8 things I learned about organizing in 2015

This was going to be the year I broke the chain.  I wasn’t going to continue the tradition of my “things I learned about organizing” post simply because I was too busy to pause long enough to reflect on such a fruitful year with clients new and old.  Well, last week while driving to my client’s house in the rain, these 8 insights came to me all at once with crystal clarity.  At the next stoplight, I grabbed a piece of paper and captured them.  Apparently these little stories wanted to be told! I’ve been a professional organizer since 2001, and continue to learn so much each year, gleaning deeper insight into why we struggle with our spaces, and how to transform them with a change in perspective.

Here’s what I learned about organizing in 2015:

1. Rooms in Architectural Digest don’t always look that neat.

This year I had the pleasure of being welcomed into a NYC office that had graced the pages of Architectural Digest just months prior.  Much to my surprise, there were things strewn on the desk, huge planning boards leaning against shiny bookcases, and true signs that a hard worker was creating things in there.  It wasn’t cluttered, but it was delightfully lived-in!  I was beside myself to literally be standing inside an AD page, but even more pleased to see that she too has more important things to do than clear her desk at night.

2. Sometimes you simply need more storage. 

Nic, my fiance, moved in on September 1.  My goal: seamlessly incorporate him without buying or building any additional storage.  This was a lofty, if not arrogant goal.  I just couldn’t do it.  Week after week we shuffled our things, but still had piles of shoes, clothes, outdoor equipment, books, etc. strewn about.  My motto that makes my clients chuckle, “There’s always room for one more thing” just wasn’t the case.  There simply was too much to store. I had to admit defeat.

Our solutions:

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1. We bought a huge vintage pine trunk at a thrift store for Nic’s bulky outdoor equipment and some electronics.

2. My sister gifted me a day with her contractor.  I used it to build out storage in my walk-in closet. I can’t recommend floor to ceiling 6” shelves enough!  It was a risk.  They’re shallow and not adjustable, but allows us to store plenty of items without putting them in boxes.  We’re all so accustomed to stacking boxes, but no need with a shallow shelf.

3. People like seeing experts struggle too.

A much more minimal friend recently said, “you’re like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes.” This was during a conversation about a pit-stained shirt that had been sitting on my bedroom floor for six months.  My reason for leaving things out is usually the same as yours: it represents an unmade decision.  It was one of my favorite pieces of clothing: 100% gauzy cashmere, hand dyed in a vibrant pink and green.  Even though it was rendered useless by unsightly pit stains, I couldn’t get rid of it, but knew it couldn’t go back in the closet.

If you have anything “sitting out” in your home, you can relate.  This year I learned that I can relate to my clients an readers more than I had preciously realized. My struggle is the same as theirs (albeit, my threshold is a bit lower), and it was time to get real and voice it.  The result, my minimalism video series on YouTube.

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4. Focusing on what must stay helps to let go of what mustn't.

This year I got called out by someone on YouTube who didn’t agree with how I was letting go of some beautiful, (formerly) sentimental items from my past.  She pointed out that I was sitting against a white wall, so my home must be stark and heartless.  What I hadn’t made clear in my video was that my home is full of cherished items.  Between my fiancé and me, every piece we have tells a story.  Giving full appreciation for our unique things (many, one of a kind) and the experiences that brought them about makes it easier to let go of the things that no longer matter - no matter how beautiful.  Full house tour coming in 2016!

5. The message behind many of your saved articles is to live better, so stop letting them hold you down.

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One of my new clients this year grew leaps and bounds in her journey towards organizing her office and beyond.  On day one, she made it clear however that the Oprah magazines will stay.  Knowing when to pick my battles, we worked around the stacks. Message understood.  On our last session of the year, she said, “Kacy, I’m ready to talk about the Oprahs.” She was right on the edge, so I had to make my case passionately, on the spot.  My reply, “Why do we love Oprah so much?  Because she teaches us to ‘live our best life.’  A lot of these articles are specifically about letting go, right?  So, what would Oprah want you to do?  Live your best life by getting rid of her magazines!”  DONE.  We marched out to the recycling bin together, making Oprah proud.

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6. Meditation is the best tool for organizing my thoughts.

I’ve been a regular meditator for a few years now.  Sometimes it’s profound, but most of the time it’s not.  On average, I feel like my brain has had a shower, and I can take full deep breaths again.  I shouldn’t have been surprised when I turned to it one afternoon and was blown away by the immediate results.  I had been struggling with starting to plan a talk I have on the calendar.  I had set aside a few hours that day to work on it but for the life of me, could not sit down.  Afternoon rolled around, and I had nothing to show for it.  Feeling crunched for time, I sat myself down to meditate. Twenty minutes later I opened my eyes to crystal clear focus, knowing exactly how to outline the project.  In addition, I found a media request in my inbox, as well as resolve to some tricky scheduling issues I was having.  Lesson learned: meditate before you feel you have no choice but to.

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7. Hold an image as your organizing muse.

Nothing inspires me to live a more beautiful life than my Pinterest feed. Specifically, I’ve discovered some Scandinavian design blogs that I hold as my gold standard for how I want my home (pictured here) to look.  I took leaps and bounds this year towards attaining those clean, organic, whitewashed vignettes in every room - though I still have a ways to go.  Once you find an image or tightly curated collection of images, ask yourself what exactly you love about that space.  What do you see?  What do you not see?  Be very specific, then be very, very disciplined.

8. Encourage interaction when giving organizing workshops.

It took me dozens of talks over the years to begin to get this right.  I knew that the best talks I had attended were heavy on interaction, but didn’t quite know how to execute it myself.  I have ways of asking my clients if they already know the answers to their greatest organizing challenges, and they usually do.  This year, I had talk attendees write down lists, fill in the blanks, shout out answers and more, resulting in a handful of talks that made me proud.

What did you learn about organizing in 2015? Please share in the comments!

Click below for inspiration from years past:

7 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2014
7 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2013
4 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2012

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Amazon’s paying me for my broken old Kindle

I’m a real stickler for recycling electronics.  Even if it’s just a single cord, into the trunk it goes for the next time I’m driving by Best Buy - they take accept electronics at their customer service desk for free recycling.  A client recently sent me this comprehensive New York Times article, giving an exhaustive list of electronics recycling resources.  It was news to me that Amazon accepts many broken gadgets and gives you Amazon credit in return.  It couldn’t have been easier to print their prepaid shipping label and get $5 credit in return! Read The New York Times' How to Sell or Recycle Old Electronics.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Where do old cellphones go to die?

You’re not going to like this.  Read  New York Times article Where Do Old Cell Phones Go To Die.  As of now, seems like the only power we have over the harmful fate of our cell phones is to resist the next upgrade for as long as possible.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Eliminate Made in China junk-ola this Christmas

Yikes.  We all know that most of the things in our homes are made in China, but ever wondered about where in China, by whom in China, and how it's made in China?  Did you know that the town of Yiwu produces 60% of the world's Christmas decorations in 600 factories? Click here to read an eye opening article about Santa's Real Workshop: The Town in China That Makes the World's Christmas Decorations.   I guarantee you, this short read make you think twice about rushing the stores on the 26th for more green and red.  Instead, reuse what you have, shop local, decorate with nature, and buy an Inspired Office gift certificate here. *Recipient must be within a 15mi. radius of Silver Spring, MD 20910.*

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

How I used Evernote this week to cut my files in half

Most of what we keep in files are “peace of mind” documents, not actually anything we will need to access.  One of the many benefits to Evernote is that it can help you digitize hard copy files (via camera phone or scanner), allowing you to toss the original.  This is exactly what I did this weekend when trying to cut my files in half.  I succeeded.  Full disclosure - I went from about 2’ of files down to 14” of files.  Now, instead of a file cart, I just have two small flle boxes that sit on my closet floor!  Here is exactly what I Evernoted (after trashing quite a bit):

  • A very thick folder of contact info from talk attendees.  I didn’t capture each contact slip, but rather checked my bundles (clipped and labeled by talk venue and date) against my public speaking resume that lives in Evernote.  Once that note was updated, the 3’ folder was shredded.
  • My last credit report.
  • My folder of leases from tenants from when I rented a room in my condo.
  • A stack of notes from an old consulting gig.
  • Copy of an old security clearance.
  • Created a master note of bank account numbers (some mystery ones I need to ask about), allowing me to shred a small pile of old deposit slips and checks.

Now each of these lives in Evernote, meaning I can access this info from anywhere, confident that I can find it when I need it (though highly unlikely).  In essence, I Evernoted many of the “I don’t need this anymore, but am nervous to toss it" items.  I didn’t use a scanner (and never do), just my camera phone!  I’m always chipping away at my files, but feel like this was the final push.

What hard copy files of yours are many years old that you feel you should keep, though you know you’ll never need to access them?  Please share in the comments the documents and folders that Evernote can zap!

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

The Story of Electronics: The dark destiny of our gadgets

By now the original Story of Stuff video has been circling the internet for eight years.  This brilliant, graphically clear, easy to watch manifesto against clutter and consumerism has a cousin video, The Story of Electronics.  This eye-opening 7 minute watch reveals the dark and harmful destiny of our gadgets.  Though disheartening, we should still recycle every little thing we can, but the best way to create a different ending to our gadgets’ stories is simply to buy less & upgrade less. 

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Kevin Costner is cluttered too

Some of my clients are particularly interested in how they compare to my other clients.  Do we ever wonder though how we compare to celebrities?  I think we do, and all too often we assume they don’t share any of our day to day struggles. This is why I laughed out loud when listening to an interview with Kevin Costner on the only thing I ever listen to in the car these days: Tim Ferriss’ podcast.  At the very end, around 1:44, Coster rants about how things go lost in his house and how he can’t stand it when his kids always say “it’s in the car.”  In his own words: “I hope that people understand that my life is just as cluttered as theirs probably.”

There you have it.  Celebrities - they’re just like us.  Does this make you feel better?  It should!  Please share in the comments below.   Listen to the full interview here.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Sneak preview of my upcoming branding makeover!

Last week I had the great pleasure of capturing a fantasy office-scape under the master tutelage of Rockville, MD portrait photographer Tamzin Smith.  Tamzin took my portraits over the summer and I couldn’t be happier with them (run, do not walk if you need beautiful new head shots).  I knew I needed Tamzin again when I had a “desktop” shot in my head that I couldn’t find in stock photos.  The Inspired Office is undergoing an extreme makeover and website de-clutter this winter. She taught a girl to fish, and 275 images later, I’ve captured a soft, luxurious mood that will set the tone for this exciting next phase!  Stay tuned.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

3 Smarter, Lighter Holiday Gift Ideas

1. My fiancés family has taken a novel approach to secret Santas this year.  Instead of everyone getting something that will sit unused or get donated weeks or years later, we each listed 3 things we want under $40.  This way, its still a surprise, but guaranteed to be something wanted. 2. My sister has given me “the gift of Bill” this Christmas.  Bill is her carpenter and he will be renovating my bedroom closet today!  Aside from gifting me the deed to a mountain cottage, this is absolutely the most perfect gift I can imagine receiving.  Which services and vendors have made a difference in your life this year?  Give a loved one their expertise instead of more stuff.

3. Give the gift of order!  Click here to purchase a 2 hour Inspired Office organizing session for recipients within 15 miles of Silver Spring, MD.  After purchasing you’ll receive a beautiful printable pdf.  Trust me, I’ll make you look good.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

How I used Evernote this week to organize Christmas gift giving

I amended my annual “Christmas Cards & Gifts” note!  In my “Personal” notebook, it's simply entitled “Christmas Cards & Gifts.”  I keep lists of all card and gift recipients dating back to 2013, with 2015 now at the top.  This is where I begin to fill in gift ideas.  Also listed are names of folks who have sent me Christmas cards so I can hopefully reciprocate based on last year.

Why you hoard unused notebooks

If I had a dime for every beautiful blank notebook I’ve found in my clients’ homes and offices…... If I had a dime for each one I possess right now, I’d have about 50 cents.  Austin Kleon nails it in a recent post of his.  He features Back to Work podcast host Merlin Mann who says: "You start out thinking, “You know the nice thing about paper is I can do whatever with it,” but the irony becomes, “Yeah, but I don’t want to screw up this pretty notebook that I kind of don’t deserve.”

We do deserve the pretty notebooks piling up in our drawers and on our shelves, so let’s start using them.  I bought one a few weeks ago that I intended to use to collect the ideas that rush in after I meditate.  I commit to start using it this week.  What intentions have you had for your notebooks?  When do you commit to start filling them?   Please share in the comments below.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Texture App: Like Netflix for Magazines

Texture (formerly Next Issue) is the Netflix and Kindle of magazines.  If you like the smell and touch of a glossy magazine in your hands, it’s not for you.  If you don’t like the coffee table clutter and waste of magazines, it is for you.  Here’s how it’s like Netflix though: for a monthly subscription of $9.99 you get unlimited access to a full buffet monthly magazines such as Bon Appétit, Vogue and Dwell on 5 devices. Learn more about Texture at www.texture.com.   Is a clear coffee table and and newsstand of magazines in your pocket worth it to you? Please share in the comments below!

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

How I used Evernote this week to take visual travel notes

New Evernote Template-2Nic and I just spent an outrageously fun week in Portland, OR.  We stayed a night on the coast last-minute, and were pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive and lovely our hotel was.  Wanting to return in the spring to that exact hotel room, I keep detailed photo notes, with the room number, welcome binder, panorama of the room, and breathtaking view (that doesn’t quite convey).  This was just so much more descriptive than simply jotting down the hotel name.  Click here to see the note.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Keep To Dos front and center with Jot

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 8.12.57 PMI noticed my client’s productivity inspired home page, and had to ask.  She was using Jot, a Chrome extension that keeps your to dos front and center, creating a simple default home page with a short to do list atop a calm image.  She admits that the to dos aren’t exactly getting done any quicker, but hey, any amount of effort is a step in the right direction!  Knowing that this would be the case with my clients (and me), I think Jot would work well for listing daily chores, rituals, and good habit reminders!  Learn more about Jot here.  

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Want to read faster? Meet the Sprint speed reading app.

Do you also proclaim yourself to be the world’s slowest reader?  If so, we need to have a slow-reading-off, then get friendly with the Sprint speed reading app.  Access articles and pdfs via the app, and it flashes words on the screen at a pre-set words per minute rate, helping you to up your rate.  You have to take it for a quick test run on their site to see how well it works.  Raise your hand and share in the comments below if you’re going to try this, or if you have any other tips for speed reading.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

How I used Evernote this week to organize my upcoming trip

Evernote Camera Roll 20151026 141449 (1)This weekend I'm going to Jamaica for a short trip to celebrate my best friend's mom's birthday!  As with any trip, nearly all of the details arrive via email: flight itineraries, activity schedules from the family, shuttle confirmations, etc.  I have forwarded each of those into my Evernote "Travel" notebook.  I've edited the subject line of each note (defaulting to the email subject) with "Jamaica | _________.”  To quickly access any email or note on the trip, I simply search “Jamaica” and this is what I see!  Since I might not be on wifi when I need a note, I’ll take my “Travel” notebook offline before I leave home.  

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

Inside the machine that separates your recyclables

One third of municipal solid waste in the US is recycled.  This is thanks to some pretty advanced technology and this number is climbing.  As someone who feels like I am my clients’ own personal recycling sorting plant at times, I geek out on the tech behind recycling.  Popular Science has very simply diagramed the 11-step system that painstaking separates our magazines, water bottles, and food containers.  It’s like a mechanical Kacy (minus the diplomatic demeanor, eagle eye for solutions, and encouraging pep talks)! Read Popular Science’s How it Works: Inside the Machine That Separates Your Recyclables.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.

The most beautiful notebook on the market

The most beautiful notebook on the market is finally mine!  I’ve been lusting after Appointed’s monogrammed notebooks ever since the DC based company launched earlier this year.  Mine just came this week, breaking my 4 year streak of buying the same Staples notebook over and over again (and I do still love it).  I knew it was time for an upgrade though when a stylish Washingtonian friend pulled her Appointed notebook out of her bag. It’s not just a pretty face. I love it because:  Evernote Camera Roll 20151020 153248

- it’s beautiful enough to sit out on your desk - spiral binding lets you lay it flat when open - it’s just the right size - the lines are just the right faint color and are justified, running the entire width of the notebook - it’s made in the USA (by a DC based, woman-owned company)

- I earn instant classy points for the monogram (and I don’t even tend to like monograms) Buy your monogrammed Appointed notebook, along with other gorgeous, office accessories at www.appntd.com.

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.