Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Celebrating accomplishments

The other day I finished the draft of novel I had been working on for a little over two months. I wrote nearly every day and kept going even when it was tough to keep the story together and my ideas flowing. Typing the words The End at the end of a manuscript is a very satisfying feeling, no matter how much revising and editing you are going to have to do later. I allowed myself a moment to really savor the fact that I saw my story through to completion, and then the next day I started a new project.

I think it is incredibly important to allow and encourage yourself to acknowledge accomplishments, from large to small. Finishing a long-delayed task or checking off a major project from your to-do list is satisfying in itself, but reminding yourself that all of your effort resulted in that completion, that you accomplished whatever it was you set out to do, is vital. It creates the feeling that ideas can become reality and is gives you strength as you attempt even more abitious tasks and goals.

The next time you accomplish something, give yourself some kudos!

Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wrapping paper leftovers

I love wrapping paper. I think beautifully wrapped gifts are one of life's great pleasures. But I feel wasteful when I buy expensive paper that just gets torn off and discarded. So most of my paper gets used over and over again. My family doesn't mind when I harvest the best scraps of leftover paper and save them for the next occasion. I tend to keep bits of ribbon, too, and am able to use them again and again. The paper can take on new and more beautiful forms after being wrinkled and folded and combined with different types of paper for different gifts. And when I use up a lot of paper all at once and need more, I turn to paper bags and other found wrapping papers. It makes me doubly happy to see a gift beautifully wrapped with reused and reusable paper!

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by Katherine

Need to get a handle on your own wrapping paper collection?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paperless reminder: download your statements

As the end of 2011 draws close, here's a reminder for everyone who has even one paperless statement set up for their bank, utilities, credit card or other bills and services: don't forget to download the past 12 month's worth of statements from each place you do business and save them as PDFs to your computer (and then back them up on your external hard drive or cloud back up system!).

Many companies will only allow a year's worth of statements to be acessed for free electronically, and it is your responsbility to go to each company's site and download the information. This step is critical if you need the information on the statements in order to complete your taxes and you will need the statements themselves as back ups in case you are audited. Of course, I am not a legal or tax professional, so if you have any questions about what statements you need and how long you need to keep them, I urge you to consult your own advisors. But the beauty of simply downloading statements as PDFs is they are already in a handy electronic form that takes up no physical space and can be easily searched by your computer's search function.

So, download, save and back up!

Get more help setting up paperless billing and outsource the download step to a professional organizer!
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A little Christmas cheer

I never understand in movies when in order to truly celebrate Christmas, the characters have to decorate every object in their vicinity with tons of lights, fake snow and holly and greenery and mistletoe all over the place. When did decorating for Christmas become a contest in gaudiness?

I'm not saying I don't like Christmas decorations. I love the lights and shiny ornaments and wreaths. But, as usual, more is not better. A little goes a long way when you have to look at it for the protracted holiday season. If you are craving a little more flair in the decorations department, you can always find a mall or park with its own huge Christmas tree, or drive into those neighborhoods where the neighbors delight in covering their properties with decorations galore.

For a little Christmas cheer, try getting a small, living Christmas tree instead of a huge cut one. Put up one string of twinkly lights on your front porch instead of six. Fill a bowl with oranges or pomegranates as an edible centerpiece instead of glossy wrapped candies or greenery imported from a state away.

How do you simplify your own holiday decorating?

Want assistance cutting through the holiday clutter?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping ahead of your health

**This post was originally published in my monthly e-newsletter, Lelah's News. Don't subscribe? Sign up here!

Last month I went to the optometrist for the first time in a decade. I've always appreciated having excellent vision, but the hours I spend on the computer and reading apparently take a toll. The eye doctor recommended a mild prescription to help my eyes retain their flexibility when focusing on words on the computer screen and when reading books. It took some getting used to, this idea that I am suddenly a glasses-wearing person. However, wearing them does relax my eyes and make it more pleasant to do my normal activities. The most important take-away from this experience is that by not waiting until I had a problem, I improved my quality of life. I went in for a check-up and have now been given a tool to extend my healthy eyesight for as long as possible.

Sometimes being organized is about solving problems, and sometimes it is about preventing them. We've all heard the saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's obvious that washing one's hands and eating a balanced diet are preventative measures that are worth far more than cough drops or prescription medication. Being proactive about health matters, getting regular check-ups, going to doctors for wellness visits, getting one's teeth cleaned regularly are all things that can seem like unnecessary chores, but as part of a healthy lifestyle can keep us healthier and reduce time and money spent on treating ailments.

Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lelah With An H on social media

It's been a while since I posted my profiles to the various social media outlets that I belong to. Let's get connected on the ones you use, too!

Facebook: Lelah Baker-Rabe, Professional Organizer
Twitter: @lelahwithanh
My website: www.lelahwithanh.com
YouTube: lelahwithanh's channel

Are you suffering from social media overload?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gifts for people going paperless

Over the last week or so I've gotten a lot of requests for advice about scanners, which made me think about the best gifts to get for people who have expressed the desire to go paperless. Since going more paper-free myself, I've inspired others in my family to shed their paper files and embrace their digital ones. If you know someone who is trying to do the same thing, here are some gift ideas:

  • A scanner. You can't go wrong with the Fujitsu ScanSnap series. I have the S1500M (for Macs) and love the scan quality, user interface and software. Mine is the top-end desktop feed scanner, but for more portability the S1300 or S1100 are great, too.
  • The Paperless Document Organization Guide from DocumentSnap. DocumentSnap is a website for all things paperless, and they have some helpful information products to help you jump start your paperless journey. I was interviewed for the guide and think their content is great!
  • An external hard drive. Anything over 500GB will be lots of extra storage space to help someone backup their digital data safely and regularly.
  • If they have a mobile device, credit at their app store of choice. Droid or PC tablet users might want an Amazon credit or credit at the Android Market. iPhone or iPad owners can always use iTunes credit to use at the App Store. This will allow them to experiment with new productivity/paperless apps like Bento, Pages, Evernote, Remember the Milk, Things, etc. which often cost money.
Finally, give your encouragement. Striving to have less paper in a paper-dependent world can be difficult. Support your paperless friend by sending them links to articles you think they'd like instead of clippings, or perhaps getting them ebooks instead of paperbacks.

Need more expertise on how to go paperless?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas box revisited

Here's a video I made last year showing off my ultra-organized Christmas box. I can still fit everything I need for Christmas decorating in this single container. For my little apartment, anything else would be overkill. I strongly encourage you to take a look at your holiday decorations and make sure you're using everything, or almost everything, that you store 11 months of the year.

I can help you get your decorations manageable.
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I know I'm kind of late to the game when it comes to Pinterest. I've been hearing about it forever, and I finally checked it out recently. I was impressed with the clean look of the site; for some reason when I imagined all those images it sounded like it would by busy and jumbled, but it's not.

Pinterest screen shot.
Pinterest is really lovely for visual people who respond to images and colors and want to be able to browse visually to get ideas. It's also fun for people in niche groups to find out what their peers are looking at and talking about. For organizing inspiration, there are dozens of collections of beautiful organizing shots. My friend Cari of Cari's Custom Organizing has some awesome ideas collected here.

I think Pinterest could be a nice organization tool in and of itself, helping us keep track of ideas thematically for future reference, or just for fun!

FYI, to fully use the site you have to get an invite or request an invite.

Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Good to Great

I finally made time to read Good to Great, the modern business classic by Jim Collins. My NAPO-LA book group made it our November pick, and we're discussing it this evening. Though I had trouble getting into it, once I got to the second or third chapter I found the arguments compelling and the anecdotes inspiring. I really liked the tone of the book and the message that we can go from good to great in any area of life, from business to personal goals to family life. Have you read it? What did you think?

Here's one of my favorite quotes: 
“I believe it is no harder to build something great than to build something good. It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity. Indeed, if some of the comparison companies in our study are any indication, it involves less suffering, and perhaps even less work. The beauty and power of the research findings is that they can radically simplify our lives while increasing our effectiveness. There is a great solaces in the simple fact of clarity--about what is vital, and what is not.

If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, out lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”
Go from good to great with a professional organizer.
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving Recipe

I'm so thankful for all my wonderful blog readers, so I'd like to share a family recipe with you, which I will be making for my family this Thanksgiving. These little morsels are huge crowd pleasers, so I usually double the recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Swiss Cheese Tartlets

1 pre-made pie crust (in this recipe store-bought works better than homemade)
3 eggs
1/4 cup cream
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons very finely minced onion
1/4 lb. grated Swiss cheese
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds (or up to 1 teaspoon as desired)

Roll crust thin and cut out rounds about 2’’ in diameter. Press into greased or nonstick shallow muffin tins. (You can use a regular muffin tin as well, just press the crust in gently so it will be easy to remove later.) Beat eggs and mix in rest of ingredients. Pour 2 teaspoons of egg mixture into each crust shell. Chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake at 425 for five minutes, then turn down oven to 350F and continue baking for 12 minutes or so until lightly browned on top and on edges and center is puffed up a bit. Best served warm. You can freeze and reheat in the microwave or oven, but they won't be quite as good as fresh.

Get help for the holidays from a professional organizer.
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gift idea: handmade, but not by you

Sometimes the best gifts are handmade, but they don't have to be handmade by you. If you have an artist, writer or crafty person in your family, support them by purchasing (or trading for) their wares and giving them to others on your gift list. They might even give you a family discount!

A taste of Six Sapphires.
I'm lucky to have a wealth of talented, productive people in my family. My sister-in-law is a hugely talented jewelry designer, and everyone in the family delights in receiving something she's made. My mother-in-law is a photographer, writer and all-around talented person, and I've already earmarked one of her pieces for someone on my Christmas list. My brother works with plants and makes succulent wreaths and pots plants for wonderfully colorful, living gifts. Who in your family has a talent for creation?

Giving items made by someone you and the person you are giving to both love makes the gift doubly special.

Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Partners in Crime

I read a lot, and one of my favorite genres is romance. I also love Christmas, and I've been binging lately on Christmas-themed romances which seem to be in abundance at my local library. One story,  Partners In Crime by Cait London, is about a professional organizer who gets involved with a undercover cop on vacation and a string of burglaries of Christmas presents in her small town. It was a cute story, but the way the author portrayed her main character, Cecilia Lattimer, as a fairly OCD person who thrust her unwanted organizational solutions on everyone from business owners to the hunky cop-who-she-thinks-is-a-drifter was a little off-putting.

I suppose I'm overly sensitive, being a professional organizer in real life, but it was hard to see her try to give advice to everyone about how their lives could be organized better. I would never presume to do that, since part of being a professional organizer is being non-judgmental about people's situations and stuff. By offering to "fix" their space for them, the character in the book is implying that there is something wrong with them, which is not only presumputous, but insulting and it doesn't get her very far with any of these characters, anyway. 

So, the takeaway for me is that even though it was neat to see the main character in a short novel share my profession, it made me wonder how others see the job I've chosen. I certainly hope they don't think I'm a nosy person who wants to fix their space whether they like it or not!

Want to learn what a real professional organizer does?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Get organized, save money

Getting organized really can save you money. I've decluttered many things in my own home as well as in client's homes that other people in the household were just about to go spend money on because they needed the item. No need, I'd declare, depositing the item into the hands of the person in need. Money, time and effort saved all in one go.

Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Clutter Carnival

I'm so happy to be one of the participants in this month's Professional Organizers Blog Carnival, hosted by the very talented Janet Barclay of Organized Assistant. My classic post Common clutter areas and what to do about them is just one of two dozen helpful and insightful blog posts all on the topic of clutter presented in the carnival.

Read and enjoy!

Need a professional to help you clear your clutter?
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to make folders on your iPad

My mother is in town and, as usual, she's still teaching me things. We have matching white iPads, and she noticed I didn't have any folders organizing my apps on my home screen. I had never seen folders, and she showed me how to create them.

Tap and hold an app until they are all wiggling (this I knew how to do--it makes it possible to delete and move around your apps). Drag an app on top of another app. This will create a folder. The iPad (magical device that it is) will examine the apps you are putting together and recommend a name for the folder. In two out of three cases, it recommended the exact name I wanted to use. Amazing! You can rename the folder, however, right then, if you choose. Then you can drag other apps into the folder as desired. I made a News folder, a Reading folder and an Entertainment folder. My mom, wonder that she is, has one called Productivity. Just hit the home button at the bottom of your iPad to make the wiggling stop.

The advantage to doing this is it makes all apps of a certain type available at a glance and it allows less frequently used apps to take up less screen real estate. One caveat: some of the permanent apps, like Newsstand, don't allow you to add them to a folder. Not sure why.

Thanks, Mom!

Need a professional to help you organize your iPad?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Organized people are lazy

Laziness is underrated as a motivating factor. I'm a hard worker, but I'm lazy in the sense that I don't want to spend extra energy doing something that can be done more simply, more easily or more quickly. I think a lot of organized people are also lazy people in this same way. They know that if they have the elements of their lives as ordered and streamlined as they like, they can spend less time on the minutiae of life and more time doing the things that are important to them. I particularly think that organized people have an advantage over disorganized people in that they are not constantly reacting, not constantly bombarded by "emergencies" of their own making and are not caught up in a feeling that everything is urgent, because everything is behind where it needs to be.

When an emergency really does crop up, then an organized person has the flexibility to put other things in their life on hold and deal with it, without causing too much damage. This results in less clean-up, less work. For me, I don't want that extra work, so I get organized at the front end to avoid it. And it works most of the time. When I do get overwhelmed with stuff, the laziness factors in when I stop taking on new responsibilities for a little while in order to get back to my natural equilibrium. Once I'm back in my comfort zone, then life can speed up as it is bound to do. An outside person might call that laziness in a pejorative manner. I think it's common sense, being true to yourself and knowing what makes you comfortable and happy. If that's laziness, so be it.

Need a professional to help you get to your natural equilibrium?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Archiving calendars

I've had a weekly calendar to keep track of appointments and important dates since high school, and I've kept most of them for sentimental reasons. I just recently switched to using iCal exclusively instead of a paper calendar, and I went back to look at the stack of calendars I had been keeping in a drawer.

They were fun to glance through to remind myself of the classes I took in college, the concerts I went to, the trips I've been on. But I realized that was the first time I'd looked at many of them in years. I decided to give my lovely ScanSnap S1500M a workout and turn each calendar into a digital file, then recycle all that paper.

Of course, the ScanSnap didn't break a sweat, the results were beautiful scans, and I have that data should anyone care to know what I did back on March 18, 2000 (apparently I went to Magic Mountain).

I also freed up an entire drawer for some more useful purpose. But I'm leaving it empty for now.

Need a professional to help you scan your calendars?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lelah's Email Coaching Special!

Email plagues us all. It's a wonderful tool but can be an enormous drain on our time. As a person who doesn't like to leave things unfinished, an email inbox filled with messages is a distressing thing, so I have a system for getting my inbox down to zero, every single day, and I've shared this system with many clients.

If you'd like to reduce the amount of time you spend processing your email, spend two hours with me; you'll make the time back tenfold after we implement a new, improved method for dealing with your email.

I will come to your Los Angeles area home or office for two hours of intensive, email-specific productivity coaching. Virtual sessions for those outside the Los Angeles area are also available. This is a special offer at a special price and is for a limited time only. Applicable to both existing and new clients. Call 818-269-6671 now to book!

Lelah's 2 Hour Email Coaching Special: $135

Need a professional to help you manage your email?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
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Monday, October 31, 2011

Labeling the salt

Last night my husband and I went through our apartment doing a basic de-clutter. We were looking at all of our possessions and asking ourselves if they still held a purpose in our lives. If they didn't, we put them in a bag to give away. A good by-product of de-cluttering with the person you share your living space with is that you learn things about each other and your space. For instance, I do most of the cooking, and it never occurred to me that some basic ingredients were invisible to my husband. He asked me, "So if I need salt, where is that?"

I pointed silently to the container of salt that sits next to the pepper and olive oil right next to the stove.

"That's the salt?" he clarified. Apparently it was hiding in plain sight.

"That's the salt," I assured him. Then I asked, "Would it help if I labeled it?"

He said yes. So I labeled the salt.

Need a professional to help you label your salt?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

News fasting

I spend a lot of time reading newspaper articles online and listening to the news on the radio. I like to know what is going on in the world, and I have some particular interests that I enjoy following in the news (movie news and box office returns, politics to some extent, Los Angeles arts and culture, etc.).

I spend a lot of time in the car, travelling to clients and I usually turn in to public radio shows like The Madeleine Brand Show, The World, Marketplace and All Things Considered whenever I'm in the car. I also just got an iPad, and the LA Times iPad app makes it super easy to read article after article with the flick of your finger.

It's gotten to a point where I check the LA Times website at least three or four times a day, just to make sure I'm not missing something important.

The time I spend on consuming news is probably not more than an hour a day...but that hour a day really adds up. It feels like I spend much more time and energy thinking about the stuff that I hear about and read about, and it doesn't always seem like time or energy well spent. There's so much negative news, and I'm a very action-oriented person. I don't like to feel like I can't do anything about an issue; I know I can't do something about every issue.

I'm going to try out a news fast. I don't know if I can give up my car radio news connection--at least not cold-turkey. But I'm going to skip the news websites for a while, and see what else I find to fill up that time. I have a feeling I'm already gaining some time and energy to spend creating something positive in my life (my fiction writing, cooking healthy meals) rather than just consuming information that I ultimately can do very little with.

Have you ever tried a news fast? What worked for you and what didn't?

Need a professional to help you get organized?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2012 LA Organizing Awards

The date of the 2012 Los Angeles Organizing Awards has been announced! In a change from the last six years, the seventh annual awards show will be in the fall, rather than at the end of January. The date is October 20, 2012, with details to be announced regarding location.

I'm really looking forward to attending one of the most important events in the organizing industry, and I'm so happy it's held right here in Los Angeles!

Need a professional to help you get organized?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hate to clean? Get organized.

Not liking to clean is a great reason to get organized. No one wants to live in a dirty environment, but cleaning isn't most people's favorite activity. Organizing first can help. Dishes and laundry are chores that can be streamlined to be less time consuming, if not more enjoyable. Actual cleaning tasks, like dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing of various kitchen and bathroom surfaces, are easier and faster to do when your home is already organized.

  • If you don't use your floor as a storage surface, vacuuming is a one-step process.
  • Keeping bookshelves, mantels and countertops clear of all but a few display objects makes dusting as easy as lift and swipe.
  • A decluttered closet makes putting away clean clothes a stress-free experience, plus you'll have enough hangers!
  • When toiletries and supplies are all regularly put away in their designated spaces, bathroom cleaning is just spray, scrub and rinse.
  • Schedule recurring cleaning tasks on your calendar. That way you won't feel guilty for not doing them, as you will have made a plan to do them in the future, and you also won't do tasks too frequently. Cleaning the air conditioner filter doesn't have to be done every week!
Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by Valerie Everett

Need a professional to help you get organized?
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

4 things I love about NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. The new website is up and running and you can sign up now to be one of hundreds of thousands of other people around the world who will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

I'm not sure if their author buddy system is live yet, but if so, you can find me via my username: lbakerrabe. Add me as an author buddy so we can watch each other progress toward the finish line.

4 things I love about NaNoWriMo:
  1. It's only a month long. Even though sometimes I wish NaNoWriMo was year round, having it come but once a year concentrates the creative and competetive juices that make doing it so rewarding.
  2. The goal is simple. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a very specific goal, and pretty easy to track. It's also just about numbers and output, not about quality or something else subjective.
  3. It puts my priorities into perspective. Writing is extremely important to me, but often I can persuade myself to trade writing time for work time or house cleaning time or watching 30 Rock time. In November, I'm better at putting writing first.
  4. It's kind of silly. The people who come back for NaNoWriMo year after year and the ones who get a lot out of the whimsical online community that surrounds it and who don't take it too seriously. It might sounds stressful to write that much that quickly, but it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be an adventure, just like all art.

Need a professional?
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poll #7: Scanners

I have a few different ways to scan paper. I just got a brand-new, shiny and wonderful ScanSnap S1500M scanner. It's a desktop feed scanner that zips through my to scan pile with ease and whose software makes it simple to label and categorize my newly created files. I've been using a Neat Desk for a while. It's a similar desktop scanner, with a different software interface that is useful if you want to keep detailed track of your receipts, but it works great as a document scanner, too. I also have my trusty, eight-year-old, all-in-one printer that has a flatbed scanner option. This is what I used for years before I got my cool feed scanners, and it still works great--especially if you need to scan something too thick to pass through the feeder on the other scanners, like a passport or credit card.

My ScanSnap being unwrapped for the first time.
The ScanSnap's quality and user interface are more in line with the type of scanning I do, so I have a feeling my Neat is going to become obsolete. The scanner function on my printer will also be useful from time to time, and since I need the printer anyway, it doesn't bother me to keep them both on my desk.

Now, what do my readers use to scan? Several of you also have a ScanSnap and/or a Neat. 40% of respondents said they have a ScanSnap and 20% said they have a Neat. 40% also said they have a flatbed, but by far the most (60%) said they use their all-in-one printer to scan. No one said they don't have a scanner, which is interesting. In this day of sending fewer faxes and more emails, scanning is often the only way to get someone information electronically. However, since most printers have this function, there isn't a need to go out and purchase a separate scanner unless one is doing a lot of scanning, frequently, such as for a business or large household, or if you are striving for a paperless lifestyle. Scanners can give you more flexibility to get rid of paper.

Need a professional?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Halloween is in 17 days

Halloween is such an enjoyable holiday, and compared to some other holiday events, it can take relatively little preparation. Here's the bare minimum I do to get into the spirit:

  • I hang up a skeleton cut-out on my front door
  • I get a pumpkin and may or may not carve it and make roasted pumpkin seeds
  • I send my close family and friends Halloween post cards using Send Out Cards because it's nice to get mail
  • I get ONE bag of Halloween candy just in case we have trick-or-treaters, but we never do, so I make sure I get a kind that both my husband and I like so we will use it up eventually
That's it. That's all it takes to get me in the Halloween mood. If you want a chuckle (at least this made me chuckle) read my Halloween prep post from last year that I just found--it is almost identical to this one, which I suppose says something for my low-stress Halloween style and traditions, and hopefully not that I'm just boring.

Need a professional?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to organize a book club

Book clubs have been around forever, and I like them because, as an avid reader, I sometimes need a reason to break out of my usual genres and stretch myself to read something new, and potentially amazing.

Image from Evite.
I'm a member of two book clubs. One I've been a part of for about three years, the other I started this year as a way for members of NAPO-LA to get together and discuss business development books. The two clubs function very differently, but they are both organized to a point where making the book club happen takes very little effort on any one person's part.

If you'd like to start a book club or are in one that isn't functioning very well, here's my advice:
  • Clarify the purpose or theme of the club. For instance, is your club more of a social occasion or a networking opportunity? The tone that you want the meetings to have will also dictate the book choices. For instance, one of my clubs is more social, and we have a fun theme: we read books that have been made into movies, read the book and watch the movie and then use the similarities and differences between the two as a basis for discussion. The NAPO-LA book club isn't dry and boring, but we read business development books and the conversation does focus more on our businesses and our business goals.
  • Take a poll of members to get a sense of how often they want to meet. Once a month is standard, but you might find that every six weeks is more doable for your crowd. The NAPO-LA group meets every other month.
  • Invite lots of people. You can have a good discussion with just two or three people, but if you want a variety of opinions and a good turnout for each meeting, you either need a small group of really dedicated people who never miss meetings (unlikely) or a larger pool of people who are interested in the group, but might not make it every time. 
  • Make the meetings effortless by either rotating hosting duties among the members, so one member might host every year at the most, and then make it a pot-luck or wine and cheese kind of event. Alternatively, find a venue that can accommodate your average group size and hold it there every time. Consistency takes the work out of finding appropriate locations and minimizes confusion. 
  • If you can, make one person in charge of invites and scheduling. If that job is too big for one person, rotate so the host is in charge of getting the word out about the book and the meeting details. In my social club, we use Google Docs to keep track of group member's emails, all the books we've read, and ideas we have for future book choices and then use Evite to spread the word about upcoming meetings and to get a sense of how large the turnout will be.
  • If you've been in a club for a while, but attendance is dropping off, create a free survey using SurveyMonkey and send it to the group, asking questions about meeting frequency, book choice, etc. to see if you can figure out how to make the group work for more people.
  • One of the best innovations of the social book club I'm in that I brought over to the NAPO-LA club was choosing the books two meetings ahead of time. For instance, at the September meeting (Misery), the group decided that in November we'd read The Cider House Rules, and we were reminded that the October choice was Interview with the Vampire, which we'd decided back in August (The Help). Planning ahead gives people more time to track down and read the book, which is helpful if you get the books from the library, as I usually do.
Above all, book clubs are supposed to be fun, so don't stress and enjoy your book-loving friends and acquaintances.

Need a professional?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things I love about Apple

Things I love about Apple products:
  • They boot up quickly
  • They look nice
  • Hard drives are easy to navigate
  • The way things look on screens is beautiful
  • There's less after-market software and hardware, so to find products and solutions you don't have to wade through a million similar products
  • Buying products from the Apple store is generally a satisfying experience: lots of helpful people who want to get you into the right product and will find the answer to any question you might have, and I love that you can buy from anyone anywhere in the store
  • Apple programs I like: Pages, Numbers, Bento, iCal, Preview, Stickies

Things I don't love about Apple products:
  • Their mice are not robust. I use a Microsoft mouse with a hearty scroll wheel.
  • Apple programs I don't like: iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie
  • That's all I can think of...

Need a professional?
Call Lelah at 818.269.6671
or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book review: Enchantment

A few months ago one of my fellow NAPO-LA chapter members, Deborah Kawashima, mentioned a book she had read that she found extremely insightful. It was Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. I had never heard of him, but I ordered Enchantment from the library to see what it was all about. Kawasaki was an early Apple employee and has written many books about products and business strategies. Enchantment is a great book for people who want an introduction and overview of what it takes to launch a company that has the potential to be as impressive as Apple.

I'm not going to go into a detailed review; if you check out the book on Amazon, the chapter titles pretty much tell you what you are in for. How to Resist Enchantment was one of my favorite chapters. I like the idea of an entire book about enchanting someone with your business also including the inverse - how to be wary of people trying to enchant you.

I also liked the How to Prepare section where he talked about conducting premortems where you assume your idea failed, speculate about what caused it to fail, then fix those problems before launch. Advice such as dressing on the same level as the people you interact with and how to shake someone's hand is always appreciated and too many business books take that stuff for granted.

My favorite quote from the book doesn't have much to do with enchantment, but it gripped me:

"When you buy something cheap and bad, the best you're going to feel about it is when you buy it. When you buy something expensive and good, the worst you're going to feel about it is when you buy it." --Sasha Aickin's grandmother as published in Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com. Sign up for Lelah's News, a once-monthly newsletter.