Happy New Year!

I hope you and your family have had a lovely holiday season, including some rest time.

It’s hard to believe, but January 17, 2023, marks my twenty years in business. Isn’t it amazing how the years can fly by?

Not only is it a big business anniversary, but I’ve also decided this is my year of semi-retirement (because I love my clients and career too much to retire fully!). I will be shifting my focus to virtual organizing, so please know that I’m still available if you need me.

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently, and I feel incredibly grateful for my varied career and the friendships I’ve made.

Many of those friendships came from beginning my membership in the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) in 2003. I’ve maintained my membership ever since and took their inaugural exam to achieve my Certified Professional Organizer® (CPO) title in 2007.

In 2004, I began my subscribership with the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) and started my journey into specializing my services to serve my clients better.

My clients, students, colleagues, and family continually inspire me. In a career that has included downturns, young children, empty nesting, and a global pandemic, one thing has remained constant — strong connections with amazing people.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and I hope you’ll enjoy some of the highlights I share below of the past twenty years.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Things I’m Grateful For

●      My husband, Stefan, and our two children, Alex and Hannah, whose support made all of this possible

●      My wonderful clients and students – you’ve kept me going!

●      My fantastic team (Katie, Casey, and Melissa) who made the work richer and lighter

●      Incredible colleagues that feel like family

●      An industry and profession that feels like home

My Business Fun Facts

●      Attended 22 conferences all over the nation

– as well as presented at conferences in Canada (POC), Japan (JALO), and London (APDO)

●      Completed over 325 continuing education hours

●      537 (and counting) incredible clients

●      Longest project: over 400 hours

●      453 (and counting) inspiring students

Don’t worry; I’m still here!

Remember, this is semi-retirement! 😄 I’m still available for virtual organizing.

And I would gratefully appreciate you keeping the Institute for Professional Organizers in mind if you ever know someone curious about what it takes to become a professional organizer.

How to declutter and stay decluttered in 3 steps; plan, prioritize, and practice.

Decluttering Step 1 – Plan Your Space

photo Plan Graphic

The first step in how to declutter and stay decluttered in 3 steps is planning.  Capture your thoughts, ideas, and solutions for each room in your home. Assess the causes of the disorder so you can achieve lasting change.

Some questions to ask:

  • What do you call this space?
  • What activities do you do in this space?
  • Do you have all the items you need to support those activities?
  •  What does the finished space look like to you?
  •  What is your vision of “organized?”

Decluttering Step 2 – Prioritize Your Belongings

photo Priorities Graphic

The second step in how to declutter and stay decluttered in 3 steps is to prioritize your belongings.  Start by emptying the room you are decluttering and group like items together in bins or boxes.

  • Relocate or let go of anything that doesn’t pertain to the room’s activities, function, and purpose.
  • Reduce and let go of what doesn’t serve a purpose in your life anymore.
    • Tip – if an item makes you feel mad, bad, or sad, you don’t need it in your life.
  • Return the things you are keeping to the space and place the frequently used items for easy access.

Decluttering Step 3 – Practice Living Clutter-free

photo Practice Graphic

The third step in how to declutter and stay decluttered in 3 steps is to practice ongoing decluttering.  To keep your home decluttered, practice these easy habits:

  1. Don’t wait to decide where something belongs; choose immediately and put it there.
  2. If you take it out, put it back.
  3. Don’t put it down; put it away.
  4. Open and sort your mail daily.
  5. One-in-one-out.
  6. Buy containers only when you know what will go in them.
  7. Set a limit on how many of something you will keep
  8. Set a limit on the amount of space you allocate to a collection.
  9. Organizing is not a one-time “clean sweep” event. Create and follow a maintenance plan for all the areas of your home. You can do all the grouping, reducing, and organizing you want, but you can easily backslide if you don’t learn the skills and build new habits.
  10. 10 practices to keep you organized

For more tips on Starting 2022 clutter-free read https://porch.com/advice/starting-2022-clutter-free.

Pre-pandemic, my clients’ popular frustration was that they struggled with getting themselves and their family out the door on time, every time.  Here are some of the common reasons why:

  • They can’t find their car keys or cell phone.
  • Everyone leaves a trail of items on the way entering the house, creating a chaotic area getting out the next day.
  • Mornings are a frenzy of activity and tracking down a child’s misplaced schoolwork, sports gear, school lunch, etc.

Let me introduce you to the Launching and Landing pad.  In professional organizer language, this refers to where you “launch” out of your home into your day and “land” back in when you return.   It’s the transitional space between being outside your home and inside your home.  This launching and landing pad aims to get you in and out with less stress and where you need to be on time.

  • This space can be used for infants and toddlers to house the diaper bag and activity bag (swim lessons, gym classes, and playgroups).
  • For school-age kids, this is where they pick up their backpacks and lunches each morning.
  • For adults, this is where their purse, bag, wallet, keys, cell phones, etc., will be contained until they leave home. It’s an ideal place for a charging station.

I realize many of you are not leaving your home daily or engaging in activities that require you to find all the things you normally needed to find to get you out the door pre-pandemic.  Once it is safe to be leaving your home daily and life resumes to whatever the new normal is, you’ll be glad you set up your launching and landing pad while sheltering in place.

Setting Up a Launching and Landing Pad

To create a launching and landing pad, ask, “what is the exit/entrance that I use most often?” It might be your front door, it might be the door leading to your garage,  or it might be near your entry coat closet.  Wherever it is, that is where you want to locate your launching and landing pad.  To help you place the items you take with you when you leave your home, add cubbies or shelf with baskets, one for each person in the home.  Install hooks or a wall system to hang jackets and backpacks and a bench for storing shoes, hats, gloves, scarves. Provide a basket for any school mail or assignments that need parental review and/or signature.   Add a container for your PPE (masks, disposable gloves, and pocket hand-sanitizer) and one for disinfectant wipes.

The goal of the launching and landing pad is to not carry these items further into the home.  If you leave your everyday items in the launching and landing pad, you won’t need to hunt them down the next time you leave your home.


The outside world can be stressful and uncertain – especially right now. Additionally, our personal priorities pull us in many directions, from work calls and meetings to children’s activities, online schooling, and just the normal rigors of life. That’s why it’s more important than ever that our homes are havens for relaxation, rest, and happiness.

The good news is there are plenty of simple design and styling tweaks you can make at home to instantly boost your mood. Check out these eight interior design ideas to get started.


  1. Color your mood

Marketing companies study color psychology for a reason: color affects your mood. Take a page out of the psychology book and surround yourself with colors that help you relax and put you in a happy mood. Every color can be expressed as either warm or cold, with a different effect on the way you feel. In general, cool colors have a calming effect, while warm colors add comfort and can be invigorating.

For example, a cool blue or green is relaxing and rejuvenating – just the right feeling for a bedroom or bathroom. Warm reds and purples are energizing and exciting, stimulating brain activity and conversation. These colors make a good choice for painting an office or living room. White can help brighten rooms by reflecting light. It makes a small space feel larger and more open, which can help you feel more energized.

  1. Look for pieces of furniture with round edges

Furniture with soft, round edges creates a feeling of relaxation and comfort. Your eye picks up the visual cues of a rounded-edge coffee table or a sofa and your mind becomes happier and less stressed. Do you already have a boxier sofa? Don’t worry – just add a throw blanket and a few pillows to break up the hard lines.

  1. Add more natural materials

The use of natural materials in your home decor is called biophilic design. This type of design connects us with nature, even indoors. Studies show that biophilic design can directly correlate to improved sleep and stress reduction. Consider eliminating synthetic materials like fleece and polyester in favor of natural materials like cotton, silk, or wool.

Include other natural elements in the form of flowers and plants (more on this in idea #4) and welcome in sunlight and fresh air whenever possible. You will feel happier, calmer, and more rested, all proven beneficial to your psychological well-being.

  1. Embrace the power of plants

Plants are amazing gifts of nature. In both work and home environments, live plants can boost your mood, productivity, concentration, and creativity. Plants clean the indoor air by absorbing toxins and producing oxygen. They can also absorb noise, provide privacy, and reduce stress. For all of these reasons, incorporating plants throughout your home is one of our top interior design ideas for boosting happiness.

  1. Let the light in 

The amount of light our eyes perceive during the day plays a significant role in our sleep cycles. On cloudy days it’s not uncommon for people to feel sad or drained of energy, but when the sun is shining, that solar power goes right to our inner beings.

One of the most transformative interior design ideas is to welcome natural daylight inside. Large windows and skylights bring in sunlight at all hours of the day. If you’re stuck with small windows or if you have a home in Portland or Seattle where the weather is often gloomy, add lamps that use full-spectrum or halogen lightbulbs to mimic natural light. The right light will keep your sleep cycle accurate, providing an automatic boost to happiness.

  1. Conquer the clutter

Clutter adds to stress. People turn to minimalist interior design options to reduce stress and believe in the power of the “less stuff, less stress” mantra. Think about how good you feel when you’ve cleaned the house, and everything has been put back in its rightful place. Now, imagine the reality of “less stuff” altogether – less to clean and put away. Yep, that’s a real spike of happiness simply from conquering the clutter.

Dealing with clutter can be a big job, especially if your clutter has crept in overtime. Successful clutter busters set ground rules – they only buy items necessary for daily use, get rid of things used rarely or not at all, and stay on top of organizing what they do have to help reduce stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the process, bring in a professional organizer or declutter to help.

  1. Expand space with mirrors

According to Feng Shui principles that seek to balance energy throughout your home, thoughtfully placed mirrors can create an illusion of more space and add a bright, airy feeling to an otherwise cramped space. This effect is perfect for smaller rooms and bathrooms.

Taking it a step further, a mirror with colored glass can bring in the psychological effects of color while adding the illusion of light and space to a room.

  1. Tap into scent 

Our brains are miraculous processors of external data. Even a hint of a scent can transport us to another place, in a completely different time. Our mind can summon an image and feelings associated with that scent. Incorporating calming scents into your home can help fight off gloomy feelings and replace them with happy, relaxing ones. Look for candles or essential oils to diffuse in specific scents known to help reduce anxiety and boost happiness and productivity.

Calming scents include lemon and lavender, while jasmine and rosemary are invigorating. Cinnamon and peppermint can support your clarity of thought and boost productivity. Find the right scents to promote the feelings you’d like to experience while you’re at home.

If your home falls short of improving your state of relaxation and happiness, think through how these interior design ideas might enhance your surroundings. You may find that one or two will do the trick to improve your mood and make you happier at home. If you need some assistance along the way, consider enlisting the help of an interior decorator to help transform your space into one that brings you comfort and joy.

Republished with Permission from Emily Huddleston, Redfin

Originally published by Redfin

2020? Wow, didn’t that sound truly in the far distant future, just a few years back?

It is predicted to be a banner year. Whether you are intrigued by a leap year, the summer Olympics, an election year, the upcoming census or a brand-new decade, the year 2020 is fast approaching. The close of a year and the brink of a new one is a great time to formulate a plan for change, for realizing goals, and manifesting dreams.


Let’s say one item on your list is to clean out your jam-packed basement or office or family room. This is a great place to start. The old adage, “Out with the old and in with the new” is especially appropriate as we prepare for a new year and the start of a new decade. Feng Shui principles state that everything has energy. Just think of how much precious energy is being used or blocked by that stack of books you will never read. Donate or dump the items you will not use. What about that closet which is so full the door won’t close?  Get a handle on your piles of paper. It will energize you to declutter your surroundings. Get rid of stagnant energy.


Look back over the waning year and even the past decade. Relive and relish your accomplishments. It is lovely to relive the positive memories. Then consider what you want to do differently or better or start? Please don’t beat yourself up about the not so good memories, merely look at how you could do things differently next time.

There are always lessons to be learned.

Consider how you want to grow in the new year. If you are a lifetime learner, maybe you want to acquire new skills or have new experiences. Perhaps travel to foreign lands is on your list. Decide what your overall focus for the year ahead will be. Document all this valuable introspection.


By evaluating the past, we can prepare for the future. Use the insights during your self-reflection to make a plan, set your goals, and envision your future. Utilizing a binder as a planner can be extremely helpful. Set goals that are tangible, measurable and attainable. Write them down in your planner, where you can look at them daily. Create and schedule action steps to move you closer to your goals on a regular basis, preferably daily. Consider what limiting beliefs may have held you back in the past. Does your negative self, pester you with thoughts like, “I can’t do that!”, “It will never happen.”, or “Don’t be a fool. Forget it.” Our thoughts are powerful. Put aside doubt and replace it with affirming positive messages. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Read books by self-help gurus. Be your own cheerleader.

Make 2020 an amazing NEW YEAR!


If your plan is to make 2020 your year of organization and you need a bit of help, give us a call: SolutionsForYou * Anne Blumer & Team of Pros * Anne [at] SolutionForYou [dot] com * 503-706-3502

You would have to be living under a rock (or a mountain of clothing) to have not heard about the new Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.  As a certified professional organizer, I was intrigued by Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  And, my clients often ask what I think of Marie’s approach.  I decided it was [finally] time to read her famous book.

From the discussions, I have heard or read about; I expected to be outraged by every word in the book. It turns out there is a great deal that I agree with Marie. But where I disagree, I do so strongly!

Read on for the key aspects of where Marie’s “tidying” and my tried and true, professional decluttering/organizing techniques concur, plus where they clash.


Marie: Before you start, visualize your destination.
Anne: I agree, knowing why you now want to get organized will keep you motivated and focused during the process. To help you visualize your destination, ask yourself some key questions, such as:

  • Why is it important for you to be organized?
  • How will your daily life be different after you are organized?
  • What are the consequences if you don’t get organized?


Marie: Why does my [Konmari] course transform people? Because my approach is not simply a technique. The act of tidying is a series of simple actions in which objects are moved from one place to another. It involves putting things away where they belong. This seems so simple that even a six-year-old should be able to do it. Yet most people can’t. A short time after tidying, their space is a disorganized mess. The cause is not lack of skills but rather lack of awareness and the inability to make tidying a regular habit. In other words, the root of the problem lies in the mind.
Anne: I disagree that the cause is not a lack of skills. In my experience working with clients, particularly my chronically disorganized clients, they have never learned organizing skills or techniques to stay organized. They have not internalized the concept of “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

First, one needs to learn how to organize before they can change their behaviors around their stuff to create habits that will keep their space organized and tidy, ongoing.


Marie: The ultimate secret of success is this: If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset. It is not hard to tidy up perfectly and completely in one fell swoop. In fact, anyone can do it. And if you want to avoid rebound, this is the only way to do it.

The Life-Changing Manga ofPhoto from Tidying Up: A Magical Story
The Life-Changing Manga ofPhoto from Tidying Up: A Magical Story. Source: TEN SPEED PRESS/Amazon

Anne: I agree & disagree with this statement. While this could dramatically change one’s mindset, organizing is not a one size fits all approach! Not everybody can move at that pace, especially individuals who have experienced significant trauma or a brain injury. In my experience working with clients, slow and steady, one change at a time produces true long-term results.

Marie’s approach focuses on neurotypical folks and not neurodivergent individuals. I do not agree that the secret is a “one-shot” avenue to organization. It is decluttering and prioritizing what is important to each person and making decisions about whether or not to keep certain belongings, that is key. I also take exception to Marie’s term “tidying.”

Tidying is what happens after you declutter and organize to maintain an organized environment. And, there is no perfect way to declutter, organize, or tidy. Suggesting perfection will cause many people not to take action at all.


Marie: Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things and some new and “easy” storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral.
Anne: I agree that putting things away or in containers or storage units does not solve the organizing issues and that keeping things you don’t use, or love takes up precious space.


Marie: Tidying up by location is a fatal mistake.
Anne: Wow, a fatal mistake? I hardly think it would be fatal to organize by location, so that’s another disagree. Although, I don’t necessarily dispute Marie’s approach to organizing by category. This can allow you to see the volume of items, such as books or clothes. It’s also easier to select what you love or use, or in Marie’s terms, what “sparks joy” if you are editing only one category.

However, it can be problematic, if you have too much of a category and gathering it all together in one place can be more work. For example, if you have 500 books scattered in various rooms of your home, physically moving them to one location, can be exhausting, even more cluttered, and could interfere with your daily activities.


Marie: I became so neurotic that focusing solely on throwing things away can only bring unhappiness. Why? Because we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.
Anne: I completely agree, Marie! Focusing on choosing what we want to keep is more comfortable and more pleasant (even releasing delightful endorphins) than focusing on what we are letting go of, which often brings up the emotions of sadness, resentment, and regret, to name just a few.


Marie: Tidying is a special event. Don’t do it every day. This usually elicits a moment of stunned silence. Still, let me repeat: tidying should be done just once.
Anne: Whoa, yes stunned silence! I disagree, Marie!!

Tidying or organizing is NOT a special event. It’s NOT a one-time event, and then you are done. You do need to do it regularly to maintain organization.


Marie: Getting rid of other people’s things without permission demonstrates a bad lack of common sense. Although such stealth tactics generally succeed and the items discarded are never missed, the risk of losing your family’s trust when you are caught is far too great. Besides, it just isn’t right.
Anne: I completely agree, Marie!

A Professional Organizer’s golden rule is, never throw away anything without first asking permission from the owner and this could hold true with well-meaning family.


Marie: I came to the conclusion that the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.
Anne: This is the most controversial of Marie’s statements, and I heartily disagree! We all have several items in our homes that do not bring us joy but that are utilitarian. Take the handy Plumber’s helper, for example. It’s not beautiful, I don’t love it, it does not spark joy, but when I get a clogged toilet, I do need it.

People are enchanted by Marie’s simple “spark joy” notion as an easy way to get out from under their clutter. But easy is often just a quick fix, band-aid approach.


Marie: The best sequence is this: clothes first, then books, papers, komono (misc.), and lastly mementos. By starting with the easy things first and leaving the hardest for last, you can gradually hone your decision-making skills, so that by the end, it seems simple.
Anne: Although I disagree with Marie’s approach to decluttering by category rather than location, I do agree that mementos should be the last category to work on. Mementos are emotionally-charged, making them much harder to deal with. And, I agree that starting with the easy things first does develop the decision muscle, making it easier to choose which mementos to retain and which to release.


Marie: I hear of methods that recommend tidying in time to a catchy song, but personally, I don’t encourage this. I feel that noise makes it harder to hear the internal dialogue between the owner and his or her belongings. The best time to start is early in the morning.
Anne: I disagree. Marie, what works for you may not work for others. Many of my clients prefer to have music on while decluttering, as it helps them focus. Where for others, like Marie, it would be a distraction.  Starting early in the morning may not be ideal for everyone.

It is essential for the person doing the organizing to have the methodology that works for them.


Marie: The goal is to fold each piece of clothing into a simple, smooth rectangle. The key is to store things standing up rather than laid flat.
Anne: Here, I agree and disagree. Personally, I love folding my clothes the Konmari way and storing them vertically in my dresser drawers. It saves space, and I can easily see each garment. For many people a win would be getting their clothing in the dresser drawers, hanging in the closet, or at best, in the vicinity of their bedroom. The Konmari folding and storing vertically approach can work for the neurotypical but not likely for the neurodivergent.


Marie: Sorting Papers: Rule of Thumb—discard everything.
Anne: I disagree and so does the IRS. Marie, that might work in other countries, but the USA, not so much. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service recommends keeping tax filings forever!! Receipts and documents related to our tax filings are to be retained for a minimum of 3 years. Of course, now they can be scanned and kept electronically, but they should not be discarded!


Marie: Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.
Anne: I agree. What I communicate to my clients is, once a gift is received, you are free to do with it what you choose, it’s yours. The object isn’t the gift. The gift is the act—someone thought of you and wanted to express their thoughts in a tangible object.

Use it, love it, or regift it.


Marie: When in doubt, ask your house and the item being stored what is the best solution for where and how to store. When you are choosing what to keep, ask your heart; when you are choosing where to store something ask your house.
Anne: I disagree and that’s pretty “out there” for me. I know many of my clients would look at me like, really, that’s all you got! Our things should be in as close proximity as possible to where we are going to use them and accessible based on the frequency we access them.

For most of our belongings, the best solution for where you store something is based on where you use it the most.


Marie: The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again.
Anne: I agree. We are on the same page on this one, Marie!


Marie: It’s a very strange phenomenon, but when we reduce what we own and essentially “detox” our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well.
Anne: I agree this phenomenon can occur. After decluttering and organizing their homes, I have witnessed my clients drop weight they have been trying to lose for years. Others let go of toxic relationships. Our home and environments are often an outward physical reflection of our internal self and state of mind. And, that is precisely why organization and uncluttered surroundings are so vital!


Overall, Marie’s approach is quite simplistic, which, again may be alluring to some and effective for neurotypical individuals, but it will likely be lesser successful with neurodivergent individuals. The method needs to fit the person, not the other way around. In my new book, Mastering the Business of Organizing, I go into more detail on this issue.

If you feel the need for professional support, a clutter therapist or organizing expert, I would be happy to help you make your home or office the environment you dream of.

Anne M. Blumer, Certified Professional Organizer

503.706.3502         anne [at] solutionsforyou [dot] com