Trial by fire or how to remain organized under pressure


Soot covered ceiling

Some of you may be wondering what has happened to Neatsmart in the past few weeks since there have no posts or updates. Well, sit down, friends, and let me tell you a story that will benefit you all. Neatsmart World Headquarters, a.k.a. my home office, had a fire on September 15th. Don’t panic; nothing serious was damaged and nobody was hurt. This was not one of those devastating fires you may have read about here and here. This was a simple dryer fire that started on its own but did require the fire department to put it out and make sure everything was safe. I was at home at the time so that certainly minimized further damage or greater loss but what has been amazing is how much smoke damage we sustained.

Smoke covered ceiling

Another view of the soot covered ceiling

Our dryer was located on our second floor in a hallway off the master bedroom. I had been doing laundry that afternoon and noticed that the dryer suddenly wasn’t working. It would not turn on. I didn’t think too much about it so I went downstairs to do something else. About an hour or 2 later I smelled smoke and went upstairs to check what it was. The inside of the dryer was in flames; not the drum, but the actual inside of the dryer. Ultimately, I had to call the fire department and they successful put it out without having to use the huge water hoses. In all, it was less than 3 hours of activity but the amount of work required to clean up and put back in order would end up totaling more than 4 weeks.

The dryer that caught fire

The dryer that caught fire

We were able to stay in the house a few more days but the smoke smell and damage was horrendous. All of our clothes, which were located in closets right next to the laundry room, had a layer of soot on them. The ceilings and walls were covered in smoke. The a/c intake vent was right next to the fire so all of that air had been dispersed throughout the house and attic. There was soot all over our shower, sink, floor, ceiling, walls, light fixtures, rugs, bed, Neatsmart HQ, etc. A huge demolition and reconstruction was going to be required which meant we were to be moving out of our house post haste. That means quickly and with little time to plan. Think about the last time you moved; my guess is you had some time to strategize, organize, and create a plan to have everything you needed throughout the process. I know I did. This was going to be a challenge because it would have to be quick and I’d need to be able to access files and work from various locations. We were extremely fortunate that we had lovely neighbors traveling for a couple of weeks so we were able to stay close by to keep an eye on things and still be in our neighborhood. We did have to stay in hotels a few times but were able to find ones that were fairly close and pet friendly which is not always an easy task.

All of the drywall had to be replaced in our bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. This is a great crew!

All of the drywall had to be replaced in our bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. This is a great crew!

Our entire construction process took about 4 weeks and we were able to move back in before the end of the 4th week. It really was a remarkably fast construction project and our crew was so wonderful. There were no less than a dozen people here on any given day and they worked 8-12 hours plus.

So how do you remain organized under pressure? How do you not go crazy living out of plastic grocery bags? Why grocery bags? Because our luggage had smoke damage and was removed for cleaning. You forget how important a little thing like a tote bag is until you don’t have one. Actually, all of our clothes had smoke damage and had to be cleaned which took about 3 weeks.  Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible to not just survive a crisis but to survive with ease, low stress, and clarity. You are a lot stronger than you realize and I’m here to help you plan a little so that you are ready when the next challenge gets thrown in your path.  Follow the Neatsmart blog on the right hand side of the screen or like us on Facebook so you don’t miss an update.

More to come soon…

Happy organizing!


Honey, we’re moving to another country in 6 weeks

Honey, we’re moving soon!

Can you imagine hearing this today? Would you freak out? I am very excited for my client who is taking on this challenging adventure of moving to another country in 6 weeks. Now, this “other country” is not Mexico or Canada or even something close; it’s Thailand. As in 9,000 miles away and across an ocean.

So what all goes into planning for a transoceanic move? There are just a few details to work out:

  1. Sorting through a 3 bedroom house to determine what to pack, move, store, donate, sell, or trash.
  2. Hosting a few garage sales.
  3. Gathering necessary paperwork for the family including passports, medical information, school information.
  4. Selling 2 cars.
  5. Selling a house.
  6. Packing for at least 24 hours of flying with kids.

Occasions like this really get you thinking about what you need in your life and what do you want in your life. Family pictures become more valuable and cabinets full of DVDs less so. You also start to think about what you can get online now: movies, books, music, recipes, games. You also think about whether or not you are REALLY going to take up that hobby for which you’ve been hoarding supplies for that rainy day when you have a little more time. This opportunity forces you to focus on who you are and what you really do with your time. So many people get caught up in what they want to be instead of who they are and their home become these confusing, cluttered environments full of unrealized dreams.

I want to be a knitter/ crafter/ chef/ runner/ gardener/ you name it so I keep these supplies for when I have time to pursue it. If you really were that person, you’d be doing it and there wouldn’t be a question about whether or not to keep these things.

I used to be a banker/ lawyer/ some type of executive so I keep these suits in case I need them again. If you still carried that job title, you’d be wearing those clothes and there wouldn’t be a question about whether to move them.

I was a great cheerleader/ runner/ gymnast/ swimmer/ pole vaulter in college and I cherish those memories by looking at my uniform and trophies every once in a while. Really? Is that why all of that stuff is crumpled in a box in your attic that you go into twice a year to get holiday decorations?

While I do not advocate moving extreme distances as a method to clear clutter from your house, I do think it is a great exercise whenever you are on the fence about getting rid of something is to think, “If I were moving would I take this? If I were moving to Thailand, or some other distant country, is this essential?” Just because you wouldn’t take it with you doesn’t mean you toss it necessarily but this forces you to evaluate who you are and what you really need. It’s important to look at your life objectively and identify who you really are and what you really love to do. What you have in your home should support and uplift you and be aesthetically pleasing. It’s your home!

Have you ever moved across the world? Across country? What tips do you have to share about that experience? I look forward to helping my client on this journey and welcome any suggestions you have. Please enter them in the comments below.

Happy organizing!