Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lelah with an h: learning every day!

Maintaining this blog helps me explore my own philosophy of organizing, helps me stay in touch with colleagues and friends who are not local, and serves to illustrate my expertise for potential clients. I have less time to write when I have more client work, which I suppose is a good thing, but I wanted to share some of the non-blog things I have been up to.

I belong to a few local networking groups. One is called NOHOpreneurs and is based in North Hollywood, California. This group is aimed at local entrepreneurs and giving us a resource for talking about and getting feedback on successes and challenges that our businesses are facing. It's run by the terrific Susan Baker, whose own business, The Escape Hatcher, helps people transition from their day jobs to their dream jobs, which is often a transition to entrepreneurship or starting a business on the side. If you own a business or are even thinking about entrepreneurship and are in the NoHo area, check out the group at

The second group that I'm involved with is called Biznik. It's a free site for entrepreneurs and I like the free events that members host. It's a good way to meet other local entrepreneurs, pass out business cards and practice your spiel. Everyone who comes to Biznik functions is really nice and interesting. I'm starting a monthly mixer in the San Fernando Valley area in order to keep the Biznik momentum going. Again, sign up if you're local and want to meet some great people.

Lastly, when I'm able to get there I love to attend the monthly Ojai Women's Business Social. I grew up in Ojai and it is a beautiful place to visit, even for a few hours. It's definitely worth the drive to meet and talk with so many wonderful businesswomen. Jodi Womack, the founder, has grown it into a really special event with a fantastic turnout.

Professional growth
I'm constantly learning new things about organizing strategies and the organizing industry by reading, attending workshops and teleseminars. This week I attended two amazing teleseminars that were part of the Organizing Telesummit put on by The Professional Organizer Allison Carter, who also runs Organizer U, a business for fledgling professional organizers. One of the classes (taught by Elizabeth Hagen) was on developing speaking as part of my professional organizing business, which was really inspiring and has me itching to put on my own series of free workshops. The second was on Getting Unstuck, with Ariane Benefit, which was mainly about how to approach organizing, and really, life, when you have ADD and/or are highly intelligent and creative and don't interact with life the way most people do. I learned a tremendous amount from both classes and they served to reinvigorate my love for my chosen profession.

Video blogging
I've wanted to create a video of myself illustrating organizing tips for a while now, and it hasn't ever moved to the top of the to do list, but I'm going to hold myself accountable for actually doing this by putting it on my blog. Hopefully, one of the next blog posts you see on here will be in video format. Exciting!

Client work
I have had a busy January working with fabulous new clients. I learn something new from them every day. The hands-on organizing I do really makes me feel like I'm helping people live better lives and makes me grateful for realizing that this business is what I really want to do when I get out of bed every morning. So thank you!

Creative Commons video/computer photo posted to Flickr by Jakob Montrasio

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wedding clutter

I'm getting married in a few short months. The wedding planning process has been a huge lesson in patience and teamwork. Over the weekend my fiance and I made a pilgrimage to a giant mall and registered for gifts. The entire concept of registering for gifts was very mentally and emotionally difficult for my fiance and I to come to terms with. We feel that the best gift people can give us is the help is celebrate our marriage by attending out wedding, but we know that people want to give a physical gift as part of the celebration process. And since we don't have a lot of space, we decided it would be better to help people figure out the kind of thing to get us versus leaving them in the dark. So, anyway, we tried incredibly hard to only register for things that we truly want, can use in our lives right now and that we have room to store and take care of in our one bedroom apartment. It was actually more fun than I thought it would be to pick out a silverware pattern and champagne flutes. We also got a lot of congratulations from perfect strangers who saw us walking around with the little barcode reader and knew exactly what modern rite of passage we were undergoing.

After the very simple process of selecting items we wanted from Crate and Barrel, as a thank you gift for registering there, they gave us a rather large, rather heavy glass dish in the shape of a heart. Ack! We didn't open it up until we left the store, but I really wish we had said thanks but no thanks. It's another example of how free stuff is usually just clutter. A glass heart shaped dish isn't something we love or something we need, and we don't have anyplace to put it. So it's leaving our home as soon as possible. The wedding clutter must be curbed!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Friday, January 22, 2010

Financial organization: credit reports

I’m a fan of Suze Orman. I think she gives smart financial advice that sticks to the basics and to common sense. She’s always insisting that you know your credit score and you check your credit reports. Being organized financially means you are aware of your financial situation. Even if you feel you have a clear picture of your finances, keeping tabs on your credit report is a simple and smart thing to do.

A credit report isn’t a credit score. A credit score costs money to obtain and gives you a number that credit agencies use when determining your borrowing rate. You can get a credit report once a year for free from each of the three credit agencies. It basically shows you what lines of credit you have open and in what standing they are. To obtain the report nearly instantaneously online, you provide your social security number, address and must answer a few multiple choice questions about your financial history. Once you have it, it is short work to make sure that all of the items reported were in fact opened by you and you know what they all are. Sometime there are errors, and that is where it really pays to do this. You can fix the errors, but it takes time. If you are trying to get a credit card or a loan, those errors my harm the rate you will be able to get, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Here's more information on credit reports from Suze Orman.

Reminder, I am not in any way a professional financial planner or advice-giver!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Monday, January 18, 2010

My reading list

I just got three books from the library that I’m very excited about reading. One is the highly popular and well-reviewed 2009 book Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke. I’ve read a lot about this book and the way it has inspired people, even professional organizers, to get rid of some things in their life that have been weighing them down.  I’m can't wait to read this book as it is sure to be inspirational.

The second book on my shelf at the moment is ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. Judith Kolberg is a professional organizer and Kathleen Nadeau is a psychologist and ADD specialist. I have been encountering more and more clients and potential clients who have some form of ADD. This disorder can lead to chronic disorganization and pose some unique challenges. I am really looking forward to expanding my knowledge base on this subject.

Last on the list is Chocolat, by Joanne Harris. That’s the February selection of my book club, and I have to read the book, then watch the movie based on it. We’ll discuss both works and compare them at our monthly meeting. It should be a fun read and I remember enjoying the movie when it first came out.

I'll share my thoughts on Throw Out Fifty Things and ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life soon!

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by heliosphan

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tips and tools: Space and storage

When looking for the perfect container for a category of things, whether it be a glass jar to hold your seashell collection, a magazine holder to contain your subscription to National Geographic, or a linen closet that will hold all of your sheets, blankets and towels, too often people look for a container that will hold those items "just right." Just right means it is the perfect size to hold however much of something you have--a jar in which your seashells go right up to the brim, a linen closet in which every shelf is full of linens.

This is a cardinal organizing mistake. Do not think that by finding the perfect sized container you are getting organized. Rather, you are shooting yourself in the metaphorical foot. What happens when you go to the beach and pick up a beautiful shell and want to add it to your collection, or your next National Geographic arrives and you suddenly have no place to put it because the magazine holder is full? You're carefully selected system is suddenly useless, and you either have to find another container for your new possession, spend time taking everything out of the old container and finding a new, larger one that will fit everything, or just shove the new item on top of the old items, which is how most linen closets end up looking like disaster areas.

Save yourself the trouble by selecting a container that is actually big enough to allow room to add to it. It is the nature of life that we tend to accumulate more of the same kinds of things. Leave space in that glass jar and leave room at the top of your plastic boxes. Don't fill everything up to the brim and you'll be surprised at how easy it is to stay organized.

Of course, sometimes you have a finite amount of room, such as with a linen closet. In that case, culling the linens that you no longer use or are damaged and donating them is the best way to make room for new stuff. You can also consider the one-in-one-out rule, which works well for clothes as well.

Eventually you may fill up a container to the brim, even after careful culling of no longer loved, needed, or used items, and that's okay. Organization goes hand in hand with flexibility.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by yeowatzup
Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Preparing for every day: Illness

Late last night I found myself driving the two blocks to my local supermarket, navigating around men restocking the shelves from huge pallets (I don’t think I’d ever been to the store that late before, it was interesting) in order to obtain some cough medicine for my fiancĂ©, who has been sick for over a week.

I didn’t mind getting out of bed to do this because I wanted him to a get a good night’s sleep (and I wanted one as well), but even though illnesses are thankfully a rare occurrence in my household, I could have been more prepared and avoided that late night trip.

I’m not a health care professional, but from an organization perspective, here are some suggestions for things to keep on hand to be prepared for mild sicknesses:

  • Electronic thermometer: Having a thermometer on hand is essential to knowing for sure if someone has a fever, which can aid in diagnosis and deciding whether or not you should stay home from work.
  • Cough drops: The menthol ones are very popular in our household.
  • Mild cough suppressant: I like the non-non-drowsy kind for nighttime rest. (Dimetapp, even though it is advertised for kids, does the trick.)
  • Tissues: When you’re sick, blowing your nose into falling apart toilet paper doesn’t make it better.
  • Canned soup: Broth-based soups just have something about them that makes you feel like you are treating your cold or flu, not just getting nourishment. Plus, they are easy to prepare and eat.
  • Soft, cold foods like popsicles and applesauce are a nice treat.
  • The phone number of your doctor. Even if you don’t get sick often, it is a good idea to have the name and number of someone you can call if you do happen to have something that requires antibiotics for instance. You don’t want to be doing research into local practitioners while you are sick; you want to do that beforehand, when you are healthy and up to that task.
Of course, avoiding getting sick in the first place is really the key, but even the most diligent of us will get run down and exposed to germs and get a cold. Being prepared can make it slightly more comfortable to sit in bed and recover. Also, when you stay home sick you can actually turn the down time into something semi-productive, by catching up on your reading and movies you haven’t gotten around to seeing. I don’t recommend being on a computer while trying to get better—even in bed. Take a break from the screen and get better!

Creative Commons cough medicine photo posted to flickr by whiskeyandtears
Creative Commons tissue box photo posted to flickr by vieux bandit

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Organizing myth: Organization means perfection

Organizing Myth #003: Being organized means attaining perfection; you aren't truly organized if everything isn't perfectly labeled in perfectly color coordinated containers all positioned at right angles.

Organizing Reality: The only way getting and staying organized is going to work in the long run is if you let go of an impossibly perfect mindset regarding organizing and start being comfortable with only being as organized as you need to be. What does being as organized as you need to be mean? It means that if you can never find your keys, you need to put a dish or bowl by the front door and always deposit your keys there on your way into the house. But you don't need to necessarily go out and by a hook and install it next to the door and then get tiny labels and label each key according to some color coded system that you'll never remember. It means get organized to the point where it's helpful to your everyday life, to your efficiency and well being, but stop before you spend more energy that it's worth alphabetizing all your books by author (I like to sort books by subject) -- unless of course, that's what will help you find what you're looking for in the future. The level of organization required to make life better is going to be different for everyone.

There's a saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and that is 100% true when it comes to attitudes about organization. Sure, I like it when I open my desk drawer and all of my little tools (binder clips, tacks, rubber bands) are all stored in the same individual compartments. That's nice. But what's essential is that I have all of those things at my fingertips where I can see them, get to them and use them, not that they are in matching containers.

Don't let a tendency towards perfectionism be an excuse for not getting organizing. Saying to yourself, if it isn't perfect, it isn't worth doing, is not acceptable. This can be hard for some people. Here's a book that I haven't read but hear is really good on this topic: Everything I Know about Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism by Debbie Jordan Kravitz. 

You might also want to read my posts on the pitfalls of color coordinated organizing and organizing myths #1 and #2. Click to find out what they are!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No cluttering

Have you ever noticed how close the word clutter is to the word litter? When one thinks of litter, one imagines McDonald's cups and cigarette ends lying in gutters or along roadways. It isn't a pleasant image; littering went out of style a long time ago. While you can't always get out of your car and clean up a highway, clutter is a form of litter that you do have control over. Letting papers monopolize your desktop, books spill over from bookshelves onto tables and floors and unused kitchen doohickies take up all your counter space is as detrimental to your well being and productivity as garbage is to the environment's health and beauty.

Just as you wouldn't litter in a public space, don't clutter up your private space. Take pride in your surroundings and live in an environment you can thrive in.

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by lylamerle

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email