Cluttered Home? Here’s how to fix it!

cluttered home

Cluttered home? Here’s how to fix it!

Article written by JON LANSNER – The Orange County Register

Jennifer Ford Berry is a organizational expert and author of the “Organize Now” series of self-help books. We figured we’d help our many readers who pledged to get organized in 2012 and ask Jennifer for some home de-cluttering advice!

Us: Organizing the house seems so overwhelming. What are a few hints that can get a person going in the right direction?

Jennifer: Start with the area of your home that causes you the most stress and get it organized. Take it one step at a time until it is 100 percent completed. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and an increase in energy which will help motivate to tackle area No. 2.

Us: Some people have kitchens that look right out of the home-design magazines. Others can’t find a thing. Who is normal? What should a clutter fighter attack first in this room?

Jennifer: More people than not are overwhelmed by clutter in their life. Start with the countertops. This is the most visible space in your kitchen and the most important because it is the area you need to work on. Put away all appliances that you use less than 1 time per week. Clear the paper and make a home for it. Don’t go crazy on the decor, one maybe two things is plenty on a kitchen countertop.

Us: Many home offices are more a collection of piles. Whatever became of the paper-free society? How can one best decide what records to keep, which ones to toss – and what does one need to buy or do to keep my paper reasonably orderly?

Jennifer: Paper-free society … ha! That is a long ways away. Paper is everyone’s worst nightmare because it keeps coming, univited, each and every day. For example, if I want more clothes to come into my home I have to physically go out and buy them. But paper just keeps on coming no matter what we do. Rule of thumb — 80 percent of the paper we keep we NEVER look at again. So ask yourself “is there at least an 80 percent chance I will need this again?” If you can get a digital copy somewhere – toss it! Good, old-fashion filing system is the best way to keep track of paper. Clearly labeled in a straight tab format for hard copies; and labeled folders on your computer.

Us: Why do most three-car garages hold maybe one car – and family’s worth of junk? Bet there’s some mental approach that needs to be changed about this open space. How do we get the cars back in the garage and the storage space better used?

Jennifer: Many times people throw the items they are not sure what to do with, or don’t have a home for, in the garage. This is much easier than (1) making the decision on whether or not to part with the item and (2) deciding on a home for the item. Get tougher on decision-making and you may have less in your garage. Also look up in the garage, that is where you can find the storage space you need to enable you to clear the floor for the vehicles.

Read more here:

Attica woman publishes 2 new books to help you get organized – The Daily News Online

the daily news

Published by The Daily News: Berry has published three books on getting organized, including “Organize Now! Your Money, Business and Career,” which was released in December 2011. The book addresses organizing issues faced in an office environment, in a home office environment, during a job search and starting a business. It offers strategies for organizing the paperwork related to personal finances, including bill-paying systems, tax receipts, insurance papers, investment planning and more….

Read the entire article via Attica woman publishes 2 new books to help you get organized – The Daily News Online: Books.

Organize Your Photos – The Kansas City Star

kansas city star

Here is a great article that ran in the Kansas City Star about how to organize your photos.

Strategies for organizing your photos in 2012 –

Maybe 2012 is when you’ll catch up on organizing photos from 2011. And 2010, 2009, 1999, 1959 …

The good news in our digital era is that even phones can snap decent quality pictures, sometimes even print worthy. But now we’re taking more photos than ever, and hanging on to the bad ones.

And that’s starting to weigh on people. Professional organizer Mary Ellen Vincent of Kansas City says staying on top of the tsunami of photos is one of her clients’ biggest challenges.

“They’ve got boxes and drawers full of slides and photos, plus all these digital pictures,” Vincent says. “It’s really emotional.”

Like many of us, Overland Park photographer Ali Lomshek grew up looking at photo albums, not an endless stream of photos on a computer or phone screen. She wants her three children to enjoy the same tangible experience.

“I love looking at everyone at different ages,” says Lomshek, mother of 5-year-old son, Ziga, and daughters Zala, 3, and Teja, 9 months. “There’s one where my younger brother is clowning around in a group shot, but he’s super serious in the next one. It’s so hilarious. Photos tell stories. They help us remember life as it was.”

Our pictures are probably the first thing we’d rush to save if our homes were on fire. We’re here to help eliminate photo organizing frustration so you can easily enjoy them for years to come.

Edit ruthlessly

Vincent’s recent organizing newsletter takes a bold stance: “Improve your life story by purging your photos.”

“But it’s true,” Vincent says. “I toss photos of myself that look unflattering. My 4-year-old daughter, Eve, always looks good, so those are harder.”

Also go through photos and eliminate ones that look similar. Vincent sets limits for events, such as the best five.

“When you have thousands of pictures, similar ones lose their impact,” she says. “Be brutal, and then you’ll be happier with the final results.”

Organizer Jennifer Ford Berry of Buffalo, N.Y., author of “Organize Now!” (Betterway Home, $16.99), tackles the task by making three piles: toss, keep, doubles for friends and family.

“People feel like they have to hold on to every picture and feel guilty throwing them away,” Berry says. “But if it’s been five years and you still have kindergarten pictures of your son after you’ve kept a few copies and given them out to family and friends, throw the rest away. It’s OK.”

Also for the heave-ho pile: photos that have heads or major limbs cut off, show mostly people’s backs, are too dark or too bright, are fuzzy, are too far away  or too close, are unflattering of loved ones (caveat: unless they make you laugh).

Digitize old photos

Scan slides and old photos onto your computer. If you don’t have time to tackle it, consider going to a photo store. Crick Camera of Kansas City offers a bulk scan of up to 300 pictures for $49.95, says co-owner Bill Thomas.

“That way people can put their color slides into different (computer) folders and create albums or make prints in the sizes they want,” says Thomas, who discusses organizing as part of photography courses he teaches through continuing education at Kansas City Art Institute and through Communiversity at University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“Otherwise the slides are just collecting dust.”

Consider software

Editing software that allows you to crop images and eliminate red eye is another great way to keep up with your visual story. Some programs contain folders as well as keyword tags, so it’s easy to pull up all the photos of a particular person. Free software often comes with your computer. But there are nifty updates for photo software that  cost about $80 to $100. Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 has a facial recognition feature for automatic labeling. And it automatically adds the location of each photo if your camera contains GPS. If your camera doesn’t have GPS, the map sites can be manually added.

Watch your backup

Your pictures will be safe if your hard drive crashes or your computer gets a virus if they’re also stored on a backup source.

“I don’t think a lot of people back up,” Thomas says. “This generation of kids could be the lost generation when it comes to photos, because people don’t print them out anymore. Computers die.”

Photos can be saved onto recordable CDs and labeled with events. Store them in a fireproof box. Gold archival discs should last more than 100 years, but the silver ones might have only a 10- to 25-year lifespan, Thomas says. He recommends external hard drives. Some hard drives (about $80) automatically back up as scheduled, or only when new photos are added.

But cloud-based systems that don’t eat up your computer storage might be the best backup system, Thomas says. In the event of a tornado, your photos would be accessible. He uses Apple iCloud and Flickr. Some sites let you store up to a few hundred photos free but then charge an annual fee for unlimited storage. Another benefit of a cloud system is that by using the site and a password, you can access the photos anywhere to share with friends and family.

Organize chronologically

Berry says to start with your most recent photos and move backward. “The most recent ones are in your memory more vividly, and you can write captions if you want,” she says.

It’s best to do year by year, putting events in order from January through February. It makes the photos easier to work with for albums and other projects.

Enlist help

If you have an overwhelming number of old photos to sift through, Berry suggests calling on family members.

“Get together for a Sunday meal or a few of them,” Berry says. “The photos will spark conversation, and it could be a lot of fun.”

Professional organizers and their assistants help people organize photos all the time. Their services typically start at about $40 per hour.

Create albums from digital pics

Lomshek is working on creating photo albums from her digital photos, designing one for each year starting with 2006, when she had her first child.

She likes, which fits lots of photos into a thin-spine book.

“It was pretty simple and intuitive,” she says. “You can add captions or just let the photos speak for themselves.”

Berry likes because she finds the software easy to use. You can even auto-fill the book; no design choices required. And as you upload pictures, you can post them to social media and photo sharing sites.

Prices of photo books vary, starting around $15.

“It typically costs the same as if you made prints and bought a separate album,” Berry says.

Simplify storage

If you go the traditional album route, look for 4-by-6-inch sleeves and sheet-protected pouches for odd sizes.

“Don’t feel compelled to scrapbook,” Vincent says. “That takes time and lots of supplies. You’re going for practical to make life easier.”

Swap out photos in frames

When Berry helps clients organize their homes, she notices some framed photos can make an interior look dated.

“If you have framed school pictures of your kids, make sure it’s the current year,” she says. “With a bunch of school pictures, a place appears cluttered.”

Put old school pics in an album. If you don’t want to worry about switching out snapshots and other faded photos, opt for framing black-and-white images.

“It’s a timeless look,” Berry says.

Keep it together

This sounds simple, but now more than ever, we have photos all over the place. In albums, boxes, cameras, phones, computers. Berry says to put photo albums in one spot and to funnel digital photos from cameras and phones into one master folder system.

“It puts people’s minds at ease,” she says.

As for digital display, Vincent likes tablet computers such as iPads versus phones (too small a screen) or digital photo frames (too much of an effort to swap out).

“Tablets feel more like a photo album,” she says. “You can carry them from room to room.”

Make gifts

A perk of having photos organized is that it’s easy to create meaningful gifts for family. Calendars are popular, but a framed forgotten photo is always welcome.

“I make a photo album each year and just print out an extra one for my parents at the holidays,” Berry says. “It’s as easy as the click of a button to change the quantity.”

Follow a system

Once photos are organized, keep them that way. Store photos in a photo box or album within a week of getting them developed. Otherwise, they’ll end up in a drawer or box, and nobody will be able to enjoy them. Label the photos with the date, event and names on the back. Each month, download all the pictures from your digital camera and delete bad ones. Once a year, update photos you have on display in frames.

“Think about this: Your photos are going to end up in the hands of family when you’re gone,” Berry says. “How are they going to make any sense if there’s not a system?”

Read more here:


Family Circle: Peter and I in the January Issue


family circle

Check out the January issue of Family Circle Magazine.  I am featured in the article: Organize Your Life: 34 Ideas for Your House, Your Kids, Yourself on page 22. 

It still amazes me when I am in the same article as Peter Walsh-my idol.  (even though I am kind of mad because my publicist recently tried to get me on Good Morning America and they said no because PETER was going to be on). 

What the hell P?  Can you save some TV publicity for us less famous authors? 

Geez! Ellen-if you are reading this I would be more than happy to be YOUR Peter 🙂

Happy New Year Everyone!

Jennifer Ford Berry Interview with Dale Siegel

Recently I did an interview for Dale and it posted today.

Q. What does your typical day look like?

About 4 days a week I get my children on the bus and then head to a client’s home or office to work with them hands on.  We sort clutter and set up homes (storage spaces for everything they own) and systems for everything they are keeping.  After that appointment I head back to my office to answer emails and plug away at my LONG To Do list that includes a lot of publicity efforts for my books.  Then my children come home and I try to stay out of my office to focus on them–making dinner, homework, etc. I dedicate one whole day per week working in my office or doing a speaking engagement.

Read the rest of the interview here: