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Terri Stephens

Terri Stephens, CPO, CRTS

Certified Professional Organizer®
Certified Relocation & Transition Specialist®




(678) 513-6585

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NAPO Soles4Souls Challenge

There's still time to participate! Clear out excess shoes from your closet and do a good deed.


The Georgia chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO-GA) is participating in the Soles4Souls project.


Soles4Souls is a non-profit that "collects new shoes to give relief to the victims of abject suffering and collects used shoes to support micro-business efforts to eradicate poverty." All donations are tax deductible. Go to to learn more.


Soles4Souls accepts all types of shoes: athletic, running, dress, sandals, pumps, heels, work boots, cleats, dance, flip flops, boots, just as long as they are new or gently worn. Any donated shoes that are not wearable will be recycled.


Find a drop-off location near you and do two good things at once!


You can save money. You'll know what you already own, eliminating the need to buy duplicate items. A professional organizer can help you find the perfect organizing products for your space and lifestyle, so you stop wasting money on things you don't need or won't work.


You can become more productive and efficient. A professional organizer can create order and structure out of chaos. You'll receive systems that work for your dominant learning style, your lifestyle, your needs, your challenges, and your dreams.


You'll have a positive self-image and ditch the shame. Once your home or office is neat and tidy, you won't feel embarrassed to have guests visit. The guilt will fade away as you take pride in your surroundings.


You'll have a healthier environment. Physical and emotional clutter obscures your surroundings. An organized home and office is more easily cleaned. Lose the clutter and cut down on time spent moving piles of paper and stuff around.


Your stress level will decrease dramatically. When you can find what you need, are on top of your to-dos, and arrive on time, you'll feel calmer and have more peace of mind. No more feeling overwhelmed by life -- you'll be the one in control.


You'll discover more time for yourself. When you're organized, your days go as planned, and you get a lot more done. That leaves more time to indulge in a little "me time."


Your energy will shine. Clutter is a mask and a professional organizer can help you take off that mask. Once the clutter is removed, you can showcase your talents, skills, and personality and have the life you deserve.



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Faithful Organizers



November 2011


Many people have seen the TV program "Hoarders" and mention it when they learn that I'm a professional organizer. This month's newsletter addresses chronic disorganization and compulsive hoarding in an attempt to clarify some of the differences. Not every chronically disorganized (CD) person is a hoarder and CD does not naturally lead to hoarding. A major difference is that hoarding is a mental health issue and should be treated as such. Hoarders often lack insight into the severity of their condition. Someone with only clutter issues will, at some point, realize that keeping 100 empty margarine containers is not worth it. If a hoarder's 100 empty margarine containers get thrown out, they will begin to immediately reaccumulate because the underlying belief has not been addressed. Addressing the belief system is best handled by mental health professionals with specialized training in working with hoarders.


One thing that both CD and hoarders typically have in common, however, is clutter. Here are some definitions of clutter:  Excess objects that interfere with living your best life, too much stuff that causes distractions, items that have no suitable "home," postponed decisions, and anything that is unwanted, not needed or in the way. The bottom line is it's worth the time, effort and resources to deal with excess clutter that's affecting your life negatively before it gets out of hand. You'll be glad you did!


Until next time,
Terri Signature
Terri Stephens, CPO, CRTS
Real Order Professional Organizing, LLC
(678) 513-6585

Disorganized DeskNearly everyone struggles with feeling disorganized at times and we all battle clutter to varying degrees. But what about when it goes beyond "now and then" and affects your life on a day-to-day basis?


Situational Disorganization

Situational disorganization is short-term and occurs as a result of an unusual turn of events or changes in your living and/or working arrangements. The birth or adoption of a child, illness or death of a family member, divorce, career change, moving into a new home, increased job travel - these periods of transition can cause a certain amount of chaos, allowing clutter and disorganization to run amok, but it's a temporary side effect of the situation. Eventually, the situation resolves and life returns to normal, or you adapt to your "new normal" and re-establish order.


How do you know if you're dealing with situational disorganization? This checklist can help.


Chronic Disorganization

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization defines chronic disorganization as having the following three components:

  1. A history of disorganization in which efforts to get organized have not been maintained.
  2. An ongoing undermining of your current quality of life due to disorganization.
  3. An expectation that you will continue to be disorganized.

Chronic disorganization is not a disease but a behavioral pattern found in all kinds of people, at every income level. Chronically disorganized people are often also highly functional, creative, intelligent, social, accomplished, energetic, enthusiastic and fun to be around. Chronic disorganization is commonly associated with ADD, chronic pain, depression, bi-polar disorder, Alzheimer's, brain injury, and autistic spectrum disorders. Chronic disorganization is sometimes triggered by situational disorganization from which you don't "recover."


This checklist may help you to determine whether you may be chronically disorganized. Working with a professional organizer, and sometimes a therapist or psychologist, can help you to work with and compensate for your natural tendencies. Developing organizing skills and habits can empower you and improve your quality of life.


More information is available through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.


Adapted from The Truth About Chronic Disorganization, Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed. 


A&E's television show "Hoarders" has brought attention to this most extreme form of disorganization. According to Owen Kelly, Ph.D., pathological or compulsive hoarding is a specific type of behavior marked by acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others, severe cluttering of the person's home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space, and significant distress or impairment of work or social life. Although hoarding often occurs with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the two are not always linked.


What is Compulsive Hoarding?

  • The acquisition of a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value
  • Failure to discard apparently useless possessions
  • Difficulty making critical decisions about discarding or retaining possessions
  • Clutter that precludes daily activities for which living spaces were designed

Signs of Hoarding (depending on severity)

  • Extreme accumulation of "stuff" or "clutter", at times overwhelming the home and yard
  • Difficulty getting rid of items
  • Losing important items like money or bills in the clutter
  • Blocked exits
  • Infestations of rats, mice, or insects
  • Rotting food, used/dirty food containers
  • Pet waste
  • Neglect of home maintenance
  • Non-working utilities, such as heat, water, appliances
  • Refusal of entry for repairs, services, etc.
  • Limited family and social activities

While engaging the services of a qualified professional organizer can help address compulsive hoarding, most people need to be actively engaged in therapy to address the underlying mental health issues. There is more likely to be a better outcome if there is a collaborative relationship between the client, therapist and organizer. Even then, progress can be extremely laborious and slow. We usually refer hoarders to an expert at the Atlanta Hoarding Task Force or Institute for Challenging Disorganization, who are equipped to handle these types of situations.



Buried in Treasures:  Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving and Hoarding

Buried in Treasure book coverD. Tolin, R. Frost, G. Steketee, 2007 

Buried in Treasures is a manual for people with hoarding problems, family members of people with hoarding problems, and service workers who work with hoarding. Primarily designed as a self-help reference, Buried in Treasures walks the reader through the cognitive-behavioral therapy interventions used in clinical research trials.


Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save & How You Can Stop

Overcoming - book coverNeziroglu, F., Bubrick, J., and Yaryura-Tobias, J., 2004

This book, the first ever written for savers and their families, provides an overview of compulsive hoarding and how it relates to obsessive-compulsive disorder. It discusses hoarding broadly, offering readers perspectives on the physical, behavioral, and value-oriented aspects of the condition. Readers can use its assessment tools to help decide why they or their loved one hoards. Skill-building exercises help readers determine how to beat the hoarding problem by addressing issues that often underlie compulsive saving.


Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding and Compulsive Acquiring

Digging Out - book coverM. Tompkins and T. Hartl, 2009

Helps friends and family members keep their loved ones safe from the dangers of compulsive acquiring. This book includes the realistic exercises that focus on helping a loved one live safely and comfortably at home. It lets readers work together with hoarders to set valid and meaningful goals and incentive to work toward them.

Visit the Atlanta Hoarding Task Force Resouces page for more books, websites and videos.


The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.                            ~ M. Scott Peck 


DiningMost of us recommend restaurants, movies or mechanics to our family and friends. When you recommend Real Order for professional organizing, we want to thank you with a $25 gift card to Red Lobster or Olive Garden - it's your choice. A minimum of four hours of organizing services must be purchased to qualify. To redeem your gift card, simply notify us of the family or friend you are referring to us. Bon appetit!


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