and here’s how…. STOP THE PAPER FROM COMING IN by just a click online!

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St

Chicago, IL 60631

Share
Posted in Offices, Paper | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Heart of Organizing

 

 


One thing I love about being an organizer is my clients that come across my path. All of their stories are different and all of their challenges resemble their stories. If I can bring hope, order, and a sense of peace into their home or business then I’ve done my job well.

All of these names are completely fake but the stories are real. I share them with you not to shame people or point fingers but to encourage those of us on the journey and those of us that need hope.

Charlie was a stroke victim forcing him to retire early. Without the mental capability to keep up with paperwork, piles began to grow and take over his home. My goal was to make as much of the paperwork automated and electronic to give him long term solutions with less paper coming in through the mail. At the end of several appointments, Charlie was set up for success relieving a lot of the concern, stress and shame he dealt with.

Thomas is a widower who lost his wife a year ago and is taking care of his three children. His new roles and responsibility with the home and children left him overwhelmed.  All of his late wife’s things needed to be gone through, sorted and donated. When it was too emotional for him to do this project, I was called in for help. What a privilege it was!

Sarah went through a messy divorce. Trying to manage being a single mom, running a household, and forced into getting a new job,  left her overwhelmed, drained and stressed out. Helping her get organized brought a new found confidence and strength to keep going. We squashed the lie that said she couldn’t take care of things and stay on top of things!

Missy was a medical school student. She was never home and never had the time to get settled into her new apartment. Now she was about to get married and her fiance’ was to move in. She called in a panic. After one long grueling organizing session in several closets, she was set back up for success and wouldn’t stop texting me afterwards to express how grateful she was.

I could share ten more stories with you but I’ll stop here. Each customer has a need and each need lies deeper than surface clutter. I can’t fix the heart but I can help bring encouragement, relief and practical comfort in times of desperate need. If you’re struggling through something emotionally or mentally, your clutter or chaos just might be a symptom or struggle associated with it. Look at how it’s all related and start with one piece of the puzzle. If it’s organizing the physical, I’d love to help.

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St.

Chicago, IL 60631

Share
Posted in General Organizing, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Moving Tips from a Certified Professional Organizer

Home interior right after moving in.

Home interior right after moving in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been helping people move and unpack now for twelve years and I frequently encounter the same questions and the same mistakes. So if I could only tell you ten pieces of advice, here they are in no particular order:

  1. Purge before packing. This is an obvious task but often people don’t make the time to go through drawers, closets, and cabinets. Your goal should be to get rid of at least 10-20%. Before you gasp, that’s very realistic and manageable.
  2. Hire the moving truck company to pack you. Packing services that are linked to or tied into the moving truck company will be the cheapest route. They will be the fastest and most cost effective.
  3. If at all possible do not move on the 30th or 1st of the month. That’s the most expensive time of the month to move. Save yourself some money by picking “off dates” and the off season (non- summer). Avoid holidays as well.
  4. Don’t expect to start unpacking the day the moving truck drops off your furniture and boxes. Companies like cable tv, security service, wifi set up or phone service will most likely be your top priority. Realistically, unpacking will start the next day. My company will only arrive after the moving truck leaves. That’s one of my strict policies.
  5. Although it doesn’t feel like the best use of you time, stand and watch to see where every box is being dropped off in the house. Save yourself a lot of back ache and time by making sure each box is going to the right room as it comes through the front door.
  6. Don’t clean before movers and organizers arrive. Clean afterwards. They will track in dirt, dust, cardboard and packaging material that will get your home all dirty again. My only exception to this would be inside of kitchen cabinets. If you’d want to wipe those down, then do so.
  7. Don’t buy cabinet shelf liner or drawer liner. It’s a huge waste of money and makes the dishes stick as you take them in and out. It also makes it harder to clean inside.
  8. Resist the urge to go shopping for setting up your new home before unpacking. First unpack and write a specific shopping list so you don’t make ten trips to the store.
  9. Always plan ahead. Once you know you are moving, don’t procrastinate with tasks and booking professionals to help. You will make it through the move more smoothly and with less stress if you plan ahead!
  10. Don’t wash all your dishes as you unpack them. Wash them as you pull them out to use with your family or for parties. It will take triple the amount of time to get settled if you insist on all kitchen dishes being washed.

 

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St

Chicago, IL 60631

 

Share
Posted in Moving/Unpacking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you organized?

Ten SModern living room with wood floortatements to Gauge Your Organization Factor

Ever wonder, am I really organized? Would someone say I’m organized? On occasion I show up to an organizing appointment and I walk in and after showing me their home, I’m wondering, “ Why did this family or individual hire me?  They’re organized.” Like I said, this doesn’t happy often but it always amuses me when it does. Our perception of organization is often different from those around us. We can look organized but really be a mess inside or we can be too hard on ourselves in not realizing we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the good systems and solutions we have in place.
As you seek to gain a better understanding of where you are on the organization scale, consider these positive statements that can reassure you, you are headed in the right direction.

You ARE organized IF ……..

  1. You can find what you need quickly (within minutes). Not hours and not weeks. My rule is five-ten minutes or less.
  2. You throw things out daily. Your garbage cans and recycling should be filling up at a regular pace. If you see all that comes into a home on a weekly basis, the same, if not more, should be leaving on a regular basis.
  3. You go through drawers and closets two to three times a year. This takes time and effort to make this a priority, but people that are organized really do clean out their closets and drawers on a regular basis. We aren’t just making that up. Just like maintaining your car, you need to maintain your drawers, closets and cabinets.
  4. You can arrive on time for an appointment. Being on time means planning ahead which means you’ve organized your day to be certain places at certain times. It is all about not committing to too much or too little. It’s about knowing what you can and can’t handle in a day and saying no when you’re running behind time. With GPS devices and mobile devices, we all can know in a split second how long it will take us to get somewhere.
  5. You look for things to get rid. This is a classic professional organizer move. When we don’t organize enough in a week, we go home and find something to throw out and organize. If you love looking for things to get rid of and love to organize and rearrange things at home, you are a gal or guy after my own heart.
  6. You arrive prepared with the paperwork or items you need. There’s nothing worse than arriving at an appointment unprepared. For those of you that have good systems to remember to bring items you’ll need, you are organized!
  7. You can have a stranger or friend stop by your home at a moment’s notice and not be embarrassed. This is hard one to accomplish but it is possible. The key here is good daily habits and systems for picking up and putting things away. If you are good at those two things you’re golden.
  8. You get rid of a pair of jeans if you buy a new pair of jeans. There’s really nothing more simpler than that principle—one thing in means one thing goes out.
  9. You rarely have to reset your passwords or usernames on website, because you have them recorded in one place.
  10. You make decisions easily and quickly. Organizing is all decision making. Deciding to put away. Deciding to toss something out. Deciding to keep it. Deciding to give it back to the friend you borrowed it from. Deciding to plan ahead and leave on time, etc.

If you would like to know more about Amber’s Organizing, LLC., Click here!

Amber’s Organizing LLC
7401 W. Howard St.
Chicago, IL. 60631
773-628-7404

 

 

Share
Posted in General Organizing, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Stuff or Systems: Which do you struggle with?

 

 

Suitcase and tourist stuff with inscription travel insurance on wooden background

 

The other day I was organizing a busy mom. Her kitchen, pantry and mudroom needed my help. As we were going through things she stopped and asked “ Amber, so is the problem too much stuff usually?” What she meant is, is everyone like me with too much stuff? Is that the professional organizers solve? I thought her question was smart and commonly asked. I responded to her that is it typically one of two things. Usually customers have too much stuff and they need help getting rid of things OR they have no good systems and structure set up which sets them up for failure. She laughed and said, “What if it’s both? “  I replied that sometimes it is and that’s okay too. I’m here to help out in either situation.

Whether it’s an excess of things that have accumulated or just not knowing how to organize and set up systems for long term success, both are valid reasons to call a professional organizer. Consider these questions to determine which camp or which boat you are in. Maybe you know already or maybe you don’t. Try stepping back to assess your home or office. What do you notice?

Too much Stuff??

  • Are your kitchen cabinets, dresser drawers and closets jammed packed? Is there room to add new things that come in or will the new things be left out to accumulate on counter tops or the floor of your bedroom because you can’t put them away?
  • Can you see to the back of your refrigerator and freezer? Or are there things in there that are 6-12 months old?
  • Are their multiples of the same item? You buy another bag of salt for the sidewalks when you couldn’t find the one from last year in the garage?
  • Are items expiring before you can use them up? Going bad and spoiling?
  • Do you have toys or clothes that your kids have outgrown years ago?
  • Are doors, windows, heating and air conditioning vents or other appliances in your home blocked because too much stuff is in the way?

Lacking Good Systems??

  • Do you get frustrated with the same obstacle each day? For example, coats or shoes landing in a certain place that drive you nuts? Orr walking across the kitchen to unload the dishwasher? Or fighting to find a beauty product under your sink?
  • You manage to get through the mail and toss the junk mail but you’re still stuck with the important paperwork that you’ve kept?
  • Is it getting annoying to reach for something you need every day because it’s in the wrong place or located in an improper position?
  • Do you dread certain tasks because you haven’t taken the time to catch up and simplify that part of the house?

If any of the above rings true for you, which category  were you answering ‘yes’ to more often? Hopefully it gives you perspective about both categories. Both are equally important and if you have one without the other it doesn’t really help. If you purge a ton but still have poor systems you will still be frustrated. And likewise, you can all the best systems and organizing solution under the sun, but if you have too much, you’re still sunk.

Call or text me if you need help with either. 708-925-7574. I’d love to help!

If you would like to know more about Amber’s Organizing, LLC., Click here!

Amber’s Organizing LLC
7401 W. Howard St.
Chicago, IL. 60631
773-628-7404

 

 

 

 

Share
Posted in General Organizing, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment