Interview with Organizing Expert Linda Samuels

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This is the interview with Linda Samuels, about staying organized enough to be satisfied, on Monday Night Radio. Monday Night Radio is an online (Internet-based) talk radio show where different experts are interviewed, and people around the world can listen via the Internet, and call in to talk with the expert, and ask them questions.

The Internet Patrol’s Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., is the host of Monday Night Radio.


This Monday Night Radio show with Samuels was first aired on 11/8/10. In addition to reading the interview below, you can listen to the recorded show via iTunes – where you can also subscribe to the podcast of all of the recorded shows. Here is the iTunes link: http://www.MondayNightRadio.com/ref/MNR-iTunes.

Links to the guest’s website and book, if any, are listed at the end of the interview.

Anne: It’s time for Monday Night Radio. Monday night is your night to talk with the experts. Call us now to get into the queue at 866-Monday6. That’s 866-Monday6. Call us now or e-mail your comments to comments@mondaynightradio.com or Tweet them to us @mondayradio. Now here is your host, Anne P. Mitchell, esquire.

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Anne: Good evening and welcome back to another episode of Monday Night Radio. We have such an exciting and very important show for you tonight, because tonight we are all going to learn how to get organized. Let me tell you that is something that is near and dear to my heart, because I know in trying to run a business, run a radio show (although I do have wonderful help in both from producer Evan), but also to be a parent, to homeschool, to do all of these things, it really takes a lot of organization, far more than I can confess to having. So, I am really looking forward to having tonight’s guest help me as well as to answer your questions. First just let me remind you all that you can call in to talk to our guest and to ask her your questions or give her your comments at 866-Monday6. That’s 866-Monday6, but you can also send us your questions and comments by Twitter to @mondayradio. You can e-mail your questions to comments@mondaynightradio.com. You can also just hang out in our chat room which is on the Blog Talk Radio site, and you can ask us questions there. I also want to remind you to sign up for our newsletter which will give you insight and give you sort of a future heads-up that most people don’t get of the upcoming shows. So, you will be the first to know who our new experts are. It will also let you know when we post the audio and the transcripts of previous shows. Finally, before we bring this special guest on, I wanted to let you know about next week’s show when our thoughts will turn from organizing to something a bit more somber but also just as necessary, and that is funeral planning. It seems like we have been talking quite a bit about death on the show lately. Last week we had the Reverend Andrea Raynor who talked about how to support a friend or a family member who has gone through the loss of a loved one. Next week we will be talking about how you plan a funeral when it is one of your own loved ones who have passed away. Again, a somber but very important topic, and something you need to know before you have to deal with it. So, tonight’s guest though, this is a very upbeat topic, and again it’s a very optimistic and invigorating topic. She is the author of “The Other Side of Organized”, which is a wonderful book. I am holding it right now in my hand. It is just full of not only great advice, but it is not the same sort of clichéd and trite advice that you often might read or receive about getting organized. Her advice really makes a lot of sense and you don’t have to be superhuman to put it into effect. So, let’s bring on our guest, Linda Samuels, the author of “The Other Side of Organized”. Let’s see. Do we have you there? Linda, are you there?

Linda: Yes.

Anne: Hi, Linda.

 

Linda: How are you?

Anne: I am well. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you?

Linda: I am doing great. I am just so happy to be here with you tonight. I loved hearing you share about all of the very many hats that you are wearing.

Anne: Well, as I said this is really a subject that is just near and dear to my heart, because I am always, always trying to stay on top of everything. I think so many parents, not just parents, but especially parents who are really trying to do it all, not just women, although we certainly told that we can do it all and we can have it all, and then we find out that it is not that easy. I think anyone who is trying to wear several hats gets to a point where they realize that they are always doing not 100 percent in any job and that the best you can hope for is to do both or all 4 jobs well, but not perfectly. But, that is not a really great place to always be, and you have advice that can really help us to get to being the best we can for each of those places.

Linda: Yeah, I think I’ve been in a similar boat where you are running a business, you are raising a family, you are doing all of the things that we love to do in our lives. I think ultimately what I’ve come to is that you can do all of these things, you can’t necessarily do them simultaneously. Whatever you choose to do, the idea is to focus on that thing at the time. So, if you are hosting your radio, well then you go for that and you block all your other hats that you have to wear out at that moment. But, then that is part of it, the focus on be in the moment, be where you are. The other piece is to think about do you want all of these things in your life, because obviously the more we add in the more chaos we have, the harder it is to juggle, the harder it is to really enjoy the things that we think we want. So, I think it is always a matter of asking the questions and finding what is the right balance, and that is not a onetime thing. It is an ever shifting thing. So, when you go from not being a parent to let’s say having children, there is a shift there, but then as they grow things change. It’s constantly a moving target, but I think they are questions that you need to ask yourself. You can really enjoy your life rather than feel like you are always trying to catch up with your life.

Anne: One of the things that I really like about your philosophy, and I hope I am not misrepresenting it, and I’ve just invented it for myself, because I really like it, I don’t think I am, it is that you are very realistic in your organizing advice. One of the things that I really got out of your philosophy and method if we can call it a method is that you need to be just organized enough to be the best you can be. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart. I think so many of us strive for that organizing perfection, everything in its place. Even that is fraught with danger, because everything in its place, does that mean in its place where Martha would find it? Or where Better Homes and Gardens would want to come photograph your office or your kitchen, or in its place where you know where it is? Which is a very different view, so what I took away predominantly from your philosophy and view was that you just need to be organized enough. You don’t have to be organized 110 percent. If you could talk about that, I would love it.

Linda: Right. Yeah, because you absolutely, you got it perfectly. I’ll tell you where I think some of that started. I always liked a certain amount of order. I grew up that way, preferring order. Where I really noticed it, well I’ve noticed it at different points, but one turning point was when I became a parent for the first time. I remember when our youngest, who is not 20, was a baby, she would play with her toys and they would be all over. I basically was following her around putting them away as she was getting them out. It didn’t take me long to realize that I am either going to make her crazy or make me crazy. So, I realized that there can be chaos. There can be mess, but then bring it back to square one. I would let it get out of control and then maybe once a day I would get it back. But, not a constant, I think that helped to develop my ideas as I went and started to help other people, which was that the idea of having a place for things is great, but it doesn’t mean that the things are in their place 24/7. You know? There is going to be some chaos, because we don’t live in the…I read these beautiful magazines, when they take these pictures, someone has come in and styled that shot. You don’t see people living in that shot. For most of us, there is going to be activity if we have people in our lives. You want to have enough systems in place, they don’t have to be perfect, but enough so that you can move through your day with some sense that you know where things are so you don’t make yourself totally crazy.

Anne: I think always of that, I am certainly a prime example of the desk where other people would come in and say, “Oh my god, she is just so disorganized.” Even though my desk may look to you like chaos, I know exactly where everything is.

Linda: That’s it.

Anne: At least until someone in my family comes and moves it, but I know where it is.

Linda: Well, sure. What you said is so key to organizing. When I help others to organize, it’s got nothing to do with what I think it should look like or feel like. It has everything to do with them. So, what you just said is exactly right. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. If it is working for you, great. It’s when things aren’t working, that’s when you need to start asking questions and start to look at what could be tweaked to make it better. If it’s working, then there is not a problem. There is not a challenge.

Anne: So, I think that sounds like the very first thing that we people who are struggling to be organized have to do, is re-decide what being organized means. It means for us to be able to function effectively, not for someone on the outside looking in to decide whether or not we are organized.

Linda: That’s right. It ties into other things to, like when we think, sometimes we get to caught up in what other people think about all kinds of things, and ultimately comes down to it’s just important how we feel about ourselves, our lives, what we are doing, and not what others are putting it on it, because we are not living for them. We are living for ourselves.

Anne: At least hopefully.

Linda: At least hopefully, yeah.

Anne: I have to say, I love your subtitle. Again, we are speaking with Linda Samuels. She is…I’m not even going to try to tell you her credentials because frankly it blew me away that there were even these organizations, so I’m going to let you tell everyone. Let me just say she is the author of “The Other Side of Organized” the subtitle of which is “Finding Balance between Chaos and Perfection”. Again, I love that, because that suggests that you don’t have to hit perfection. I do have to ask you, you have these wonderful cartoons at the beginning of each chapter, featuring Norton. Is Norton your actual dog?

Linda: Yes. Norton was our dog. He passed away, but he was the most amazing animal I’ve ever known. He inspired those cartoons.

Anne: Oh, I’m sorry for your loss.

Linda: Thank you. He passed away quite a while ago. So, now when I think of him I just feel very warm inside.

Anne: Oh. Well, now who is on the cover of your book then? Is that Norton on the cover?

Linda: He is a Norton look alike. The team that I used to help design the cover they came, they found this picture, and I said, “Oh, my gosh, that’s Norton.”

Anne: So it’s a stunt dog?

Linda: Yes, he’s a cyber dog.

Anne: You are listening to Monday Night Radio. Give us a call with your organizing emergencies to speak with our organizing expert Linda Samuels. The number to call in to talk with Linda is 866-Monday6. Or, send us an e-mail at comments@mondaynightradio.com. Send us a Twitter message @mondayradio. Linda, we do have people just waiting to talk to you, but first would you tell us what those credentials are and what they mean?

Linda: Sure. I’m a CPOCD, which is a certified professional organizer in chronic disorganization. It’s hard to say it quickly.

Anne: Who even knew that there was such a credential? How did you? I certainly could be credentialed in chronic disorganization, but not so much the certified professional.

Linda: Well, there is an amazing association that is called the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. That is the association that I got the credentials through. It took me about 3 plus years to get those credentials. An amazing program that really helps to educate the organizer very specifically about the kinds of things they are going to go through and specifically clients that are organizationally challenged. So it is a very particular niche and population that I usually work with. I spent a lot of years training in that, because it is just really interesting. It seems to be the types of clients that gravitate towards me that always have and that I’ve always enjoyed the most. I decided to continue my education after many, many years. I’ve been organizing almost 20 years, and it was in 2006 that I got that certification.

Anne: Wow. Well, let’s put that certification to use now. Let’s go to the phones. Let’s talk to Esther. She is calling from California, and she has a question about organizing. Esther, are you there?

Caller #1: Yes. I have a big problem.

Anne: Hi, you are on the air with Linda and Anne.

Caller #1: Yes. I have a big problem. I have a 3 level town house that has 30 stairs. I’m an artist/writer. I have art on each floor, and I have a studio, because I asked my husband to get me a bigger house, but he got me a studio. The studio is filled with art now, but I don’t know how to organize, because if I have stuff on the top floor to bring to the bottom floor and then carry it to the top floor again. So, I leave it on each floor, the art and the supplies and things. I wonder what I could do to try to organize my life so that my husband doesn’t get mad at me anymore.

Anne: Oh, dear.

Linda: Well, Esther, you are a fine artist that you have a studio in your home?

Caller #1: Yes. I have a studio at home and at another place.

Linda: Ok.

Caller #1: Then, there’s my car. I put some of my artwork in my car whenever I drive it to where I need to go, but then I have to bring it back to the house sometimes. I have it on each level.

Linda: I’m just curious. Why is there so much movement of the art?

Caller #1: Well, I’m not selling anything, so I move it around. I’m creating more.

Linda: You are creating more. Are you moving it around because you are bringing it to galleries or you are bringing it to shows? What’s happening?

Caller #1: Yes, I take it to shows. Then, I pick it up from shows. Then, I move it to each floor, and then create more art.

Linda: What kind of medium are you working in? Are you working in all kinds of mediums?

Caller #1: Yes, I have water color, water based oil, and pencil.

Linda: One question is: Do you need 2 studios?

Caller #1: Well, I don’t want to spend anymore money for anymore studios. I have one room.

Linda: No, I mean could you consolidate to one studio?

Caller #1: I don’t where to put it. Well, I put all the stuff in that one studio, but it’s already full. I have 3 shelves of art in that room that has art in it. I know someone told me to take all the art and just put it in place and then rent a spot and then I would have an empty place to do more painting.

Linda: It seems like…I mean what I would suggest is that you pick one designated area, maybe one of the studios that you do your art in and have your supplies there. Then, have another room or area that is your staging area, so for all the work that is done that could go there. If you said you have a studio in the home that is upstairs and then a studio elsewhere outside the home. Whichever spot is easier to not have to be dragging things up and down stairs, I would do. I would probably consider instead of having it on all the floors, try to confine yourself to just a few areas and thinking about what would make it easiest to bring in and out. The other thing is, maybe you can just have a certain amount of art that is packed up and ready to go that you are bringing out, and you are not necessarily bringing all of the other things constantly. That might help with some of the movement. It’s a little hard to give you…

Caller #1: Yeah, well sometimes I work in my bedroom upstairs on the top floor. Then, I carry it down to the bottom floor. Then I put it in the car. When I am done with the artwork, I will take it, drive to the studio, which is 20 minutes away. So, that is one way of disseminating it. But, I have like a bar that I have art in also.

Linda: Yeah, I would try to think about trying to work in one place, if you work inside and then trying to store your work in another place and the easiest place that would give you access in and out. So it might involve collecting everything together and getting it into one spot, the pieces that are done.

Caller #1: Yeah, that’s a good idea. Thank you.

Linda: I hope that was helpful. Thanks for calling in, Esther.

Caller #1: Thank you.

Anne: That’s an interesting conundrum. I think you had some great insight. Somehow, sometimes it seems that we really do this to ourselves, or maybe it’s not sometimes. Maybe always do this to ourselves.

Linda: Well, it’s interesting. You asked me before about that certification that I had, and one of the most interesting exercises that was part of that program, the training that I went through, was that I had to hire an organizer for myself. You had to do it at least once to see what was it like to have someone come in and do what you do for others, because whatever you think you do, until you experience it on the other side you don’t really know. One of the things I learned from that experience, it was a fabulous experience, was that what you think you understand yourself, when someone else is looking at it from an objective point of view, they see something that you just can’t see. Right there was a tremendous value I found for myself. So, sometimes what seems like it’s obvious isn’t until someone actually points it out. You just get stuck in a routine or a pattern, or this is the way you’ve always done it. It’s hard to step outside of that and say, “Gee, what if we tried this? Would that work?”

Anne: You know what? I’m remembering that as a kid, and I remembering this with my daughter as well, although not so much my son so that may be a sort of a male-female thing. I remember I never wanted to clean my own room, but I loved helping my friends clean theirs. I think that is kind of universal. Do you think? Maybe it isn’t. But, at least as a kid, it just occurred to me as I was listening to you about this, what it is like to have someone else come in, that maybe there is something related to that as well. Just those fresh eyes, but it’s also more fun for someone else.

Linda: Sure. Well that brings us into another part of what goes on with organizing and why people collect things and why it is so hard to get rid of. When it is your own stuff, you are attached to it in a certain way. There’s an emotional attachment sometimes. When it is somebody else’s stuff you don’t have any of those attachments. So, when you are going in and helping someone else, you can see it in a different way. When you are trying to do it yourself, it becomes sometimes, not for everyone, but sometimes it is much more of a challenge, much more of a struggle to say, “Gee, should I get rid of this? Should I keep this? Why am I?” It’s even hard to ask the questions.

Anne: First let me again say that you are listening to Monday Night Radio. Our guest is Linda Samuels. She is a CPOCD. I wanted to be careful to really put a space between the O and the CD, but I was also really tempted to put a 3 in the CPO. So, I’m not the first to make that observation. In any event, all that means is that she is an excellent, par excellent organizer, helping other people get organized. You can ask Linda your questions, or give her your comments about being or getting organized by giving us a call at 866-Monday6 or send us a note on Twitter at @mondayradio. E-mail your questions to comments@mondaynightradio.com. Linda is the author of “The Other Side of Organized: Finding Balance between Chaos and Perfection”. Speaking about other people coming in and looking at what you might have collected and looking at it differently, we have someone on the line with a question about dealing with a large collection. She is calling from Kansas. Rosalie, are you there?

Caller #2: Yes, I am here. I am learning a lot.

Anne: Welcome to Monday Night Radio.

Caller #2: Thank you.

Anne: Do you have a question for Linda?

Caller #2: Well, I have a lot, but I will try to keep it to 1 or 2. I do have an inordinate amount of collections that I don’t want to give up because they are designated down the line for a non-profit group. I can’t manage these collections. They are wonderful, just a little bit of everything. But, I do have an awful lot of textiles and clothing that are Midwestern Americana documenting about 100 years.

Linda: Wow. That’s amazing.

Caller #2: I can’t physically deal with this stuff because it is heavy. Now, there is a second floor where I can store things, but I prefer not to just store it. I’d like to be able to access it sometimes, especially the clothing. I don’t know what to do with it.

Linda: Now, when you say access it, do you want to access it to wear it or to display it?

Caller #2: To display it and to let other people see it, or if it comes to that, maybe even rent it out for somebody that needs it for theater or something like that.

Linda: Amazing. Ok.

Caller #2: You know so they can see.

Linda: Is there more that you want to share?

Caller #2: Well, it’s just that physically I can’t carry these things up the steps.

Linda: Let me ask you, if you could carry them or someone else could carry them, is there physically the room in your environment to have something set up? Or, is part of it that they are heavy, but part of it is that there is too much of it for the space you have?

Caller #2: No, there is space.

Linda: There is space?

Caller #2: But, I can’t afford lots of racks or storage. I just can’t afford it. You know like acid free containers and things like that. I don’t know what to use.

Linda: I guess I have a couple of thoughts. My first thought was that if it’s the physical part that is difficult, perhaps you could get a volunteer or hire a student as someone to help do that piece of it, do the lifting when you needed it. You could have a certain amount of hours a day or a week and have an assistant, and they could also maybe help you to organize it, archive it, however. That’s one thought. The other thought is you mentioned that eventually you want to donate it to a non-profit. I am assuming you’ve already research what that organization is going to be. Another thought is that instead of waiting, you could donate a portion of it. That was if there wasn’t enough space. It doesn’t sound though that that is the issue. That’s what I was thinking is that you could donate part of it now and keep some of it, which maybe would make it easier to manage.

Caller #2: Well, you know it’s funny like you were talking about earlier. You get so emotionally attached to these things. I just don’t want to relinquish any of it at this point yet.

Linda: But, are you able to manage it at all? Because, if you had less of it, where you knew part of it was where you wanted it to go eventually, but you had maybe a third of it or two thirds of it with you that you could then manage because it wasn’t as much. Do you think that would work for you? Or, are you just not so sure?

Caller #2: Well, I’d have to think about it. The problem is I am in a remote area and to find the students or the help is really, really difficult. I’ve tried that. I even tried community service, but so many of those people are thieves and that didn’t work either.

Linda: Well that’s not good. No, you definitely want someone. I mean it could be a high school student possibly that was interested in the history. Are there any community colleges near you?

Caller #2: No. This is really a remote area. That is one of the big problems.

Linda: Well, it sounds like maybe some thinking is needed to really ask yourself if you can’t have help in the lifting, obviously we don’t want you to get hurt. What could work? So, could for instance is it the lifting up the stairs or just lifting at all?

Caller #2: It’s especially lifting up the stairs. I’ve thought about if I am willing to do the physical extra work I could take up smaller amounts at a time. If I could come up with something good for acid free storage, that would also help a lot. But, I don’t know where to go anymore to find containers that are inexpensive for this type.

Linda: That’s the thing. With acid free storage there is not going to be something that is inexpensive. They charge a premium for that. That is why I was thinking, again just some thoughts to think about, it sounds like you have an absolutely incredible collection, and you know what you want to happen with it eventually, if some of it at least went to the non-profit sooner than later, they probably would have the funds to store the pieces properly to really preserve them. So, it may be something to think about. The other thing that I will throw out is instead of these collections being stored upstairs, could you designate something on the main floor, an area to do that in? Then, there wouldn’t be at least the lifting up and down the stairs. Would that help you? It’s just something to think about.

Caller #2: Well I have thought about that, but so far I haven’t come up with the space downstairs. I’m pretty resourceful. I may come up with something. I was thinking of that yesterday in fact, if I could just come up with a first floor solution.

Linda: The only other thought that comes to mind is would there be a space somewhere that someone would be willing to let you store the things in that would be a ground floor space, that the whole place could be for your collection. I’m not sure if something like that would work either. Anyway, it sounds like you have some options and some things to think about and that you have collected an amazing group of valuables. I wish you well, Rosalie.

Caller #2: Well, thank you, you are helpful.

Anne: Well, thank you so much.

Caller #2: Thank you.

Linda: Thanks for calling in.

Anne: Thank you for the call, Rosalie. You are listening to Monday Night Radio, our guest is Linda Samuels, the organizing expert. You can give her a call on our toll-free line at 866-Monday6. Send us a note by Twitter at @mondayradio. You can e-mail us any questions or comments at comments@mondaynightradio.com. Linda, can you tell us without revealing any confidences, give some examples of some of the most challenging situations into which you have walked so that we can feel better.

Linda: Sure. I think probably they can be challenging for a variety of reasons. I can give you two extremes which are sort of interesting. In both cases I got calls from potential clients. In one case the client said that she had so much clutter in her home that you couldn’t even walk in the door. The other client, they both became clients, he said to me that he had so much clutter in his home that he couldn’t even think.

Anne: Wow.

Linda: Yeah. So when you hear these things, you are asking lots of questions, but then ultimately what happens is someone decides they either want to move ahead and have you come into their space and see if you can help them or they don’t. Well, in both of these cases, I was invited in. In the first case, when I came in it was really true. There was so much clutter that I could barely get in the door. There was a little pathway that went from the front door like an L to the couch. That was the only clear area. Everything else, you couldn’t walk anywhere else. She wasn’t sleeping in her bedroom, wasn’t cooking in her kitchen. So, that was very extreme. She had gone through a depression, and when the depression lifted, this is kind of what the state of her home looked like. She didn’t know how to get out of it. We worked together over quite a long period of time to help really change all of that and get her back to sleeping in her bed and cooking in her kitchen and the whole bit. So, that was one very extreme case. The other situation, when I came in, you know I didn’t see any clutter. We sat down and we talked for a little bit, and he said it’s really bad in the living room, which is where we were sitting. I’m looking around and I’m pretty good at identifying clutter. I said, “Could you show me what is bothering you?” He pointed to a small pile of books and he said, “It’s really bad, but truthfully the worst of it is upstairs.” So, I figured ok, he just needed a little time to get used to me. He’s inviting someone new into his home. We went upstairs, and he said, “My desk, I just can’t even think.” I go up and we see his desk, and he had just a few pieces of paper on his desk. Then, in his closet, he said, “My closet is terrible.” Again, he only had maybe 10 things hanging. For him, what it was was that it was so tough to make any decisions that one or two things was clutter, so much clutter that it was hard for him to even process and think. So, the reason that I give you those two stories is that what I really learned very early on was that clutter, it has almost nothing to do with what it looks like. It has to do with how it feels for that person. Everyone has a different level of what they are comfortable with, what they can tolerate. Even within a household, there are huge variations with how people feel about it, which is what sometimes causes a lot of tension in the household when people have very different views on how it should be. So, what happens for me when I come into someone’s space, I have to just tune into what their issue is and where they are and where they are trying to get to. We look at all the different things, so it’s really fascinating I have to say.

Anne: That fist scenario that you were talking about, we just also got a comment or question in through the Internet and it all just dovetails. I was actually thinking, I don’t watch television, but I did have occasion on Netflix one evening to stumble into I guess it’s a show on one of the cable channels, a reality show about people who hoard. I guess that is the new thing is all the hoarders. There are shows about hoarders and it is way in the public consciousness now.

Linda: A&E Hoarders. Yes, it is.

Anne: So, as you were describing that first one, it brought to mind some of the scenes I saw in this show. The question we got on the Internet which is related I think is when does this disorganization rise to the level of an actual medical problem where you need a medical professional to intervene? I assume that that is also where they are also going with these hoarder shows. These people really have some kind of a psychological issue.

Linda: Absolutely.

Anne: So, what is the line? When do you walk in and say, “Ok, this person needs a different kind of help.”

Linda: First of all, very often in that initial conversation, I’m going to ask as many questions and try to get the person to share with me as much as they are willing and comfortable to share, because the more I know, the more I also know whether I am the right fit for them and vice versa. It’s a pretty personal relationship. But, depending on what they tell me what’s happening. I might even ask if they have some other support. In certain cases, depending on what they reveal, I know that it would make no sense for me to go in if they weren’t already working with a therapist for example. Part of the work that we do is physical. You are physically helping them, but that there are so many issues that come up that are beyond our expertise as organizers, that if they don’t already have a rapport, a relationship with a therapist for some mental health provider, then I know that it is probably not going to be enough. I won’t be able to help them enough. They need that other support too. Certainly in the case of a hoarding situation, hands down, you don’t want to go in as an organizer if they don’t have a team of support, because that is a very extreme situation.

Anne: How do you make that call? When do you walk into a situation and up until some point it is quite subjective, but there must be some sort of a defining point. This is someone who is very disorganized, oops they just crossed the line, and this is someone who actually has a hoarding problem. How do you tell?

Linda: Well, I would say that one of the things that you listen for is that…I never feel that part of the work I do, people think that organizers they want to make us get rid of things, they want us throw things out. That is certainly not my philosophy. However, in the process of organizing, there is always editing. If when you are talking with someone, what they are saying is that they just want to keep everything. They can’t move in their space, but they don’t want to get rid of anything. That is one clue right there. You have to start to then ask a little more what is going on with those things. So, I listen for those kinds of clues, because if they are telling me that they are overwhelmed with their stuff but they will not part with anything. Then right away I know there is an issue that is going to be beyond how I can help them.

Anne: Ok.

Linda: I am always listening for words of change, of willingness for change. Why does someone call an organizer? They call for different reasons, but usually when I get the calls they are already overwhelmed and frustrated. They just can’t take it anymore, whatever that is. They could have their marriage could be in trouble, their jobs could be in trouble. They could be totally on the edge, because if there is so much disorganization and chaos it can cause serious issues within households and families and workplaces and all that. So, they are reaching out because they are hoping that maybe somebody can help them. So, I am always listening to hear why are they calling, what is the issue, where do they feel they are willing to go. Now, when someone says they are ready for change, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to do all of the things that are necessary to make the change, but as long as they are willing you can start the process with them.

Anne: That makes sense. You are listening to Linda Samuels, the organizing expert. She is the author of “The Other Side of Organized: Finding Balance between Chaos and Perfection”. You can call to talk with Linda or to ask her a question at 866-Monday6. Send you comment to comments@mondaynightradio.com. Send us a note on Twitter at @mondayradio. We have another caller who would like to talk with you, but first let me just ask to be sure. Linda, your book is available on Amazon, right?

Linda: It is available on Amazon and also if you don’t mind I’m having an ultimate organizing give away on my book website. So, if people are interested in that, it is going to end this week. It’s ending November 11. There is still time to enter, so I encourage everyone to go to my book website which is theothersideoforganized.com. It’s very easy to enter. It’s a great giveaway. My book is available there. It is available on Amazon. It’s available all over.

Anne: I looked at that giveaway. It is in fact not only a wonderful giveaway, but it is a delicious giveaway.

Linda: Yes.

Anne: Not to give anything away, no pun intended. Am I right in understanding that there is no purchase necessary? Although, you should all buy Linda’s book. It’s really wonderful, and it’s funny. It’s a fast read. It makes so much sense. You can enter by doing something as simple as clicking on friending you on Facebook. Is that right?

Linda: Absolutely. Yes, there is no obligation to purchase anything. It’s really fun. Even if you want to just go and check out what is in the giveaway. The things I picked are really fun.

Anne: They are fun and as I said yummy. Let’s go to another caller. We have Jessica calling from California, and she has a question about storing electronics. Hi, Jessica, you are on the air with Anne and Linda.

Caller #3: Hi, Linda.

Linda: Hi, Jessica.

Caller #3: Tonight is funny timing, because while my fiancé is away in a very late class tonight, I am surprising him by making over his very crowded and disorganized office space.

Linda: Wow.

Caller #3: So, my fiancé is a true techno gadget geek and he loves gaming, so he has every gadget under the sun, and they all seem to come with at least 3 different wires and USB cords and all kinds of connectors. Wires are the bane of my existence. I feel like we have got them all over the house and I hate them.

Linda: Yes.

Caller #3: When they are plugged in and being used I can gather them up with ties, but other than that he’s just got all of these random cables and cords and random modems and electronic stuff that I don’t even know what half of it is. What is a good way to store that stuff?

Linda: It’s so funny that you say that, because I will tell you a story. Almost every home I go into there are these piles of wires and chargers and normally when I am working with people, they have no idea what they are, but they are afraid to get rid of them. One time I worked with someone and he actually knew what everything was and it was the only time it ever happened. We were working together, and as we were working he goes, “I don’t need that,” and he was throwing the stuff out. I was thrilled. I’ve never had that experience where someone actually knew what all of the pieces were. I am assuming that your fiancé actually knows what they are.

Caller #3: Oh, he does. We just moved recently and I could hold up every single thing and from across the room he would tell me what it went to.

Linda: Ok, so one thing you could do is, I use a labeler, like a Brother P-Touch labeler. You could make a label that wraps around the cord so that if one of these cords randomly gets placed somewhere you both know what it is. Then, you could conceivably have either like a shoe box type thing; I don’t know what kind of volume you are really talking about. I know you are in California, even if you don’t have a store near you online they are available, containerstore.com, they have great plastic boxes. You could just designate boxes for the different types of things. Again, it’s hard for me to say what the categories are. Let’s just say, you mentioned USB cables, so let’s say you had a box and it’s labeled USB cables, and all the USB cables were in there. But, if it’s more important that a particular kind of a gadget was together, let’s just for example say that you had iPod stuff. You have the little chargers that go with it and the wires; maybe you would need an iPod box. I don’t know what they categories are, but I would suggest labeling the pieces so when they get separated you know where they go, and then creating these different categories based on really how he uses it I think would make sense. You need to work together on that. I think it’s lovely that you want to organize it for him, but it might be useful if you could do it together. Even if he just says, this, this, this, this, and also to think about how he would want to access the stuff.

Caller #3: That’s a great, and for now I just threw everything into one big box, because I am not even going to attempt to do it all by myself.

Linda: There you go.

Caller #3: But, that’s a really great idea.

Linda: Well good luck, Jessica.

Caller #3: Thank you.

Linda: He’s lucky to have you.

Caller #3: Aw, thanks.

Anne: Thank you for the call. That is really, she put it the bane of my existence too. I have so many cables and on really good days I’ve done exactly what you suggested and it worked so well, which is just to wrap around at one end a label that just says, “Printer Cable”.

Linda: Exactly.

Anne: In fact I even found that that’s very useful to have one on each end even when they are hooked up, because sometimes it is like a rat’s nest back there.

Linda: Yes, exactly.

Anne: It can help you trace it. I also wanted say that one thing that I have really put to good use; see if you can figure out what I am talking about. I go to the grocery store, and they sell these amazing clear plastic boxes that I now use all over my house for organizing, and they have salad in them. So, I feel like I am buying a clear plastic organizing box and I’m getting a bonus of free salad. Of course the reality is it’s the boxes of salad. They are about the size of a shoe box and they have a lid. It’s thin plastic, but they are wonderful. They fit a pair of shoes. You can put all kinds of things in them.

Linda: Wow. That’s a big salad!

Anne: We go through a lot of that salad. Yeah, we go through a lot of salad, and so we have a lot of those boxes and I feel like that is a real bonus.

Linda: That’s a great use. The whole idea of repurposing things and it’s interesting when I think about it, one of my grandmas in particular. She was a master at that. It’s not unusual growing up in the depression era for that generation to be really good at thinking about how you could reuse something. I think as we have moved through there was certainly the trend of just use it and throw it out. Now I think there is a trend back to how can we be conscious of what we are using. Can we use it again and maybe not try to just use it once and then it is garbage? So, I think that is fantastic that you thought of another use for those salad boxes. It’s great. I love it.

Anne: It was almost forced organization. They were such great boxes that I didn’t want to get rid of them, and I thought, “What can do with them?” There you go. I have a question.

Linda: Now you have an incentive to eat salad.

Anne: Yes, exactly. I have to say in the spirit of full disclosure as some of our listeners already know it’s not just us eating the salad, but we have two rescue goats in our backyard. They are really spoiled, and so they get some salad every night too.

Linda: I have to ask. I have to ask. What is a rescue goat?

Anne: I don’t want to take your time up. We only have about 8 minutes left, but they were seized by the county from someone that was not treating them well and they needed a new home.

Linda: Oh, wow. That’s so nice that you’ve taken care of them.

Anne: Thank you. I would like to talk about to-do lists for a minute. You have areas in your book where you talk about that and you have a really interesting take on them which I love, which sort of goes along with the rest of your philosophy of not trying to be superwoman or superman but really just sort of realistically getting yourself more organized. So, could you talk a little bit about the place of to-do lists and how you use them and how you have helped other clients to use them?

Linda: Sure. When you first got on the line and you were talking about all of the different hats you wear and you realize wow you’ve got a lists for your lists, and how are you going to manage it? I think there’s really not one way to manage the lists. Personally I try to do a pretty simple kind of thing where I have one what I would call a master list going. That master list has broad categories of the different areas of my life that I have things that will pop up. So, as something comes into my head it goes down on that list. I don’t necessarily look at that list every day, but it is there where I can see it. Then, there’s the idea of the daily list. On the daily list, I think this is where people really get hung up, because we all get really ambitious, or we can get ambitious with what we can actually accomplish versus what we are obligated to do, what we have on our plates. I think the idea of a daily list is you want to keep it pretty simple. If you really are struggling with getting things done, just pull off 3 things. Focus on the first one; get it done, the second, the third. If you have time you can pull more things off the master list, but you don’t want to try to overwhelm yourself on a daily basis with so many things that you are setting yourself up for failure. That is never a good thing. There’s a million ways to keep lists. Some people like post it notes. Some people like electronic lists. Some people like to write lists on their hands. In that organizing give away, I have a special tattooed to-do list that I can put on your hand.

Anne: (laughs)

Linda: Isn’t that funny?

Anne: It is.

Linda: I’ve seen people, my daughters included; write notes on the palm of their hand. 1, 2, 3 what they need to do for the day.

Anne: I’ve seen women write their phone numbers on the palms of someone else’s hand, but not on their own hand.

Linda: Yeah, again, I think it is the same idea as when you were talking about your desk and that someone else might look at it and think it is so much stuff. But I think with to-do lists it is very personal what is going to work. You know I will do something as simple as if I am running out and I am going to do a few errands, I like to use a sort of an index type card which is kind of stiff and I will write the simple things I have to do like: bank, grocery store, post office, cleaners. Even though I know that is what I have to do, I like to do it, because then I know I don’t forget something, and I like to cross it off. There is a huge satisfaction I get from crossing things off. Some people like to keep their to-do lists and they have it electronically done. So, when they cross it off, instead of erasing the item, they keep it there crossed off, because they like the satisfaction of knowing they did 100 things in the last month. Again it is very personal and it is what works for you, but the idea is that you want to break down the big list of things that you have into something smaller that is doable.

Anne: Well, let me tell you that I have not ever been able to make a to-do list work for me until I got this most awesome producer named Evan. I hope he is blushing right now.

Linda: He’s great, yeah.

Anne: He is awesome. He really is wonderful. My to-do list now, whenever I think of something, usually it happens invariably when I am driving in the car, either that or in the shower, that’s when I remember, “Oh, my god, I have to do this thing.” Of course I can’t do it right then and there. So, now I e-mail it to Evan and twice a day he sends me my to-do list. He collates it and sends it to me. When I do one of those things, I quickly just jot him a note and say, ok, take it off the list. I’ve got to tell you that everyone needs an Evan. That works so well for me.

Linda: I would like an Evan.

Anne: Well you can’t have him.

Linda: Maybe you will share.

Anne: Nope, he’s all mine. We have just a couple of minutes left. I want to make sure that you get to talk about your giveaway again and tell people where they can find that information. Then, if you would just sort of think of if there was one thing that you could tell people to help them get started on the road to organization, aside from buy your book which is a given, let us know what that is please.

Linda: Ok, well first of all I would like to thank everyone. Thank you all for listening. Anne, thank you so much for having me on the show. This was really, really fun. For anyone out there listening I invite you to enter. It is very easy to enter. I am doing the ultimate organizing giveaway at theothersideoforganized.com. It’s ending this week, November 11th. So, if you go to the website theothersideoforganized.com, you can read all about it, and see all of the great things that I have picked, a lot of fun organizing products and books. I wish you luck in that. The one piece of advice I think I would leave you with is that if you are really struggling to get organized, one just be patient with yourself. The second thing is that if you find that you can’t move ahead on your own, reach out for help, so whether that is a friend, a family member, or a professional. You know, we all have gifts, things that we are good at. Things that we are not just don’t come as easily to us sometimes we feel like, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t we do it ourselves?” Sometimes we just need someone else there with us to start us on the road.

Anne: In your book you actually mention having an organizing buddy. That doesn’t have to be a paid professional.

Linda: No, it doesn’t. It does have to be someone that you trust. I think a key ingredient in having an organizing buddy whether it is a family member, a friend or a professional is that they can come in and understand what it is that you want and not judge you. Because I think a lot of times that is what we are afraid that someone is going to judge us. So, you want to have someone that you are really comfortable with that is in your corner that can help you move past that feeling of overwhelmed. What I do know is that if you want to get organized, it absolutely is possible. It’s just a matter of how you go about doing that, but it’s doable. So, I wish everyone out there lots of luck with all of their organizing challenges. Anne, thank you again for having me on the show. This was so much fun. I appreciate it.

Anne: Linda, thank you so much for coming. We really enjoyed having you. Will you come back?

Linda: I’d love to come back any time.

Anne: Thank you again; our guest was Linda Samuels, the organizing expert. She is the author of “The Other Side of Organized: Finding Balance between Chaos and Perfection”. Her website is theothersideoforganized.com. Be sure to join us next week when our guest is funeral planning expert Gail Ruben. It’s not something you may want to think about, but it something you should think about before you need it. Thanks again for listening. Bye-bye.

Linda Samuel’s website (with information about the “Ultimate Organizing Giveaway”)

Linda Samuel’s book, “The Other Side of Organized”

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