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Monday, April 13, 2009

Q&A With Organizing Guru June Bell - Part 1

It's Spring Break for many, which may mean vacation...or it may mean spring cleaning. If you're in the latter camp (especially if your kids are IN camp), organizing guru and family coach June Bell's ideas can help you get your house (and life) in order.

This begins a two-part Q&A series with June (next part runs tomorrow...stay tuned).

How did you get started in organizing?

Even when I was a kid, I always enjoyed organizing my toys, clothes and papers. I was the student who never forgot my homework or pulled an all-nighter to finish a paper. I still get a lot of satisfaction from being able to quickly find what I need and know what I have.

Friends often compliment me on my organizing skills and have asked for advice. My background as a newspaper reporter and then a freelance writer has also helped, surprisingly. Both careers demand excellent management of time, paperwork and space.

What do you do for clients?

I teach them organizing skills that they can apply to their homes, offices and lives. I help them home in on what’s not working and then put in place systems to solve that problem.

There’s a misconception that an organizer will sweep into your cluttered garage or playroom, put everything in labeled bins and -- voila! – it’s organized. But that quick hit doesn’t get to the heart of the problem, and it won’t take long for the space to return to entropy.

Professional organizers also aren’t house cleaners; they’re really a hybrid of a consultant and coach. And tackling a problem with an organizer’s help makes it far less daunting than facing down your demons alone.

Can you give some examples?

I recently helped one client organize a crowded kitchen. I developed a system for evaluating which gadgets she used most often and which she no longer needed. Now she now has plenty of shelf space, and her kitchen feels much more spacious and appealing. We also rearranged her pantry, putting the cans and condiments she uses most often in the most convenient locations. And we winnowed a cookbook collection that was threatening the stability of some of her shelves.

I’ve helped other clients set up home filing systems tailored to their needs and personalities, and I’ve even helped a client reassess what she carries in her handbag.

I’m also working with several families on a whole-home purge, finding treasures hidden among accumulated and unwanted items in each room.

What is family coaching?

It definitely doesn’t involve team jerseys! As a family coach, I help families have happier lives by teaching them how to more efficiently manage their time, space and even finances. For some, that might mean coordinating a family activities calendar. Other families need help getting a handle on the “stuff” that inevitably comes with having kids.

There are so many activities, parties and events in our lives. What’s the best way to track things on a calendar, and what should we skip or attend?

Whether you prefer a calendar on the fridge or a BlackBerry, you need something to help you schedule sitters, date nights, vacations and days off. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you faithfully use it.

For example, when your kids bring home a team sports schedule, transfer the practice dates and games into your calendar immediately. And have your child put the dates in his school planner too.

Teaching your children how to manage time when they’re young is a tremendous gift, one that will reap huge dividends for them in college and far beyond.

If your days are jam-packed with activities and you’re feeling overextended and resentful, by all means, start saying no. What are the activities that make your family happiest? Plan more of those.
How to set boundaries when working from home
(Since doing the Q&A, June was quoted in on how to set boundaries when working from home. See what she said here.)

TOMORROW: toy management, email inbox management, kids' art art art, and how much does it cost to hire an organizer?

To contact June and learn more about her services, email or call her at (650)483.3824. Her website is here.
Do blog readers have any organizing tips of their own to share? Post your tips and my favorite one will win organizing book Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Vicki Norris. Make sure you leave your email address in the blog post (or email it to me at along with your tip - but you must also post the tip).

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