Archive for the ‘01 News from Cathy’s Desk’ Category

Let’s Get School to Home Paperwork Organized!

Posted on: September 9th, 2015 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy Mendler  It’s September!

  Children are back at school, and the first official day of fall is
..almost here. I love the fall with all of the beautiful colours as
..the trees change, although I’m not so fussy about them losing
..their leaves.

I hope you had some time to relax and rejuvenate during the summer. For many people, fall means getting back into a busy routine with meetings, piano lessons and sports activities.

Back to school brings with it much more than structured routines and homework—a seemingly endless stream of paper!

Here are some suggestions to help you handle all of that paper.


Designated Paperwork Area

Designate one area where you will deal with paperwork.  Use a tray or basket as an inbox.  Get everyone in the family into the habit of using it.  If it doesn’t go in the inbox, it won’t get looked at.  Remember–it can take up to 21 times repeating an action before it becomes a habit.  Gentle reminders will help the process when you first start.  Perhaps you can offer a small reward as an incentive.

Having a routine for keeping paperwork under control is critical.  When your children get home from school, have them unload their knapsacks—dirty lunch containers go in the sink or dishwasher, books go to their homework or study area, paperwork goes to the inbox, etc.

Calendar and Activities Schedule
The family calendar should be kept in your designated paperwork area.  All activities should be put onto one calendar.  Keeping more than one calendar up to date is difficult; it usually results in missed appointments.  Label each family member’s activities in a different colour; let your children pick their favourite colour.

Once you add all of your children’s extra-curricular activities to the calendar, you may realize that they are overscheduled.  Remember that it’s OK to limit the number of activities for each child.  Your children need some time to just be kids!

Reference Binder
A three-ring binder can be used to store frequently used information–names and phone numbers for your dentist, school, babysitter, veterinarian or lawn care company.  Lists for children’s sports activities and take-out menus can also be included.

Tickler File
Set up a tickler file.  A tickler file system consists of folders with tabs for each month and day of the month.  This system should hold all of your current household paper—bills to pay, receipts, coupons, wedding invitations, etc.  A file cabinet should contain your non-current household paper.

If you would like further information on setting up a tickler file, please contact us.

Schedule Time for Paperwork
Set aside a few minutes every day to deal with paperwork.  What’s important is that it happens on a regular basis as required.  Review paperwork in the late afternoon or evening.  It is less stressful than trying to deal with it as everyone is trying to get ready and out the door in the morning!

Don’t forget to place signed permission slips, tests or notes into the children’s knapsacks as soon as possible after completion in order to avoid misplacing them.

Artwork and Projects
Is your fridge or bulletin board covered in artwork?  Each child should have their own box for artwork and projects.  Let your child have fun and decorate the box.  Place a folder inside for current masterpieces.  At the end of the month (or whatever time period you decide), ask your child to select his or her favourite piece or two.  You’ll run out of space in no time if you keep all of them.  If necessary, take photos of bigger projects and artwork that they decide not to keep.  Remember to label each box with the year and grade.

Keep it Simple
Don’t make your system for dealing with paperwork more complicated than it needs to be.  Controlling your family’s paper will be much easier if you keep it simple.

Get started and turn over another leaf!

Let’s Get Started to Turn Over a New Leaf!

Posted on: August 4th, 2015 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy Mendler

It’s been more than a few months since my last
newsletter. Life threw me another curve ball. This
time, however, it was expected–for the most part.

In a span of five months, three family members had joint replacements and another major surgery. Countless hours were spent at the hospital, on the highway and caring for my mother. There are times in life when family and friends need to be first on the priority list. I am grateful for clients and business associates who are so understanding. I did, however, complete a very large client move which required me to be out of town for six weeks.

During times like this, I had to remind myself that there’s only one of me. As my business coach said recently, “I wish I could clone you!” If only it were that simple!

It’s important to take care of yourself when life gets to be overwhelming. Here are 106 Tips from Caregivers which may be helpful if you find yourself in that situation.

The past month has been busy, but it hasn’t all been work-related. We celebrated my niece’s wedding several weeks ago. I’d like to officially welcome Patrice to our family–as well as all of his family who travelled from France. It’s been the summer for weddings, as we’ve had the honour of attending two others as well–at beautiful locations.

I also managed to squeeze in six days of rest and relaxation at a friend’s cottage on beautiful Lake Temagami.

Have you been promising yourself that you’ll clean out the garage or have a yard sale this summer? Here are links to a couple of past blog posts–for our new readers and for those who asked for a repeat.

Organizing Your Garage

Organizing Your Yard Sale

Get started and turn over another leaf!

Planning Ahead for Healthier Meals

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy Mendler  It’s February!

  Although it’s still winter, the daylight is lasting a bit longer
//every day. On Groundhog Day in southern Ontario,  
..Wiarton Willie told us we would have an early spring.
 ..Only time will tell if his prediction comes true!

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to eat less and exercise more? Have you given up on that resolution already? Would it be better if you resolve to eat healthier instead? It’s easier to do if your kitchen is stocked with healthy food choices. Planning your meals in advance can help.

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf!


An important aspect of running a household is planning meals.

Two friends of mine cook for one or two days every month and freeze meals to enjoy during the month. It’s a big undertaking to make a whole month’s worth of meals. Perhaps you’re not ready for a massive cooking session. Start small; double a recipe and freeze one batch to use later. Having a healthy meal ready can make a busy night less hectic.

Meal planning may initially seem like a lot of work, but it will become easier once you’ve done it a few times.

  • Make a list of meals for the next week.
  • What ingredients are required in order to make these meals?
  • Check your cupboards/pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what ingredients you already have on hand.
  • Create a grocery list.
  • Check grocery store flyers for the week’s sale items.

Plan a variety of meals, so you don’t get bored. An added benefit is that you’ll be able to reuse your meal plan again in the future.


Once you’ve stocked up on groceries, get ready to cook.

If you undertake cooking a large quantity of food at one time, you will need to:

  • estimate how much time you need for cooking.
  • schedule cooking time as well as clean-up time.
  • decide how you will freeze the food–in single, double or larger serving sizes?


Some of the rewards of meal planning are:

  • healthier meals
  • making fewer trips to the grocery store–saving you time and money.
  • wasting less food because you’ll use the ingredients that week.
  • less time worrying about what you’re having for dinner and not trying to figure it out at the last minute.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the cold weather and clean out your freezer!

What Do YOU Want to Accomplish in 2015?

Posted on: January 22nd, 2015 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy_Mendler_new-150-x-115                  It’s the beginning of another year!

    Another year is now behind us, and a clean slate is in front of us.

What do you want to accomplish in 2015? Set aside some time to think about what you’d like to do. An important part of accomplishing your goals is planning. Grab a cup of your favourite beverage, find a quiet spot, a pen and some paper. Did you know that if you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them?

Brainstorm! Create a master list. Write down all of the big and small projects you’d like to complete this year. Remember, if you break a big project down into small projects, it’s not so overwhelming. Don’t let procrastination stop you before you even start.

  • Step 1Estimate – With your master list in front of you, estimate how long you think each project will take. Be realistic.
  • Step 2 Prioritize your list. Determine what you will work on first.
  • Step 3Schedule – When you schedule time in your planner or calendar, you’re making a commitment to do the required work.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu told us that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

Simplify Your Holiday Without Feeling Like a Scrooge!

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy_Mendler_new-150-x-115  It’s December!

  The holidays are in full swing, and the end of the year is quickly _approaching.

   As the clock ticks down, and your to-do list gets longer, it often helps to be reminded to keep things simple.

 Take a moment to read Kat Lee’s article How to simplify the holidays without feeling like a Scrooge.

Whatever your plans for the holidays, I hope you take the time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends–whatever means the most to you!

January will be here before you know it. Big plans are in the works for 2015. Until then …

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf!


Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments


Cathy MendlerIt’s November!

It may say November on the calendar, but the snow outside is making it look like January.

Christmas is right around the corner.

I’ll be kind and resist the temptation to tell you how many days are left until the big day arrives.

As you’re making your holiday lists, you might like to sip on a mug of The Perfect Hot Chocolate.

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf!


The following articles are back by popular demand!

Planning for the Holidays – Part 1  and Part 2

I’m including Gift Giving Ideas too which you may find helpful.

August, Already???

Posted on: August 6th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy_Mendler_new-150-x-115    It’s August!

Summer was a long time coming this year. With all of the rain and cooler temperatures, it hasn’t been a typical summer either. So enjoy it when you get the chance.


What does your summer list of projects look like?

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf!


In June 2013 I wrote an article “Organizing a Decorating/Renovating Project.” Here’s a link to that blog post.

Having just completed a major home renovation, I can offer the following additional thoughts:

  • Begin planning as far in advance as possible. Delays can be costly if you aren’t prepared.
  • Make sure you include contingency funds in your budget. Be prepared for the unexpected–especially if you are opening up walls or renovating an older home. Bringing your home up to today’s building code requirements may be an additional expense. Electrical upgrades, improving insulation, etc. might be required.
  • There will likely be items you wish to upgrade which you hadn’t considered. Think about your plans for the long term.
  • Could your home benefit from an energy audit? A high home energy score could help sell your home–if that is in your plans for the future. Click here for more information on your home’s energy efficiency.
  • Communicate frequently with your contractor.
  • Keep a supply of plastic drop sheets handy–they will become your best friend.
  • Prepare yourself for the frustrating moments, hours and even days. Despite all of your planning, they are bound to happen.

I’m happy to report that our renovations went smoothly. We were prepared as much as possible. Although we made several upgrades and spent more money than originally planned, it was worth the investment.

Good luck to two of my business colleagues. One is in the process of renovating an entire house–I can only imagine what she’s going through! The other one will be adding a commercial kitchen to her home–a big undertaking–in the very near future.

Remember, the end result will be worth it, as the drywall dust becomes a distant memory!


Fall and back to school will be here before you know it!

Check out our Getting Organized for Back to School blog post from August 2012.

Spring Has (FINALLY!) Sprung!

Posted on: April 9th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments


Cathy MendlerIt’s April!

Spring has finally sprung! What a winter it’s been! As I’m writing this post, the street sweeping truck is going around our crescent. Unfortunately, there’s still an ice mountain on the circle, and we had a dusting of snow last night!

The calendar, however, ushered in spring a couple of weeks ago.

One sure sign of spring is our annual Maple SyrupFestival. Elmira celebrated its 50th event this past weekend! The crowds were smaller this year because of the cold weather, but people still came out to enjoy the pancakes and maple syrup!


Spring cleaning is generally thought of as cleaning your home from top to bottom.

I always thought spring cleaning dated back to Europe when homes were heated with coal, oil and wood. Walls and home furnishings were cleaned to remove soot and ashes. In doing some research, I discovered there are a number of origins for spring cleaning.

wiseGEEK states that homes are completely cleaned prior to Passover. “[P]eople also get rid of any leavened bread, called ‘chametz’, which are forbidden foods … Even crumbs of chametz or a few leftover specks of leftover grains from forbidden flours need to be removed from the home, and typically, Jewish families hunt for any possible chametz crumbs the night before Passover begins.”

Wikipedia tells us that “Iranians continue the practice of ‘khooneh tekouni’ which literally means ‘shaking the house’ just before Norouz [numerous spellings], the Persian new year.” Scotland’s ” ‘New Year’s cleaning’ on Hogmanay (December 31)” is “also widespread in Ireland, New Zealand, and … North America.” “In Greece, and other Orthodox nations, it is traditional to clean the house thoroughly either right before or during the first week of Great Lent, which is referred to as Clean Week. This also often corresponds with the Julian New Year, or April 1.”

Our centrally heated airtight homes need a breath of fresh spring air. So it’s time to throw open the windows–unless you’re allergic to the budding trees!
The bright spring sunshine will likely expose a few cobwebs.

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

You may complain that you don’t have time to spring clean your home from top to bottom. If you’ve read any of our previous newsletters, I always recommend that you start with a plan.

Create a Master List

Go through your house thinking about one room at a time. Your master list should contain all of the projects that you want to complete. Estimate how long you think each project will take. Be realistic.

The next step is to prioritize your list, and determine which room you will work on first.


When you schedule cleaning sessions in your planner or calendar, you’re making a commitment to do the required work.

You may not be able to complete a room all at once. If necessary, divide it into sections, and work on one section at a time. If you only have one hour, pick a project from your list that you can complete in that time period.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do all the work yourself. If you want to clean a number of areas, schedule a family meeting. Involving the whole family in the process can teach them valuable life-long skills.

Before starting any cleaning session with children, remember to keep their attention span in mind. You might be able to clean for 3 or 4 hours at one session, but most children can’t stay focused for that length of time. Try to make it fun!

It’s also a good idea to schedule a snack break; prepare snacks ahead of time. Plan ahead–when cooking, double a recipe and freeze one batch. At the end of the day when you’re tired, you’ll have an easy meal!


Stock up–cleaning supplies, garbage bags, recycle bin, empty boxes, rubber gloves, etc.

Getting Started

Start with the first room on your list. Focus on one room at a time. Don’t start the next room until you’ve finished.

Take a break–set a timer–to keep up your energy level. This is especially important if your children are helping.


Maintaining your freshly cleaned space will require some effort from everyone.  Schedule a daily or weekly clean-up time, so things don’t get out of control.


When you’re done, don’t forget to reward your children and yourself for all your hard work!

Remember, you don’t have to complete your entire list in one weekend!

Check out our “Get the Associate Scoop” section below. Martina of Naturally Clean provides some great natural cleaning solutions.

A Difficult Transition: Emptying Your Childhood Home

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy MendlerIt’s March! 

Even though it’s the beginning of March, it’s still not looking like spring is just around the corner with all of the snow that’s still on the ground. But don’t let that stop you from forging ahead with your plans for this year.

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf! 


Emptying your childhood home is one of life’s more difficult transitions. Whether your parents are moving to an apartment, a retirement residence or a nursing home–or they have passed away–here are some tips to assist you.

If possible, let your parents be in control. Put yourself in their shoes, and remember that it is their home. The process will run more smoothly if you respect their wishes.


Have a plan, and start as early as possible. Don’t expect your parents to clear out their entire house in a couple of weeks. The process takes time, as well as a great deal of energy and patience. Keep your parents’ energy level in mind.

Respect Feelings

Be empathetic. Did they grow up during the depression when possessions were scarce? Realizing that possessions are not worth very much now from a monetary point of view is an unfortunate reality. Often they have far more sentimental value.

Disposal of Possessions

Are there items that children and grandchildren find particularly meaningful to them? Schedule a family meeting. If someone doesn’t want or need items, don’t make them feel guilty. Nowadays, most people don’t want the maintenance that comes along with grandmother’s silver tea service.

Sorting through items will likely evoke many memories, and it’s common for seniors to share those stories. It’s a necessary part of the process and will help them let go. The more meaningful an item, the harder it may be. It’s often easier to let an item go if they know someone else will make good use of it. No one likes the idea of their possessions being discarded. Items that are worth money can be sold or donated.

Avoid packing items in a box and storing them in a basement. It’s not a good way to honour the memory of a loved one. In addition, it will prevent someone from dealing with the items again at a later date.

Remember–letting go of someone’s possessions does not mean you are letting go of that person. The memory of a loved one lives in your head and in your heart.

A Few Notes on Compulsive Hoarding

Posted on: February 4th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments


Cathy MendlerIt’s February already! 

With the winter we’ve experienced so far this year, I think it’s safe to say that the snow and cold weather won’t be gone any time soon–despite whether the groundhog did or didn’t see his shadow.

Remember to add snow shovelling and extra driving time to your schedule as needed. But don’t let the cold weather deter you from your important tasks!

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf! 


When I tell people I’m a professional organizer, the conversation inevitably gets around to the topic of hoarding. This month I’d like to clarify some misconceptions about this topic.

With the popularity of programs such as A&E’s The Hoarders and TLC’sHoarding: Buried Alive, this once taboo subject is now seeing the light of day.The Hoarders begins each episode with the statement “more than 3 million people are compulsive hoarders.” This is an estimate only, as there is no accurate way of knowing the actual number.

Definition of Hoarding

When people tell me they know someone who is a hoarder, I caution them to be careful how they use the term “hoarder.” Many people are very quick to pass judgment or jump to conclusions about the people in these scenarios. Keep in mind that these episodes are real-life situations. It can be difficult and/or heartbreaking to watch. Understanding and compassion are needed by these people.

A&E provides the following definition: “Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.”

The Fairfax County, Virginia government provided the following information on their website:

“Hoarding is not limited to any age, race, gender or nationality. Hoarding behavior can begin early in life but is more prevalent in older adults. Hoarders can be of any educational or socio-economic level. They are unaware that their living circumstances pose a danger to themselves and to others. They are unable to change unsafe conditions on their own.”

Signs of Hoarding

Geralin Thomas, a professional organizer who has appeared on The Hoarders,advises that the signs of hoarding may include:

    • “Extreme [acquisition] and storage of items in the home and in the yard
    • Accumulation of combustible materials
    • Blocked exits (doors/windows)
    • Narrow pathways in the home
    • Rat and/or insect infestations
    • Rotting food and/or used food containers
    • Human and/or animal waste
    • Long-term neglect of home maintenance
  • Non-working utilities, such as heat, running water, sewer, refrigeration”

Hoarding Situations

Unsafe living conditions can be discovered by emergency personnel such as police, fire and paramedics. Neighbours will sometimes report a person to authorities because their yard has become an eyesore.

In a number of episodes, the hoarder has been reported to authorities. It is not uncommon for them to live in fear of being evicted or having their children removed from the home.

What NOT To Do

A common misperception is that hoarders are lazy or just can’t be bothered. Geralin strongly emphasizes that a hoarder “can’t do” it, not “won’t do” it.

Clearing out the clutter will not solve the problem if the underlying root cause is not being dealt with in the proper manner. The hoarder must make the decisions about what will remain in the living space and what will be removed. It is not uncommon for people living with a hoarder to make the situation worse. Irreparable harm can be done to relationships.

The best thing you can do is encourage a suspected hoarder to seek professional help. Do not attempt to handle this type of situation by yourself, or with the help of family members, unless you are qualified.


In 2013 the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defined compulsive hoarding as a distinct disorder within the chapter about obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

A group of people (including socialservice workers, psychological/mental health professionals, professional organizers, etc.) may need to be assembled to determine and provide the required treatment. Successful treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy combined with the use of medication. Often a hoarder does not comprehend that they have a problem. It is extremely important to realize that not everyone is willing to accept help or treatment.


The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) in the United States is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is “to provide education, research and strategies to benefit people challenged by chronic disorganization.” ICD developed a Clutter-Hoarding Scale with Levels I-V on a continuum. This scale “is an assessment measurement tool . . . to give professional organizers and related professionals definitive parameters.” For more information, please go to their website, and click on the Resources tab.

If you or someone you love is looking for help, contact me and I can direct you to local professionals for assistance. Communities are starting to establish task forces to deal with hoarding issues.

Online Support Groups

Children of Hoarders – support for those who grew up in a hoarding environment and/or currently have a relative who hoards. Many resources, online videos, shared stories and more are provided.

Squalor Survivors – stories, photos, tools, community forums and chat, resources and information for people who know someone who hoards