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Tips to Create a Disaster Kit

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 09/04/18

One can never be entirely ready for an emergency, but I have had a few experiences that have driven home the ideal of being ready for anything before it happens. Here are a few examples:

The date was April 11, 1987. There was a train derailment in my neighborhood, and we had to evacuate due to a toxic chemical spill. I remember that my dad had t-shirts made up for our family that said, "I survived Bloomfield's train derailment".

On another occasion, the East End of Pittsburgh lost electrical power for five days due to a "macro-burst"on May 31, 2002. Due to the pounding rain, high winds and lightning, a large tree at the end of our street was ripped out of the ground and took out the power lines with it.

Luckily, as a former Girl Scout, I was taught to always be prepared. Along with my Girl Scout training, I am the type of person who naturally remains calm in a crisis.

The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) designates the month of September as Emergency Preparedness Month. Therefore, I wanted this month's blog to provide you with some tips to prepare for a natural disaster.  

In Western Pennsylvania a natural disaster might include flooding, thunderstorms, microbursts, snowstorms, fire, electrical blackouts. The better prepared you are, the safer you will be. Here are some tips from the American Red Cross on what to put in a family disaster kit. Keep your kit in a designated convenient location in your home.

  • A three to five-day supply of daily medications.

  • Stock up on batteries of different sizes.

  • Have a flashlight or lantern in a convenient location.

  • Blankets

  • Change of dry clothes

  • First aid kit

  • Toiletries: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes.

  • One gallon of water per person.

  • Dry foods or snacks

  • A whistle

  • Paper and pen

If you have an infant or a toddler you will need every day baby supplies depending on the age of the child. You may also need things for your pets, i.e. food, bowls, medicines, leash, ownership and vaccine papers.

Consider having a secondary emergency kit in your car in the event you are stuck in traffic, stranded due to rain, road closures due to an a traffic accident, or your car breaks down and you have to wait for help to arrive.

I suggest that you review your disaster kits every September to see what inside the kit may need updated. Clear Organization will be happy to help you in this process.

Are You Left-Brain or Right-Brain Dominant?

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 08/02/18

How do you help someone organize when they think so differently from you? Within the first couple of years of my career as a professional organizer, I started working with a client who needed help organizing his one-bedroom apartment. He was very bright and had an excellent grasp of spatial relationships. He would fit things into spaces like a Jenga puzzle.
In my newly expert opinion, when I looked in the kitchen cupboards they were a jumbled mess. The canned goods were lumped in with books, knick knacks, snack foods, tea, and cleaning products. It was chaos I tell you! His explanation was that he could fit more in his cabinets that way because space was limited in his apartment.

Knowing that difficulty making decisions and putting items into like categories are two of the usually culprits for disorganization, I set out to teach him how to organize by putting like things together. I placed all canned goods on one shelf, all condiments together, all the dishes in one cabinet, and we put all the cleaning products under the sink; as most people would. I explained the organizing principles as we worked together. I asked for his input as to where he wanted certain things placed for convenience. He seemed happy with the results.

When I came back for our next appointment, about 2-3 weeks later, I checked to see if he was able to keep the kitchen cupboards organized. He was not.  At least, not to my understanding of organized. It was natural for him to put things where they fit. Was he not willing or not able to change? Should I try again? Those were not the right questions to ask. The right question to ask was, “Why am I trying to get him to think the way that I think? At least he is not leaving the groceries in the hallway in bags anymore. Now he was putting them in the kitchen. That was progress. He was changing a habit.

I decided to try to understand how he processed information. I remembered from my college “Introduction to Psych” class that information made available by the environment is processed by a series of processing systems (e.g. attention, perception, short-term memory, experience). I am “attention” to detail, whereas he is “perception”. Once I understood this difference in our thinking, I could work with his perception to come up with creative solutions to his organizing dilemmas. As long as he remembers where things are, does it matter if they are in categories or not? As long as they are stored where he uses them, it’s better than groceries laying in bags on the floor, or stacked on a bookshelf in the hallway.

In their book, Organizing for the Creative Person, Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping separate organizing styles into just two categories; Left-brain dominant and Right-brain dominant. Left-brain or LBs tend to be tidy, methodical, and punctual. Right-brain or RBs (or Arbies) are characteristically creative, but their traits are the opposite of those of LBs. “Understanding different styles can help explain human behavior, which affects success and personal contentment and in turn directly affects our self-esteem and relationships with others.”

Everyone uses both hemispheres of their brain, but some people have developed one side more than the other side. I am more LB whereas my client was more RB. Why should I try to turn him into an LB? He had the freedom to do things his way. He was able to change many habits after working with me for a length of time, but some things he refuses to change and that is okay. I do not judge. I have learned from him and have adapted to his style.

Tags: learning styles, getting organized, kitchen organization, home improvement, left-brain, right-brain, changing habits.

Reduce the Tension of Having Your Kids Clean Their Room

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 07/05/18

A few days ago I was a vendor at a family and kid’s event. I came up with an activity for people to do if they stopped by my table.  I put white, black, and red beads and buttons on a tray, along with silver and different colored paperclips. All the items were mixed together on the tray.

I wanted two people to have the opportunity to participate at the same time. I had a box with six compartments on one side of the tray, and six small individual round containers on the other side of the tray. Then, I placed two chairs opposite of me on the other side of the table for the little ones to be able to reach the tray. If they choose to participate, they were able to pick candy out of the treat baskets.

Sometimes, a child would came by with or without a parent. Most of the parents did not participate with their child, but one mother and son did it together. Sometimes kids came in pairs, siblings mostly. Some kids didn’t know each other; they just happened to come by at the same time. Their ages ranged from three to thirteen years old.

The one instruction that was given was to sort these objects into the containers. There was no right or wrong way to sort. They were asked to sort anyway they chose. I told them some people love to do this and some people don’t. Here are some of the results:

  • Some people got bored after a minute or two and moved on, but a few kids felt like they had to finish the whole tray. One teen became anxious form the beginning due to the lack of instructions.

  • Some kids sorted by color, putting all the red buttons and beads into one container, others separated the red beads from the red buttons.

  • A few kids sorted by category: all beads in one container no matter what color, and then all buttons in one container, then all the paperclips together.

  • There were kids who separated using both color and category.

  • One boy sorted the larger red buttons from the smaller red buttons.

  • A few asked about how to categorize the paperclips. Does silver go with white? I let them decide.

  • One little tike didn’t say a word. He just started filling up the cups. It seems like he was trying to get even amounts into each container. His mom said he love to clean up.

  • The very last boy who did the sorting, separated all the multi-colored paperclips into different cups by their color. He filled all six cups, and then had a bunch of pink paperclips left over with no cup to put them into. So, I gave him a seventh cup.


While people took to the task of moving the tiny objects, it gave me a chance to see what their style was: sort by category, sort by color, are using a combination of both. While they sorted, I would talk to them about how everyone processes information differently.

If the parents knew what sorting style their children had, they could use that information to teach them how to tidy their room without all the tension; unlike when parents act like drill sergeants, barking orders at a child. That method may work in the moment, but it may not have lasting effects. It just causes unwanted tension for everyone.

This simple activity can help parents realize that their children may process information differently from how it might be done by the parent. Your child’s style may lean more toward color coordinating, but the parent tries to teach them by using categories only.

The importance of this knowledge for parents is profound. For a few parents, it was mind blowing. Knowing how you and your children process information and make decisions will make the task of cleaning their room less tense for all of you. The two key areas that distinguish the organized from the disorganized is the ability to make decisions and put items into categories.

So, try this experiment with your children to see what their style is, then adjust your instructions to work with their preferences.

Here are some additional tips adapted from the article written by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D at


  • Set a good example. Kids are far more sensitive and responsive to what we do than what we say.

  • Initially, do chores together. Armchair supervision doesn’t work anywhere near as well as how it’s done.

  • Make it fun, a game or a competition. Then, build in a reward for everyone.

  • Give the kids pride of place. Kids who feel their space is specially their own (whether a whole room or a corner or a shelf) are more likely to want to keep it nice.

  • Define clearly what it means to have a clean room. Make a checklist the kids can refer to with pictures for little ones, and simple words for older ones. You can find a variety of free printable chore lists on the internet.

  • A place for everything and everything in its place. It helps a lot if everything has a home. Provide the kids with boxes and bins. Work together at labeling and deciding what goes where.

  • Keep the stuff-level down. If your kids have enough of what they need, it might be helpful to establish a rule that for everything that goes in the room, something needs to come out.

  • Set reasonable standards for health and safety. Cleaning up health hazards like garbage, dirty dishes, and wet laundry simply is not negotiable. Same goes for taking care of safety hazards like broken glass or blocked exits.

Tags: kids and chore, kids cleaning up, parenting tips, discipline, organizing toys, cleaning their room, motivating kids, learning styles.

Death to the Plastic Shower Rings!

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 09/04/16

I found the perfect shower curtain! It's the first new one I have bought since we moved into our house six years ago. I have looked in a number of stores over the years, but I was looking for one that would be white with some shade of purple in the print.  The one I finally found at Boscov's is off white with a taupe, gray and lavender dandelion print.

Now, when I get something new for the house I want to put it into use right away, or reasonably within a few days. But I keep putting off hanging the new shower curtain.

Then, I realized I needed new shower hooks because the old ones were gold and would not match. I use a shower liner too. And, I was still using old inexpensive plastic clip- together shower rod rings for the liner. I've always dreaded changing the shower liner because of those stupid things. They are an absolute pain to juggle. But, I never thought of replacing them on the liner. This task was the cause of my procrastination.  I don't use the word hate very often; unlike one of my children who likes to throw that term around as often as there are pitches in a ball game. But I hate the clip together rings!plastic shower rings that clip together.

So, I went in search of new shower hooks for the new shower curtain. What I found made me just as happy as the beautiful new shower curtain I had bought! Brilliantly designed, perfect for my needs, easy to use. How did I live my entire life without these combination shower/liner hooks? My life changed for the better with a $7 purchase. They are silver, have ball bearing for easy gliding, and are double hooks to hold the curtain on one hook and the liner on the other hook. Never again will I have to struggle changing the liner!!!





The Root Cause of Clutter

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 06/17/14

Many of my clients are dealing with what I call situational clutter.  When I begin to question them about it they can usually pin point when the clutter started. And, it almost always refers back to some type of grief, depression, or a stressful event.


Grief can be caused by the death of a loved one, but we grieve other losses, too: the loss of a job, career, or family pet; our home, a divorce, or even the use of part of our body.

According to:,

"The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried-and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years."


Then there is clinical depression. The Mayo Clinic explains it this way:

Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a loss of a loved one, or a medical condition like thyroid disorder.


One of the symptoms they look for is "Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities". This could explain why people stop taking care of their property. Clinical depression requires psychological counseling or medical treatment or both.



Unlike grief or depression, stress can be brought on by a seemingly positive event such as the birth of a child, a new job, or moving to a new house. Whether the stress a person is experiencing is from a good event or negative event (or everyday life), people without time management skills or the ability to organize can become easily overwhelmed by these changes.


When these feeling of grieve, depression and stress are not dealt with properly, one of the ways they can manifest themselves is in clutter.


Here is an example. A man losses his wife and misses her terribly. He now lives alone. There is no one to answer to. No one picks up after him like has wife used to. He doesn't know how to pick up after himself or doesn't think it matters. Maybe he has children but they live out of state and don't see what is happening until they visit for a holiday or birthday several months later.  They manage to clean things up before leaving, but in a short time it is all cluttered up again.


People experience an attitude of "what does it matter anyway" so they stop putting things away. They buy something new to help them feel better. Or, they buy more because they can't find anything or remember where they put it.


The clutter build-up happens slowly over time like a progressive disease. Family members remark, "Give him time; he'll snap out of it", or "Once we clean the house he should be able to maintain it". Until it starts to be a health hazard for dad because he is not taking out the garbage.


When working with clients, I try to discover the root cause up front. That helps raise the client's consciousness of the real problem. When they address the real problem, the work we do is life changing.