Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping to host the 5th annual North East Regional Conference for Productivity and Organizing Professionals (affectionately known as NERCPO). This is an event hosted by the Connecticut chapter of NAPO for colleagues across the Northeast. What a fun day we had! Admittedly, some of you may be thinking that spending the day with a group of people who love all things organizing doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. However, you might be surprised! Here are a few things you might have heard and seen had you been a fly on the wall.
[Note: these are paraphrases of things I heard, not direct quotes. I was writing quickly!]
“I have to go take care of something because, you know, things happen.”
One of the volunteers ran into a snafu early in the day. Don’t we all experience times like these? We conscientiously plan and prepare, but then the unexpected occurs. It is tempting to fall into complaining at times like these, but to what end? It is better to simply roll with the punches, develop a Plan B, and go for it. I was so impressed by the way this volunteer regrouped and problem-solved.
“When they say food included, they mean it!”
Professional Organizers know how to put together a food plan. How many conferences do you attend where you are served not only two meals, but also homemade muffins, pasta salad, and a snack called “Turkey Chow?” We enjoyed all this fare at NERCPO, not to mention Hershey Kisses with a personalized note and dishes of candy for the munching! Nobody goes home hungry from NERCPO.
Turkey Chow Recipe: (courtesy of Jan Baltrush)
- 3 cups Cheerios
- 3 cups rice Chex
- 3 cups corn Chex
- 2 cups peanuts
- 2 cups stick pretzels
- 16 Oz Ghiradelli white chocolate
- 1 bag of M&M’s
Mix the first 5 ingredients together. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler. Pour over dry mixture. Then add M&M’s. Lay out on waxed paper or parchment paper for a few hours until it dries. Break into pieces and enjoy!!!
“Try to ask the question ‘What is working?’”
Often we focus on what is going wrong, what is not working, and where we are failing. If we want to make progress, it is worth first paying attention to what is working well. Kathy Vines of Clever Girl Organizing, who taught a session on Virtual Organizing, shared that she always tries to identify what each individual client needs in order to succeed. For example, something as simple as a motivational text sent every couple of days made all the difference in one of her client’s ability to stay on track and achieve her goals. Before we solve a problem, it helps to identify what is going well, what is currently helpful, and what we want to preserve. These can be clues as we develop a plan for pursuing a desired change.
“Nothing is automatic”
Eileen Moynahan of Legacy Estate Organizing, LLC used this phrase as she taught the group about planning and managing the dissolution of an estate. As an example, Eileen shared that upon death, a person’s Social Security benefits are not automatically terminated. Instead, the process for bringing closure must be initiated by the executor of the estate. As you can imagine, this is just one tiny task among an extensive list that must be proactively addressed by the person left in charge. The reality is that if we want things done, it is often up to us to get the ball rolling. As Newton said, “A body at rest will stay at rest until a net external force acts upon it.”
“Don’t store important documents relating to death in a safety deposit box.”
This was another tip from Eileen that I think everyone should know. Any paperwork that you need within the first week after death (such as a will, cemetery plot information, etc.) should not be kept behind lock and key where only the deceased has the right to enter. Items in a safety deposit box immediately become part of the estate when a person dies, and access to this location may be impeded at the worst possible moment.
“What’s on your phone?”
Every year at NERCPO we take a break for a bit of fun in the middle of the day. This year I ran a game where participants earned points for what was on their phone. Want to play along? Here is a mini version. Tally your points and see how you do!
Give yourself 1 point for each of the following that is true:
- your screen is not cracked
- your screen saver is a picture you uploaded
- you have a “to do” app
- your apps are organized into topical folders
Give yourself 2 points for each of the following that is true:
- you have a protective case on your phone
- you have fewer than three gaming apps
- you have a language translation app
- all of your apps are up to date
- your ringtone is a song
Give yourself 3 points for each of the following that is true:
- you have a contact whose last name starts with letter X or Z
- you have zero unread emails
- you have a food delivery service in your contacts (e.g. Grubhub, Doordash)
- you have an air travel app like Flight Aware
“I wish we could keep talking longer.”
One part of the day is always allocated to small group discussion. This year’s discussion featured a variety of topics and attendees could join whichever group they wished. When the time came to break up and return to the meeting room, I heard people expressing their desire to spend more time talking, sharing, commiserating, and inspiring one another. No matter how independent we may be, most of us enjoy the opportunity to hang out with like-minded people. Settings like these allow us to let down our guard, knowing we are welcomed and understood. Do you have a group like this where you experience belonging?
“We often recycle as much as 90% of what we haul away.”
Omar DeJesus of The Junkluggers, a commercial junk removal service out of Stamford, CT, told me that junk hauling today is a “green” business. It may look like trash to you, but companies like this aim to keep as much out of the landfill as possible. They donate and recycle whatever they can, and will send you a tax receipt of whatever they were able to donate. Not only this, but Junkluggers “rescues” whatever it can, refurbishes it, and sells it through their “Remix” market. Information like this can make us all feel better about letting go of what we no longer need.
“These are great.”
There were a lot of terrific organizing products at NERCPO 2019 thanks to generous business donors. I heard this phrase repeatedly throughout the conference. I particularly love these angled front vertical folders from Smead. Folders that open at the top keep items from falling out, and they can be tucked away and stored in a magazine file on a shelf. I love the angled front because it lets me know immediately what is inside.
“The only moment we truly experience is the one we are living in right now.”
Alexis Boccanfuso, professional organizer and owner of Clutter Phobe, taught a session on the hot topic of mindfulness. She shared a number of helpful images and techniques to help us focus in on the current moment. While it is wonderful to have good memories of the past and to dream about the future, we only live in the present. We shouldn’t steal from this moment by obsessing about what else we need to get done, or fretting about what might go wrong.
* * * * *
I am a big fan of lifelong learning. This conference was fun, collaborative and inspirational. Have you attended a conference, class or gathering that helped you stretch and grow? How did you score on the game?