NAPO Michigan Blog / Media Center

The Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers invites you to explore this blog so you can be informed of the latest news, events and trends in the organizing industry.

December 1, 2013

Organization Tips for Your Baby’s Nursery

So, you’ve had a baby.  Congratulations!  Now you want to know, “What just happened to my house?”

Adding a family member into a currently smoothly-running family unit can really upset the apple cart of organization and fluidity.  Here are a few ideas from a Mom who’s been there and a new Grandma who is back in that same boat with you. 

  • Simplify.  The simpler, the better.  Life runs smoother without all of the distractions of ‘stuff’.  Our children require less ‘stuff’ than the media and family lead you to believe.

  • Diapering Area.  It’s all about the supplies and having them on hand and within your reach.  We all know to never leave a baby on a changing table alone or even without one hand on their wiggly fast moving little body.  Be safe.  Have all of your supplies near.

  • Bed.  Make sure that your crib and/or pack-n-play meet the requirements of safety for your child.  Keep the height of the mattress at the best height for their safety; this will eliminate nap time escapes as they grow older.

  • Make wise choices.  You really don’t need to have a bounce chair, a cradle chair, a high chair, a saucer/walker chair, etc.  Choose two which work best for you and your child. As your child grows, so will their needs and the chairs really will switch up and change for you.

  • Books.  You can never have too many!  This is the best alternative to all of those toys.  Story Time is Imagination Time.  Children learn facts, have adventures, travel and play – all between the covers of a book. 

  • Toys.  You are the parent; at this point in their life, you control just how much comes in to your home and their bedrooms.  Baskets easily contain the countless small stuffed toys; while building a cube unit with cute canvas boxes works wonders to store the toys as your baby grows into a toddler.
    Rotate the toys as your child grows; pack them up and keep for the next child or donate to someone else who could really use those infant toys. 

  • Gifts.  Always welcomed; although, not always necessary.  A few suggestions for Grandma, Aunts and Friends: the child does not require a new toy every time that they stop by.  Gifts in their piggy bank or even savings bonds are welcome for the child’s future.  Be creative; come up with some workable ideas for your family. 

There are so many different ideas, from so many different sources.  Use your heart and mind to make decisions on what works best for you as you organize your baby’s nursery.

Submitted by Chapter Member Kathy Tucker, Finally Organized, LLC.

November 15, 2013


Small closets and large shoe collections can be an issue for many. 
If you share this client’s problem, consider any wall space as potential storage. 
In this photo, we had a 5” inset from the door to the wall so we installed 8” deep shelving (from IKEA). 

Choose shelving that mounts on side brackets so there are no brackets under the shelves to interfere with the shoe storage. 
We used a pre-existing shoe rack below to double the storage space.  

Putting flats on the rack & heels on the shelves minimized the footprint allowing easy access to the rest of her closet.
Article submitted by Chapter member Cynthia Gentit, Eat That Elephant! LLC.
For more organizing tips, go to

October 15, 2013

Organize your Teenager Once and for All!?

Organizing and teens usually do not appear in the same sentence.  In fact, most teens dread being asked to do anything by a parent, especially if it resembles a chore!

These simple tips from the National Association of Professional Organizers in Michigan will help your teen get and stay organized:

1.      Start with a home tour.  Make sure your teens know where household supplies/items are kept.  They can’t put them away if they don’t know where they go.  This is especially true for cleaning and office supplies.

2.      Use calendars to keep track of activities and schedules.  A family calendar kept in a kitchen is a great place for everyone to coordinate their schedules.  Using a different colored highlighter for each member makes it easy for all to see.  A teen might also want their own calendar/planner to keep in their room.

3.      Create specific areas for teens.  Most teens are involved in sports or other activities where they need to keep their gear.  Having a shelf in a garage or laundry room dedicated to those activities will make it easier for things to be put away and not plopped at the doorstep.

4.      Update their bedrooms.  By this, I mean help teens pack away things they have outgrown.  Special things can be stored in bins.  Clothes can be donated or taken to resale shops.  Let teens have a say in the way their rooms are decorated or arranged.  It might just make them keep it tidy.
Organizing your teen is easier than you think! 
For more organizing tips, visit

Article submitted by Chapter member, Susan Carmody,

October 14, 2013

Downsizing Tips for Seniors

This article is designed to offer seniors pertinent advice on the subject of “getting organized” in your golden years. For most seniors, this is a process of “downsizing” and taking stock of affairs and priorities.


Human nature compels us to collect and guard our resources, and society has taught us to own and consume. So it is not surprising that by the time many people reach “senior citizen” status at the age of 65, they have accumulated an impressive amount of stuff. Beyond the living spaces of our homes, our attics, basements, garages, and storage units have become filled with the stored treasures of time. For many, these belongings are an important reflection and reminder of the lives they’ve led and ultimately “who they are.” There can come a point, however, when these belongings become more of a burden than a blessing for seniors, and for a variety of reasons – often relating to practicality and safety – they eventually feel a strong, natural compulsion or experience a sudden, pressing need or to downsize.


Downsizing is commonly understood to be the process of simplifying one’s life by reducing the volume of your belongings through a sorting and purging process. Downsizing can also involve reducing the number of commitments, activities, or other “things” which require your time, energy, money, and other resources. Fundamentally, downsizing involves reviewing, evaluating, and re-organizing your stuff, affairs, and priorities so that you can free up space in your life – both physical and mental. There are many reasons that that seniors elect to downsize. Not wanting to burden loved ones with having to “deal with their affairs” once they’ve passed away is one common reason. Moving into a smaller space that cannot accommodate all of their belongings – such as to a retirement, assisted living, or nursing home – is another common reason. Whatever your reason, there are seven tips that I’d like to share as I believe they will make your downsizing experience more successful.


(1)   Honor Yourself

Society often makes the insulting and very unfair error of assuming that all seniors are “incapacitated” in some way or that they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. As a senior endowed with all of your mental faculties, it is very important for your dignity that you do not let these false assumptions influence your downsizing efforts. If you feel pressure from your family to downsize but have no interest in doing it, or if you and your family have different ideas about what your downsizing project should entail, speak your mind. It’s your life, your stuff, and no one has the authority to boss you around. This is not to say that I recommend excommunicating your family: I recommend thoughtful, sensitive dialogue and clear, open communication. Ultimately, you must be on board for whatever downsizing changes you are making in your life (or others are making on your behalf).

(2)   Articulate Your Goals

At the start of any organizing project, it is very important that you identify your reasons for undertaking the project (what’s been bothering you about your ‘status quo’? , why do you want to make a change and get organized, and why now?). It’s also critical that you outline a set of specific goals for the project (at the end of this project, I will have achieved X, Y, and Z). By articulating these things up front and putting them on paper, you give yourself a measuring stick to work against and an important written reminder of why you are doing this hard work. It can be inspiring and reassuring to look back at these written goals if, and when, you feel yourself losing heart partway through the project. Having these things on paper also helps the important people in your life who are involved in the project – family, caregivers, etc – to understand and feel in sync with your priorities.

(3)   Recognize Your Limits

It’s taken a lifetime to acquire the things you own, so it is not realistic to expect that you can sort and purge them in a week or two. Downsizing is generally a big job. It is going to take time. If you tire easily or have certain health conditions, it may take even more time. The process of handling your belongings – emptying closets and cupboards, lifting and sifting through boxes, etc – can be physically draining.  And deciding what to keep versus what to get rid of, as well as how to get rid of it, involves a tremendous amount of decision making that can be very tiring and emotional. It will be important that you acknowledge your emotions and pace yourself at a comfortable rate so that you don’t burn out.

(4)   Build and Rely On a Support Team

Whenever we go through big changes in our lives – marriages, births, deaths, divorces, moves, new jobs, etc. – we are best served when we reach out, ask for, and accept help. None of us is a superhero, so the support of loved ones and experts is key to making these transitions go more smoothly and be less stressful than if we try to go it alone. Beginning a major organizing project is one of these times: you are going to need the physical, emotional, and professional support of others. Family and friends may be willing to work side-by-side with you as you sit and sort through your belongings. If you’re open to it, they may also be able to offer insights for what to keep or divest yourself of, and perhaps they can do some of the heavy lifting, reach the items that are stored up high, take the trash and recycling out, drive your donation items to the local charity, etc. If you are committed to addressing not just your belongings but also your day-to-day and/or estate affairs as part of your downsizing project, you will want to consider adding folks to your team who can serve you in the areas where you need help. If you are physically disabled, do you need assistance with meal preparation, housekeeping, or personal hygiene? If you no longer drive, do you need the services of a transportation company? If you have difficulty with memory, do you need help managing your calendar and appointments? If your estate affairs are not in order, do you need the counsel of a lawyer or financial advisor? Getting professionals lined up to support you is an important part of getting organized. Professional Organizers can assist with identifying these needs and recommending service providers. As experienced, objective professionals, Professional Organizers are also able to provide hands-on help with your sorting and purging work, and we can coordinate the removal of items so that they get to the destination (charity, resale shop, etc.) of your choice. Moreover, an Organizer can teach you organizing skills, make recommendations to optimize your use of space, and design custom systems that address your unique organizing challenges.

(5)   Schedule Work Sessions

For your downsizing project to be a success, you are going to need to devote time. To make sure this happens, I suggest that you make formal “work sessions” (2-3 hours per session is typically a good length, though you should go with what feels best for you) and get these onto your schedule. If you keep a paper or electronic calendar, records your sessions into it; if you keep track of your appointments in some other way, make sure that you get these work sessions on the agenda. Take them seriously, as you would a doctor’s appointment or meeting with your accountant, and I guarantee that you will see progress!

(6)   Roll Up Your Sleeves & Achieve

To make your sorting and purging work as enjoyable and efficient as possible, I recommend that you pick a finite “zone” to address during each given work session – perhaps a closet, a dresser, a desk, a bookshelf, or a small area within the basement or garage. Always set up your work area for the day by introducing up a comfortable chair, a card table or other work surface, good lighting, and trash and recycle bins. Also make sure that you have the tools at-hand that you will need, such as post-its, markers, boxes, and tape. Then gradually work your way through the items in the zone: for each item, decide whether to keep it or divest yourself of it. If you decide to part with the item, you will need to determine where it goes – options typically include:

-        Donate the item to charity

-        Gift the item to a family member or friend

-        Sell the item via a yard sale, at a resale shop, on Craigslist, or through some other channel

-        Consign the item at a consignment shop

-        Throw away the item in the trash

-        And for papers: If no longer needed for tax, legal, financial, or others reasons, Recycle or Shred the paper based on the presence of sensitive personal information such as account numbers, date of birth, etc. 

If you encounter items which stir up emotions and leave you unsure whether to keep or divest, asking yourself these questions might prove helpful in reaching a decision. Also, try to think of things in this way: the idea isn’t to focus on getting rid of stuff, it’s to identify and retain the items which are most essential and precious to you. 

-        Do I use it? When was the last time I used it?

-        Do I love it?

-        Do I have space to reasonably store it?

-        Could someone else use it or enjoy it more than me?

-        What’s the worst case scenario if I get rid of it?

As your boxes fill up with items for charity and items to give to family, etc, I recommend that you don’t let them sit for too long – get those items out of your home as soon as possible, otherwise they may have a tendency to end up sitting around for a long time. 

(7)   Prioritize Your Safety

Earlier I mentioned that people make assumptions about seniors. I hope I am not making an unfair assumption now, but I want to talk about the importance of prioritizing safety as you work through your downsizing project. For example, be mindful of trip and slip hazards in your living space: remove cords that are in pathways on the floor, reposition furniture and other items that pose an obstacle to your movement, relocate your most frequently used items to easy-to-reach places, and so on. Also be mindful of fire hazards and ventilation: keep counters and stovetops clear, and make sure that heating vents and fans are unblocked. And if you are taking stock of your day-to-day affairs, be mindful of things like food safety (make sure you have a system in place for reviewing & throwing our foods which have passed their expiration dates) and medication safety (have a reliable system for ensuring that you take the right medicine in the right dosage at the right time of day).


Whether you’ve just turned 65 and are spry as a spring chicken, or whether you are 95 and slowing down a bit, downsizing can have a place in everyone’s lives. It’s all about freeing up space, time, and energy so that you can then devote yourself to the activities, people, and passions that bring you the greatest joy. I wish you well in your project!

For more organizing tips, visit

Article submitted by Chapter member Nia Spongberg of Spruced Up Spaces, LLC

July 15, 2013

Save Cash and Space: Reuse Containers to Organize Your Home

We organizers love for there to be “a place for everything and everything in its place.” And very often that place is a box, bin, basket, or bag. Now, if you were to buy such a thing for every category of item you own, you’d break the bank! Being organized is all about using resources wisely, so we advocate saving money (not to mention energy and materials for manufacturing) by looking around and using containers you already own to corral your vitamins, light bulbs, and pencils.

The possibilities are endless.  Here are a few examples:

Drawers – An open shoe box in the center of a medium-depth drawer divides the drawer into three sections: the middle and either side of the box.  Use each to store a different category of accessory – e.g., light socks, dark socks, and underthings.  Use the shoe box’s lid the same way in a shallow drawer.

Cabinets – If you’re short on drawer space in the kitchen, a 6-pack carrier can hold plastic wrap, foil, wax paper, etc.  Stand the boxes vertically and stow in a cabinet.  Also, the cardboard core of a toilet paper roll, cut lengthwise down the middle, fits around a roll of gift wrap to keep it from unraveling.

Floors – The previous examples may not need to be pretty since they’re behind closed doors, but you can easily spruce up a out-in-the-open box by covering it with paper as you would a gift.  A medium-sized shipping box covered with a kid’s finger-painting masterpiece makes a great toy box for the corner of a room.  A newspaper-covered box can hold reading materials.

One last tip – create a “home” for storing reusable containers until the right purpose presents itself. If you have room for one box on a high shelf, that’s your limit; recycle whatever doesn’t fit there.  If you have more space, curate a rotating store of organizing possibilities!

 For more inspiration:

Article submitted by Chapter Vice President Molly Boren of Simplicity Works Organizing Services:

July 1, 2013

Tips for Organizing Your Bathroom

The bathroom is the one place in the home that everyone uses at least once a day.  For lots of us, bathrooms can be used so many times in a day by so many people that it can be hard to get or keep it organized.  They contain so many big and small useful items that finding the best home for these things is sometimes difficult.

Here are some tips and products to help you get and keep order in your bathroom:
1.   If you have a vanity, the open space below it can be doubled by using an adjustable under sink shelf.  This is perfect for cleaning supplies but take care with placement on these if you have small children or pets in the house.   
Extra rolls of toilet paper can be stacked here.  Shallow baskets here can also corral the smaller items such as extra toothpaste, floss, etc.

They also make over-the-door hooks for vanity doors to hold a hair dryer or curling iron.
2.  If your vanity also has drawers, you can use a cutlery or office supply drawer organizer to keep these things handy.  These can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond or office supply stores. 
3.  If you need additional storage space, putting shelves, a cabinet, or a storage tower over the toilet can really make the difference.  Use this new space for your daily use products so they’re handy when needed.  Cleaning supplies kept nearby can make daily cleanups much easier.
4. In the medicine cabinet, besides the option of adjusting shelf height, OXO makes great narrow organizing containers and shelves that I use to help maximize this space.  Check them out at
Medicine cabinets should be used only for your daily use items as well.  Having them handy without having to search for them will really speed up your morning routine
Putting a magnetized strip inside the cabinet door for tweezers and other light metal items puts them front and center when needed.
5.  In the bathtub, there are many heavy duty baskets and nets that go on with suction cups that can straighten this area up.  Bath toys can dry when hung in a net from the walls.

There are also lots of shower organizing caddies available that will give your bath and shower products right where you need them. 
6.  Whenever possible, remove items such as Q-tips or cotton balls from their original packaging and place them in a sealed clear container.  This will ensure they stay sanitary until needed. 

These tips will enable you to find your bathroom items when you need them which will get you out the door in a much better mood. 
For more organizing tips, go to

Article Written by Chapter member Cindy Greenleaf.  Find out more about her at

June 1, 2013

Organizing your Books and Magazines

The National Association of Professional Organizers in Michigan shares some tips on organizing your books and magazines. 

These simple tips will help you get and stay organized:

1.      Keep magazines for the last six months and recycle the old ones. 

2.      If you are interested in a recipe or article, tear it out and put it in a subject folder.

3.      Getting too many magazines to keep up to read? Evaluate which ones you truly enjoy and have time to read.  For those that you want to cut, consider transferring those magazines to an E-book subscription or just don’t renew. 
4.      Be sure to put the magazines in a magazine rack or holder.  When you have time to catch up, they’ll be together and handy. 

5.      Instead of buying books that you will only read once, check it out at the library.

6.      Categorize your books in a bookcase by subject -- fiction, non-fiction, spiritual, certain subjects, journals, etc.  This way you can find your book immediately based upon the subject matter.

Organizing your magazines and books is easier than you think! 

For more organizing tips, visit 

Article submitted by Chapter member Debbie Tebbe,

May 31, 2013

To Do Apps for Smartphones

If you’re happy with the list-making apps that came pre-installed on your smartphone, you can stop reading now! The fewer apps you have, the easier your phone will be to use.

It’s easy to clutter your phone with a bunch of apps to test. Instead, read reviews of top-rated list apps and make a list of the features you need. Consider

·       Organization: how flexibly can you label, prioritize, categorize, and move tasks around?

·       Ease of use: some list-making apps are more intuitive than others. How easy is it to add or modify tasks?

·       Visual appeal: a graphic design you like (or that you can customize) may help you use it.

·       Reminder options: do you want an audible tone? A buzz? A text? An email? Or some other kind of alert? Do you need more than one alert for a particular task? How far into the future do you want to schedule reminders? Can it repeat tasks at the intervals you require? 

·       Sharing: do you need to share lists with others (perhaps a spouse)? Can you control who adds or edits items? How secure does the list need to be?

·       Paper & memory: do you want to be able to print out the list? Should the app track modifications to individual tasks? Should finished tasks be erased or archived? 

·       Coercion: do you want the app to create or enforce consequences should you not complete a task within the assigned timeframe? Consequences might be social or financial or both.

Some features may involve tradeoffs.

For instance, a multi-platform list may be automatically synced and available on your phone, laptop, home and office computers, but it might be expensive, loading time will depend on your internet connection and data security might be a concern.

On the other hand, a list solely on your phone might load more quickly and might be kept private more easily.

You may even find that you use one app for grocery lists (web-accessible and shared with spouse), another for your work obligations (multi-platform, archives completed tasks), another for routine tasks (very flexible options for repeating intervals), and pencil and paper for thinking through today’s priorities.

It’s helpful to find tools that match the way you think and work. But don’t overdo it. Susan Hunsberger of Strategize Organize LLC warns, “Some people spend way too much time trying to find the ‘perfect’ app; at some point, you’ve just got to pick something and start doing!”

Article written by Melanie Sobocinski, of Prof Organizer LLC, NAPO Chapter Member.

May 15, 2013


Is your mudroom less “mud” and more “mess?”  Can people actually walk through your entryway?

If so, I’m here to help you get these areas back in order.  Here are a few tips to help you begin.
1.  Make sure the things that need to stay in these areas have a proper “home”.  So much of disorganization at home begins with us not consciously thinking about the place items need to “live.”

If a home hasn’t been designated for an item, it’s hard to put it away properly.  So make sure that the families’ items-keys, purses, briefcases, coats, shoes and boots, backpacks, etc. - have a place to live. 
Professional organizers like to call this having a” landing and launching pad” in these areas.  This makes getting everyone out the door in the morning easier because it’s grab and go.  It also makes coming home at the end of the day easier and keeps the mudroom or entryway clear for safety reasons.

2.  To maximize space usage, go vertical as much as possible.  Place hooks and/or shelves with baskets on the wall at the appropriate level for the kids to hang their own coats.  For any containers, be sure to label them clearly with pictures or words, depending on age of children. Beneath hooks or shelves should be a place to sit to put on or take off footwear.  A small storage bench could hold seasonal items such as hats, scarves and gloves or sunglasses, sunscreen and bug spray. 
3.  Don’t forget the dog.  A spot for pet items can make dog walks a breeze when everyone knows where the leash is.

4.  If your household recycles and room permits, having a recycling zone in this area can make it easier for all to get items together for curbside or drop-off recycling.

5.  With kids’ backpacks during the school year, make sure to build a habit of emptying the backpack every night with the child so any permission slips, homework review or assignments can be worked on by deadlines given.  Once that has been accomplished, be sure to get the backpack back to its home for the morning rush. 
6.  For kids with after school activities, getting the next days’ gear washed, gathered and ready the night before and by the exit door can avoid any last-minute pleas of “mom, I forgot I need …. for school tomorrow” the next morning.

Coming and going does not need to be chaotic once thought is given to what your family needs to get organized to be on the go.
For more tips, check out NAPO Michigan’s website at

This Blog article was written by Cindy Greenleaf of New Leaf Organizing LLC.  The website is

April 15, 2013

A More Organized Play Room is More Fun!

Four Steps to a More Organized Playroom

These simple tips from the National Association of Professional Organizers in Michigan will help your family get and stay organized.

1) Decide:
Determine what volume of toys can fit comfortably in your playroom and make homes for them on shelves or in drawers. Keep an eye on that volume: as new toys come in, old ones must go out. Move them to a storage space for future use (labeled) or – better yet – donate to charity.
2) Contain:

Store broad categories of toys (avoid the temptation to be super-specific) together in bins that are easy to move to and from play spaces. Avoid lids for easier access. Label the containers, even if you think its contents are obvious. Involve the kids; they can draw picture labels if they're not writers yet.

3) Collect:
Toys have a way of escaping the playroom. Place smallish bins in other areas (e.g., living room, kitchen, stairs) to collect the escapees and return to the playroom when they're full.

4) Teach:
Staying organized is an essential life skill, so teaching your kids how to put things away so that they can find them again is part of your job as a parent. That means they need to practice! Just as it would be a shame for a 30-year-old to have never learned how to tie his shoe laces, it’s sad to see one who hasn’t learned the basics of organizing. So make putting toys away an everyday part of the end of the day ritual.

Organizing your playroom is easier than you think!
For more organizing tips, visit

Article submitted by Chapter member Molly Boren of Simplicity Works Organizing Services: