All Ways Organized Blog

31 Priceless Low Or No Cost Gifts

Gifts From The Heart They Will Remember All Year

31 Priceless Low Or No Cost Gifts

Make this holiday season memorable without breaking the bank. Let’s explore how you can make it personal and meaningful to the recipient.

First, I should tell you we have favored gifts of experience over “stuff” for a long time. We are all so very busy, getting to spend time with family or firends is what we long for. Going to a show with my family or even on a hike or bike ride is so much more meaningful to me. Spending time together is a genuine gift. 


Here are 31 of my favorites some are great for families, others are perfect for the seniors on your list:

  1. Game night - board games, card games, trivia games; I bet you have them all. Pick one and have a family or friend’s game night. You will laugh and be high-fiving in no time flat.
  2. Movie night - pick a movie, make some popcorn, get the blankets and pillows fluffed up, and enjoy the time together
  3. Make your own family trivia game. Weird or funny family stories make a great game of whodunit. How well do you really know your family, friends, or coworkers?
  4. Make a Memory Jar. Fill with letters and cards remembering your favorite experience with the person. Take turns reading the cards out loud and filling in the details of the story as you remember it.
  5. Pizza Night. Who doesn’t love a good pizza!
  6. Potluck night. Each person makes a part of the meal. Sit down together and enjoy every course.
  7. Go to your local library and explore whether they have a free pass program for local attractions. In our area we have a butterfly arm, a children’s museum, an aquarium, local university sports programs, science centers and even a zoo. You need to reserve in advance. Such wonderful opportunities for family fun. For FREE.
  8. Take them to see the holiday lights, a tree lighting ceremony, a free concert of holiday music.
  9. Create a family holidays calendar. Include the wedding anniversaries, adoption dates, birthdays, and other significant milestones. Search for photos to illustrate the events that month.

When Tears Flow

What is behind the tears?

When Tears Flow

20 years ago, just after opening my business, I got a call from a prospective client. Before we started to work together, she asked me to meet her for lunch so we could discuss her needs. She was not willing to let me (or anyone) into her home until she knew we were a good fit to work together. We spent a couple hours talking about the process, my philosophy of organizing, and why she wanted to become more organized now.

Here is what I learned. She was organized at work where there were rules and structure, but she could not recreate this same order for her home life. She had friends at work, but could not invite them to her home for fear being judged for her the clutter and disorganization.

Her goal was to have a home where she could invite family and friends to visit, to relax, cook a meal to share, and to sleep in a furnished bedroom, not a mattress on the floor with piles and baskets of clothes all around.

When we finished lunch, she paid me for my time and scheduled an appointment the following week to begin the project.

It was a bright sunny July day, when we met at her home. I arrived with my toolkit in hand. The doorman announced my arrival, and the client met me in the lobby to take me to her unit. There was silence in the elevator as we passed floor after floor.

When we arrived on her floor, she walked hesitantly down the hall to her door. Once there, she stood silently in front of the door. Thinking she needed my help, I put my hand on the doorknob to open the door. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Standing there in the hallway, I knew the stuff was not the only issue.

Celebrating 20 Years at All Ways Organized

I am filled with gratitude

Celebrating 20 Years at All Ways Organized

Today is a very special day for me and for All Ways Organized. 20 years ago today, my organizing and productivity consulting journey began. I want to thank the mentors, clients, and colleagues who have been part of it all.

First, Barbara Hemphill, I have been a fan of Barbara since launching my business. She has been the most supportive mentor, walking with me every step of the way. We met at the NAPO (then the National Association of Professional Organizers, now the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) Conference in 2006 in Boston.

I joined Barbara’s training program at the Productive Environment Institute and became certified in her methods and was the first to attain the Master’s Certification. Andrea Anderson, and her team at PEI are constantly working to refine the program and give immense value to the trainees and their clients. Andrea is always in my head, telling me to, “trust the system.” Great advice for us all.

In the fall of 2019, Barbara called to discuss collaborating on a book about email. I was all in. Barbara, known as the Paper Tiger Lady, wanted to show that the Productive Environment Systems could be for any organizing challenge, including the world of Email. I believed her when she said her methods would work for anything.





Are You Drowning in Your Inbox?

Simple inbox strategies to start using today.

Are You Drowning in Your Inbox?

Remember this number when composing an email.

Current studies show that on average we spend only 13.4 seconds reading an email. Remember this when the temptation strikes to write a long, complicated email with multiple points or questions. The first one or two will get answers, and they do not address the rest. What then? Send another email and another until they answer all questions? Try this instead, one topic, one question, one email.

One way to have less email in your inbox is to send less email!.

There are other ways to communicate besides email. Do you use a chat tool at work? Using chat in a project manager keeps information on a particular project, for a team or a group, or any other related items together. It is quick and to the point. It makes it simple to know where to look for the information.

Mute conversations you need not be part of, and check on a regular schedule.

When you are finished with your part, remove yourself from the project.

Will a quick phone call get you the answer you need?

Email takes time to write, since there is no tone or inflection, often you need to write and rewrite the email to be sure that your reader will understand what you want.


Marie Kondo, Ten Years of Tidying Up.

Do you feel the magic?

Marie Kondo, Ten Years of Tidying Up.

Ten years ago, Japan suffered a series of massive earthquakes leading to a 10-Meter tsunami. Kate Middleton married Prince William. Apple founder, Steve Jobs passed away at age 56, and Oprah Winfrey ended 25 years of sharing her wit and wisdom on the Oprah Winfrey Show. It hardly seems possible that all these events happened in 2011.

It was also ten years ago, Marie Kondo, the Japanese Tidying and Organizing expert, started “sparking joy” around the world with her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The book was first published in Japan in 2011 titled Jinsei Ga Tokimeku Katazuke No Maho. That book introduced us to her signature program for “Tidying Up.”

We love those words, "Tidy Up" and "Magic". They are so enticing; they make the actual work of getting and staying organized seem easy and quick. At least that is how I feel when I think about “tidying up.” It seems the sessions will be no problem and will take only minutes to accomplish. She captured our hearts and minds, helping us to see a way out from our clutter and overwhelm.

I think we all hoped by some bit of magic, we would be joyful and clutter free, but in reality we knew from experience there would be hard work and tough decisions ahead.

Keeping Your Passwords Safe

Is a Password Managers

Keeping Your Passwords Safe

Here is a question for you. How many passwords do you currently have? How many passwords have you saved in each of your browsers? Where else do you store your passwords? Research shows, on average, people have 80-100 passwords. One password manager software website estimates we have 192 each. After seeing that, I checked my account, thinking there was no way I had that many. Well, guess what, I have 199 distinct passwords. I could never, EVER remember that many passwords. Could you?

Though it is tempting, do not reuse passwords and do not use any of the top 20 passwords found on the Dark Net in 2020.
Here they are, if you are using any of these, change them immediately!!!

Too Many Apps and Not Enough Productivity

Time to declutter your apps and save your sanity.

Too Many Apps and Not Enough Productivity

Smartphones are so much more now than a simple tool to make a phone call. We have more computing power in our pocket now than NASA had in all those rooms full of servers used to send man to the moon. So, the big question is, what are we planning to use them for? Are they serving us well, or are we serving them?
I read a review online this week of a new smartphone. The reviewer said he would pay more for the device if it did NOT place phone calls! He felt we could be more efficient without the bother of talking to another person. That was a surprise! I doubt I will ever adopt this philosophy, but it shows how different we all are in what we expect from our devices and the apps we install on them.
One of the most frequent questions I am asked by clients when we work on digital organization is: “Is there an app for that?”

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Paper in Your Office

Think before you print

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Paper in Your Office

Less Paper: Earth Day 2021.

According to Records Nation, in the United States we use 65,395,000,000 sheets of paper per DAY. That is 815,000 pine trees every day! 4 Billion dollars every day, on paper! No wonder the average office worker spends 30-40% of their time looking for information stored in file cabinets.

Earth Day is just around the corner, so today I am sharing some ways to be more mindful of the amount of paper we use. Paper, printer ink, postage and storage are just a few of the costs of printing our electronic files. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year on average. We throw away 45% of what we print by the end of the day. Most of the forms printed by S corporations are outdated in 3 months’ time! Reducing paper consumption in your office is a great way to regain space, save money, increase peace of mind, and show kindness to our planet.

Want to get started on the road to less paper in your office? Try these 7 ways to reduce the paper you use, today!

The Secrets of Perfect Timing

If not now, when?

The Secrets of Perfect Timing

I recently revisited a book I read a couple years ago: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink. He extensively studied the science of time. I learned there are times best suited to each task in our lives. You can stop guessing when to do things, and pick the best times to work, eat, sleep, have your coffee, and even quit your job. He stressed we are all different, we all have peak times every day, and they are predictable.

Daniel puts us all in one of three categories he calls types: Larks (morning people), Owls (night owls), their best work starts at 9PM, or Third Birds–this describes most of us who are neither Larks nor Owls.

Until now, in my practice, I referred to client types as happy morning people, afternoon aficionados, or midnight mavens.

Key take-aways:

We all have times of day that we are strongest at performing certain types of work (our circadian rhythms). Add to the rhythms your emotions. Did you know, our emotions run through cycles every day, and these cycles are the same every day. Matching our rhythms to our activities can really boost productivity.  

We need regular breaks and “Nappuccinos” (a very particular type of napping that involves having caffeine before a brief nap.) When you awaken, the caffeine will be active and available to boost your productivity.

Marie Kondo, what is new in 2021.

Will it "Spark Joy" for you?

Marie Kondo, what is new in 2021.

It was two years ago today that Barbara Hemphill and I had a discussion in the Productive Environment Network™ about Marie Kondo and the KonMari method. Yesterday in the mail, I received an ad from one of my favorite stores, The Container Store. Guess who has a new line of products at the Container Store? Yes, Marie Kondo.
Here are some of my thoughts

What about Inbox Zero?

What should I do now?

What about Inbox Zero?

While writing my upcoming book about Gmail, Taming the Digital Tiger, Gmail Edition. A Step -By-Step Guide to Tame Your Gmail Account in No Time Flat, I was asked about Merlin Mann, the Founder of 43 Folders, and his concept known as Inbox Zero. Inbox Zero created a sensation in 2007, when Merlin showcased this concept at Google Tech Talk.

With the Inbox Zero philosophy, you process the email in your inbox using a few actions instead of allowing it to accumulate in the inbox. You read it, assign an action to it, and move it out of the inbox based on that action (more on this in a minute.)

In 2007, our digital communications were predominantly email based.  For most, it meant the email assigned to us at work. Now, we all have multiple email addresses. In addition, we have apps like Slack, Telegram, Messenger, Signal, and Twitter DM’s. And let’s not forget, text messages and chat tools inside other productivity apps. All this new technology since 2007. We have more choices for communicating and more inboxes than ever. Do you use voice messages or video messages? More inboxes!


What my hiking shoes taught me about productivity.

Ten things to remember.

What my hiking shoes taught me about productivity.

I got new hiking shoes for a trip to Colorado and Utah in 2015, we had no idea where they would take us.
Our first adventure with these shoes was to Denver, Boulder, Aspen, all five National Parks in Utah, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Escalante National Monument, Deadhorse State Park and Las Vegas. It filled us with awe, enjoying views we had never experienced here in New England.

A year later these shoes took us to OR, WA and HI. On this trip we hiked in forests and saw the pacific ocean as never before. We crossed the Kilauea Iki Crater in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, just as Kilauea was becoming more active a few miles away.

Closer to home they traveled to wonderful places in the White Mountains, Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park in Maine, for sunrise and sunset and more.

These shoes are trusted friends I fell in love with the first moment I put them on. Comfortable, sturdy, dependable and ready when adventure calls.

So why am I writing about these shoes today?

In the past few months, since Covid 19, they have supported my journey differently.


September is National Preparedness Month

Now is a good time to update your plan.

September is National Preparedness Month

Seems like 2020 did not want to wait for September for us to think about preparing for disaster.
Prepared or not 2020 hit like a freight train with no brakes. We careen from one disaster to another. The flu, COVID-19, floods, fires, landslides, hurricanes, tornados, volcanic eruptions, civil unrest, racism, economic distress, Midwest derecho, humanitarian crises. The disasters just keep coming.
No one needs to tell any of us this year that we need to be prepared for a whole host of things. Many of you will have already gone through your plans and updated everything, but one thing I know for sure is, right now, things change quickly. What felt like the right plan today, may need to change tomorrow.
Illness, natural disasters, accidents all happen everyday all over the world. I am reminded by every September to think about updating my plans. Maybe you do too. If this is you,think about what you need if you had to evacuate your home NOW. Preparing so you can collect to these things quickly and get to safety is key.

The big productivity killer in your vocabulary.

Stop shoulding and start doing.

The big productivity killer in your vocabulary.

What should I do?

This question often leads to a discussion of what is “best”, and where can I find the perfect tool?
You want to do the right thing, the best thing, the thing that will make someone else proud. How does it make you feel when you ask yourself, what should I do? When you ask what should I do, does it lead you to do something or not?

Psychologist Clayton Barbeau coined the term, “shoulding yourself” referring to the intense pressure to do something in a certain way based on what we think we “should do.” The word should causes you to do one of two things, you freeze unable to move forward or you run away and avoid the work altogether. Either way, you are not doing the work. When I work with clients, I see some big emotions attached to shoulding yourself, like fear, guilt, and shame. Fear of the consequences for not completing the task; guilt for falling behind; and shame for not asking for help in the beginning when you knew you needed help.

It is all about time

Have you checked your time lately?

It is all about time

What are YOU waiting for?
I love the Nickelback song, What Are You Waiting For. The song asks the questions: are you waiting for lightning to strike, a perfect night, or for the time to be right? It encourages us to take the wheel and steer, to learn to deal with the fear, and not wait another minute to give it your all. We need to take the leap of faith, believe in our dreams, and not be afraid to fall.
Do you have a dream that is just a dream, or do you have a dream you are working to make a reality? If it is just a dream, ask yourself why?
If I were to take a guess, you are waiting for someone else to tell you it is a great idea. In reality, the only person who can take you from dream to reality is you.
Often, I hear clients talk about time as an obstacle to realizing their dreams. So let’s get clear about what time is and is not.

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