Fly On The Wall at the 2019 Organizer’s Conference

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!]

Setting up for NERCPO 2019
Setting Up

“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!!!

Seana and Kathy Vines at NERcPO 2019
With Kathy Vines of Clever Girl Organizing

“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.

Seana and Eileen at NERCPO 2019
With Eileen Moynahan of Legacy Estate Organizing, LLC

“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.

The NERCPO 2019 Organizer's Conference
A full room!

“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
Three women at NERCPO 2019
With fellow organizers

“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?

28 thoughts on “Fly On The Wall at the 2019 Organizer’s Conference”

    1. 24 is awesome. Way to go, Janine! It was a great conference, and it was fun to see and spend time with so many fellow organizers:) Have a great week.

  1. Wow, Seana! You captured so much of the incredible NERCPO conference. I love your takeaways and the things you shared. I had a great time, as I always do at your conferences, and loved seeing you. Congratulations on the five-year milestone/anniversary! What a huge accomplishment. The part you didn’t share (because you are so modest,) is that while I know you didn’t make these past five conferences happen by yourself (you have a great team,) you ARE the brainchild of this event and were the moderator for the first three years. Thank you SO much for your vision and the work that you’ve poured into making it a success.

    Thank you for bringing all of us together in this very special way.

    I have pages of notes that I still need to review. There were so many nuggets. I learned something from each of the presenters. As a matter of fact, some of the things that Kathy Vines talked about were immediately helpful with one of the virtual organizing clients that I am currently working with. Eileen Moynahan was terrific too- a great presenter and so much valuable information. And so poignant how she came to do this work. Alexis Boccanfuso was also good. As you know, mindfulness is a favorite topic of mine. One of the things she said that resonated with me was,

    “Unexpected things happen. We just have to adjust our expectations.” So darn true.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…Feeling Grateful and Reflective On My 10-Year BloggiversaryMy Profile

    1. Isn’t that the truth? And so many times those unexpected things happen on Monday mornings:) I learned a lot, and so far today have had a chance to contact Junkluggers about one client and donated my meori box to a client for her desk drawer. Both were big hits! I just had a great time being with you and everyone else, and after these five years, I feel like I am starting to remember people, which is terrific. If any region should have a conference, it is ours – we are all fairly close together. Hope you have a smooth week as you process. Hugs to you!

    1. Some people truly display grace under pressure. It isn’t easy to do, especially when you feel responsible for something and people are waiting on you! But as the mindfulness talk reminded me, how I experience these stressful moments is largely up to me. I’m going to try and remember that going forward.

    1. Thanks, Ellen. We had such a good time. I can hardly believe it was #5, and am so thankful for all the connections that NAPO has fostered, even across our states and regions:)

  2. Sounds like your hand was probably hurting by the end of the conference. To add to the notes you took regarding the Safety Deposit Box and estates. It’s important to take all the paperwork, money, and jewelry out of the safety deposit box before the person passes. If you can’t, make sure you are on the list of keyholders for the Safety Deposit Box. That way if you have to get in after the fact, the bank will allow it. Make sure that all the bank accounts are included in the estate. My mom had one account she opened and the bank didn’t add it to her estate. Lucky for me, I logged in and transferred the money to the right account that was under the estate so it would not go into probate.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…15 Things to Toss for a Stress Free Home OfficeMy Profile

    1. That is an excellent point about the bank accounts. Our speaker talked about how important it is to claim and record all of your accounts while you are still alive, because many go unclaimed. If your children don’t know you have an account, the bank is unlikely to notify them.

    1. There is no bad score, it is just for fun, right? Maybe next year you can travel down and join the day! We’d love to have you, and there are hotels nearby:)

  3. Thanks for sharing with us, it sounds like you had a wonderful time at the conference. I loved reading about the activities and your takeaways from the conference. The fact that the junk haulers often recycle 90% of what they haul away is so great! Those angled front folders from Smead look neat! I’ve never heard of “turkey chow,” but the recipe looks pretty tasty!
    Nancy Haworth recently posted…My Favorite Organizing Products for Holiday DecorationsMy Profile

    1. I know!! I lost track of where our selfie booth was. So sad not to have a photo. Maybe we could “recreate” it at the meeting on Friday if you still have the frame?

  4. Hi Seana,

    You really covered it all! A friend of mine attended the conference and mentioned so many of the same activities and speakers. She loved it as well.
    I think the best take away:
    “Don’t store important documents relating to death in a safety deposit box.” It’s so obvious and very easy to overlook. So smart!!

    Thank you for so much sharing!

    Ronni

  5. Didn’t make the conference but really enjoyed your summary. The turkey chow recipe sounds very interesting.I”ll try it.

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