Friday, October 29, 2010

Vote now for the winners of the LA Organizing Awards

This week the finalists for the the Los Angeles Organizing Awards were announced! Voting has commenced and is open to the public through December 24, 2010. I'm excited that many of the people, businesses and products that I nominated have made it to the next round. I'm also tremendously excited to be a part of the planning process for this event.

Since I joined NAPO-LA this spring, I've had a chance to work with some amazing people on the Awards Task Force. I encourage you to check out the finalists and vote. In order to do so, you will have to create an account, but the process is simple and quick.

I also encourage you to stay tuned as more details of the Awards are announced. We're so pleased to have Office Max as our presenting sponsor! Office Max's spokesperson for workplace organization, Peter Walsh, will be a presenter at the Awards. Remember, the Awards are Saturday, January 29, 2011, at the Sheraton Universal Hotel at Universal City, Los Angeles. You'll be able to buy tickets soon if you want to be there when the winners are announced!

In addition to the Awards show, we're having a special event earlier in the evening. The Gala Industry Exchange is going to be a one-of-a-kind event where attendees will be able to browse booths and mingle with the foremost members of the professional organizing and productivity industry.

If you want more information on the Awards, the Gala or are interested in becoming a sponsor or placing an ad in the program, please contact me at

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

A year ago: NaNoWriMo, change and Halloween

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, starts November 1, and I'm participating for the third year in a row. (If you are attempting it, too, friend me!) Last year I wrote about balancing the hours it takes to actually write about 2,000 words of fiction a day with all the other things that a person has to do.

Change affects us all, practically all the time, and I love Julie Morgenstern's take on change and organization: “Every time we go through a major change, we experience a breakdown in our organizational systems.”

This time last year I also wrote about the benefits of a paperless, automatic billing. It really does help to stem the paper tide and keep things simpler and cleaner if you can switch most of your bills to this format. Try it, and see what a difference it makes.

Regarding organizing for Halloween, I put together a holiday-themed Organizer's Blog Digest. Check it out.

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


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Field trip to the recycling center

On Saturday I went to the Burbank Recycle Center on a field trip with my neighborhood group from the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. (What a mouthful!) We met with Craig, one of the recycling experts who works there and he gave as an overview of how recycling works at this recycling center and lots of information about what can and can't be recycled and why.

I had about a million mini-epiphanies during the two hours I was there, but I'm just going to list a few of the major take-aways that I absorbed.
  • A lot of things count as hazardous waste, including anything that has electronic parts like circuit boards. These cannot be put in the trash or the recycle bin and must be taken to a special collection site. Los Angeles County has various collection points for their S.A.F.E. program. They are mostly just open on the weekend, but they are free to all residents of L.A. County.
  • Individual cities have individual rules for what materials they will accept to recycle. For instance, Burbank doesn't take plastic bags, but the city of Los Angeles does. This is because each city has different facilities with different equipment as there is little standardization. The Burbank Recycle Center is owned by the city of Burbank and operated by a private company.
  • Obviously the best way to avoid waste is to reduce your consumption in the first place. We talked a lot about refusing things like plastic bags at stores, and also about putting pressure on companies to take responsibility for the waste their products create. Some companies already pay for the recycling of their products, such as computer batteries, but many do not. Sustainable package design is a large part of this.
  • In order to get companies to realize that consumers want to be able to recycle or avoid using extra packaging, Craig recommends you take your plastic bags and wrappers back to the grocery store you bought them from and put them in the recycle bins they have at the front of the store. That way the store and the manufacturers can see how much there is and that consumers want them to be accountable for it. You can also call the customer service numbers on products and let the companies know your thoughts directly.
  • At the Burbank Recycle Center 90,000 to 100,000 tons of material come through every year. 70-80% of that is paper, which gets bundled and sent to China to be made into paper again. 10% is not recyclable and gets sent to the landfill.
  • Items made from multiple materials are not easily recycled. For instance, the cardboard/foil/plastic combo of antiseptic boxes that hold chicken stock and soup and the like are not recyclable. Buy tin cans instead, as they are much easier to recycle.
  • I think if you are interested in being a responsible member of the community, visiting a landfill and/or recycling center is a great way to get a vivid picture of the waste we create as a society. It's really clear that what we've been doing for the last hundred years isn't sustainable
  • It makes you think about the economy in different ways. I feel good when I can reuse something. I like getting more use out of clothing I buy at a used clothing store, and I certainly donate as much of my used items as I can. Buying used appliances makes me feel great - they have lots of wear left in them, and I'm not creating waste by buying something that comes in a lot of styrofoam and cardboard packaging. But how does that affect our consumer-based economy? I'm not sure, and there are obviously lots of things I still buy new. Something to think about.
Recycling is important, and it's important to know what is recyclable and what is not. But getting to a point where what you are sending the landfill and recycling center is drastically less due to refusing, reusing and composting, is probably the most sustainable model of all.

Creative Commons photo of bundled paper posted to Flickr by Derrick Coetzee
Creative Commons photo of tetra paks posted to Flickr by Tetra Pak

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taking the time, saving the stress

Sometimes life presents you with inconveniences. The check engine light comes on in your car. The hall lightbulb burns out. A bill arrives and it is for completely the wrong amount. Since we aren't expecting these things to happen right when they do, usually our reaction is to fix them later "when we have time." We don't want to fix the problem now, because what if the car needs an expensive repair, or we find out we don't have any lightbulbs and have to make a special trip to get them, or we simply don't have the energy to get a customer service representative on the phone and get the company to fix the bill. We tell ourselves that in some future time, maybe tomorrow or next week, we will have the time, energy, money to fix these problems. In the meantime, we live with a nagging check engine light (and the worry), we stumble around in the dark, and we add the bill to a stack of papers already waiting for our attention.

I had something like this happen to me on Sunday afternoon. The plastic lever that connects the toilet handle to the flush valve snapped in half. We could still technically flush the toilet by opening the flush valve by hand every time. I was just about to relax and watch a Netflix when I was notified about the problem. I thought, hmmm, I won't be able to fix this tomorrow, but maybe I'll have time Tuesday...wait a minute, I can just go get a replacement part right now and fix it. Luckily, we live within walking distance of a great independent hardware store. So I figured out how to unscrew the old handle, took it with me to the hardware store, found the $5 part in 30 seconds, and was back and had the thing installed in about 4 minutes. Then I started the movie and watched it in peace, not worried about figuring out how to fix this problem, but rather proud of myself that I'd figured it out.

More often than not, these inconvenience can be attended to very quickly. If you look under the sink, maybe the right lightbulb will be there and you can replace the old one. The check engine light might mean nothing, and you'll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your car isn't going to fall apart on the 405. Sometimes these problems seem insurmountable, but they aren't. You can save yourself the mental stress caused by putting off dealing with them by taking action now.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by thetejon

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time management tips from Martha

When I was at my parents' house the other day, I noticed my stepmom had a stack of magazines about three feet high on the landing. I asked her about them and she said I could recycle them all, except the Real Simples. Out to the recycle bin went all but three Real Simple issues and a small stack of Martha Stewart Livings. I think the Martha Stewart Living photos are beautiful, so I took those home to cull out some recipes and photos for my collage projects (and have since recycled them). It was great fun flipping through them, and I came across an Ask Martha letter that asked her how to improve one's time management skills. I love Martha's answer:

Click image to view full-size.
Her advice about exercise and nutrition is right on and applies to everyone. I personally think the concept of balance in scheduling is incredibly important, but I realize that for some people, switching between tasks frequently is difficult. What do you think of Martha's words of wisdom?

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Announcing video organizing and a special offer!

I'm excited to introduce a brand-new extension of my professional organizing services, remote organizing consulting. For those clients who are out of my area or wish to work more independently, I can now offer a consultation via Internet video calling.

To kick off this service, I am offering a unique opportunity for my blog readers to get professional organization consulting absolutely free. I will provide a free 30 minute video consultation on any topic of your choice to anyone who requests one from now through October 31, 2010. Having trouble with time management? We can talk about it face to face. Want to show me your overflowing hall closet? Make sure your computer can capture it and I’ll give you expert advice about what to do to make it functional again. Since this is a new service, you get my knowledge, and I get to test how well my organizing methods and techniques work in this new setting.

To request your free consultation, email me at by October 31, 2010, with your name, a description of your organizing challenge, and your best availability Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm Pacific time. You must have a Skype account with video chat capabilities. We will set up the appointment via email. The consultation must take place before December 31, 2010.

If you try the free consultation and like the way it works, we can schedule follow-up sessions at a discounted rate!

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Decorating with like with like

One of the fundamental rules of organizing is keep all like things together (and preferably near where you use them). If you do this, there is only one place your car keys will be: with the other keys by the front door. It's a simple idea and one that in practice can save you tons of time looking for things.

Another advantage of this method of organizing is when looking for display opportunities in your home. A bunch of similar objects grouped together can create a simple and stylish decoration. These items can be functional, sentimental or neither.

An example of the functional: glassware displayed in a glass case. It's all together, it's easily accessible when you want to use it, and in the meantime it looks nice. An example of the sentimental: a few select vintage toys from your childhood grouped on a shelf in a guest room or a window sill. Even a few items can be considered a collection: display your three digital cameras or favorite colorful nail polishes on a bathroom shelf to brighten it up.

Why go out and buy knickknacks when you can decorate with your own stuff?

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by Jennifer Martinez

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Halloween prep

Halloween is a fun holiday. Candy, dressing up and fake blood always make for a good time. I like to get into the Halloween spirit by doing a few simple, low stress things.

  • Decorate by taping a skeleton cutout on my front door. I use the same one every year - it was originally a Halloween card my mom sent me.
  • Watch The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the 1950s Disney cartoon version narrated by Bing Crosby that's scarier than you'd expect.
  • Get a pumpkin and carve a jack-o-lantern, saving the seeds to roast. My trick: boil the seeds in heavily salted water for a few minutes before roasting them tossed with some olive oil and a tad more salt. 
  • Buy one (1) bag of Halloween candy. I usually don't get many trick-or-treaters, but it's always good to be prepared. 
What do you do to prepare for Halloween?

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

A year ago: Twitter and organizing myth #002

Last year at this time I posted a video about magnetic paint, stuff you can paint onto your walls to create a magnetized area for a stylish and simple magnetic bulletin board. The video was shared with me by Sarah Shaw (@entreprenette). We follow each other on Twitter (you can follow me at @lelahwithanh). It never ceases to amaze me how much amazing content is on Twitter. There's spam and useless stuff, too, but if you follow an engaged group of people, the ideas, links and content flying around all the time is pretty impressive.

I also wrote about one of the most pervasive organizing myths--that you only have to get organized once, and then you will stay organized forever. This is entirely untrue. The last step of organization is maintaining your space and system, a job that never ends. This is a good thing. Maintenance keeps us in touch with our spaces, our changing uses for things and our needs as they evolve over time. Read the post for tips on how to maintain an organized life. It's much less effort than having to start from scratch every so often, and feels better, too.

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Organized eating, or simplified salads

I have three main places where I do the business of being a professional organizer: at the home or office of a client, in my car getting to and from my client, and in my home office. On days when I am mostly working at home, I take time out of my day to make a healthy lunch. Access to my fridge and kitchen during the work day is one of the definite perks of operating a business from home. I really like to eat salads, because they are a lot of food but also good for you. The kinds of salads I like have lots of ingredients that require chopping. And even though I do take the time to make a salad and sit down and eat it, I don't want to be prepping for half an hour every day. So, on Sundays, I set aside some time for chopping, fill up several plastic storage containers with veggies, and then when I'm putting together lunch during the week my refrigerator becomes an in-home salad bar.

Things I like to chop and eat:
  • Cucumbers
  • Black olives
  • Green onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes (though I never do these in advance, as they don't keep well in the fridge)
  • Lettuce
Things I like to prep and eat:
  • Garbanzo beans or black beans
  • Homemade salad dressing (oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, some fresh herbs if I have any)
Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by Rene Ehrhardt

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Electronic waste de-cluttering made easy

There are two things that almost everyone has lurking around their home or office: used-up ink cartridges we know we shouldn't throw away, and cords, used electronics, scratched or irrelevant disks, even computers that are no longer in use and just sit in a drawer or in the basement, waiting. What are they waiting for? What are you waiting for? The retail chain Best Buy will take any and all of your electronic waste and recycle it for you. I make a trip there at least once a month with various odds and ends that I no longer want or need and know I shouldn't put in the trash. Many Goodwill donation centers will accept broken electronics items as well. As far as ink cartridges go, if you have a Staples nearby you can turn them in there and they will send you a voucher worth $2 in Staples credit for every ink cartridge you bring in, up to 10 a month.

There's no reason not to put a box of e-waste in your trunk the next time you are running errands and simply drop it off at Best Buy or Goodwill. It's better for the environment and doesn't take much extra time at all.

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

Next year's calendar

I'm getting to know Glendale, the city where I just moved. The other day I went for a walk and came across a store called Swain's. This is the kind of store I love. It has art supplies, fun things like stickers and toys and lots of office supplies. I was delighted to find their extensive section of calendars, wall, engagement and most any other kind of calendar. It reminded me that now is a good time to choose a 2011 calendar. I use two calendars. One is a wall calendar I keep within sight of my desk for easy reference when I am at my computer. The other is a weekly calendar that I keep in my purse at all times. It has two pages for a single week, and because I don't like to make my purse too heavy, I choose a small, compact style. I got my 2010 calendar at Office Depot, one of their inhouse brands, and it has been great. The one I picked out for 2011 at Swain's is the Time Master brand. It is slightly larger, and it has Monday through Thursday on the left page and Friday through Sunday on the right; this means that Saturday and Sunday each have a full sized window, which is great. My 2010 calendar splits one section into two for Saturday and Sunday, which makes the squares pretty tiny.

Getting next year's calendar now gives you plenty of time to write in the birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions that you already know. Technology can help here: if you are on Facebook, go to Events, then Birthdays and use the arrows on the bottom to navigate, and you can see a list of all of the birthdays of your friends who have shared them. I like to peruse that in advance, since Facebook only shows you their birthday on the day of. It's also a good idea to have a place to start gathering appointments and dates for 2011 so you don't forget them. Dentist appointments, graduations, weddings: these things often get planned far in advance, and though you think you may remember them. sometimes people forget things.

Lelah Baker-Rabe, professional organizer serving Los Angeles. 818.269.6671

Friday, October 1, 2010

A year ago: Organizing for the holidays and other reasons

It's October all of a sudden! These are three of my best posts from late September 2009. The holidays were apparently on my mind, in a way that they aren't as much this year. This year, I've started a list of gift ideas for my family, and I thought of one thing I'm going to ask for. But the planning hasn't gone too far past that.

Pre-holiday organizing. What things should you be thinking about now to make Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas easier? Making travel arrangements now will help structure the rest of the season and probably save you money.

The 10 best reasons to get organized. I think 7 and 8 are my favorites.

On holiday gift getting. Ask your friends and family members what they'd like to receive as a gift, and they will probably ask what you'd like. Have a few answers for them - it helps them out, and increases the chances of you getting something you really want.

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by D Sharon Pruitt

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