Stay Organized Month

January was Get Organized Month (GO Month) according to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).   What happens after you “get organized”?   The key is to “stay organized”.   So, VAST Business Solutions has officially declared February and all months that follow, Stay Organized Month (SO Month).   We’ll be offering tips and tricks to keep you on track.   Stay tuned…

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England landscape I recently watched Pride & Prejudice for about the one millionth time. My husband asked why every woman loves that movie. Men. They just don’t get it.

Besides the love story, I enjoy the scenery, the costumes, the music and most of all the simplicity of life over 200 years ago. The family in Pride and Prejudice was able to hire help around the house so the sisters spent their time dancing, reading, painting, sewing, playing the piano and traveling. That was pretty much it. No cell phones, iPods, computers, email, television or radio. There was nothing to distract them or demand their attention except the prospect of marriage and finding their one true love.

I do love technology and life is a lot easier because of it. But there is a difference between simple and easy. Life is easier now with all of our modern conveniences but life was simpler then. I am always looking for ways to make my life simpler. I unplug often. I drive without the radio on and I can go days without watching television. I also meditate, go for walks (without my iPod) and I read Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance every night before bed.

I also try to simplify my work. I keep my desk free of clutter and only have out the things I need for the project I’m working on. I turn off the radio or play soft, classical music (often the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack). I close my email and turn off the phone while working on projects.

In working with clients I focus a lot on simplicity too. I see many people who overcomplicate things. Overcomplicating leads to overwhelm. When we are overwhelmed we often don’t know what to do or where to begin. It’s always great to look at the big picture but to move forward and make progress we need to break it down. What are the steps needed to get the project done? How can you do a little bit at a time to make progress? Can you delegate some tasks? What are the distractions that keep coming up that are stopping you from making real progress on this project?

How do you create simplicity in your life and work?

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Information Overload

Books It's important to me to stay up to date in my industry and continue my professional development. As a result I am constantly reading books related to professional organizing and productivity.

Recently I read a statistic that 95% of all self help books are never read or utilized. I must say that I had been guilty of this in the past and many of those books are still sitting on my book shelves collecting dust. (I’ve now started borrowing books from the library and then deciding if I want to buy them for my library at home.)

The problem, I think, is that many organizing and productivity books have structured systems that seem to have no flexibility. They are also too long and give too much information.

In working with clients I rarely suggest just one book or system. The systems we create are customized using bits of many books and resources to create what works for them. I suggest that clients read books with an open mind, knowing that they are most likely not going to use every piece of advice the author gives them.

The answer is really to find different things that work for you, create your own customized system and be open and willing to change it as your needs change.

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Time to Eat – A Weekly Time Saving Tip and Recipe

Take time to clean out cupboards, the pantry, the fridge and the freezer regularly. Set a timer for 10 minutes each day. You might clean out a cupboard while dinner in cooking or go through the fridge before you clean up the dinner dishes. Throw out anything expired, make a note of anything that is about to expire and plan a meal around it and use up any frozen food that's been in the freezer awhile. Breaking large projects into small ones make them much more manageable and you see quick results.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 T olive oil

1 T minced garlic

1 cup chopped onion

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces

1 T cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 – 32oz container of chicken broth

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

Tortilla chips


In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over med-high heat. Add onions and garlic, sauté 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken, cumin, chili powder and salt. Sauté until chicken is cooked through and slightly browned.

Add in chicken broth, tomatoes, beans and corn. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Serve with Tortilla chips. Use store bought chips or brush corn tortillas with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cut into pieces and bake at 400 until crisp, about 8-10 minutes.

Also, I used Emeril’s Southwest seasoning instead of cumin and chili powder.

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Working Mommy Multitasking

I saw the most hilarious photo in an email from Working Mother magazine today. A beautiful woman wearing white pants was sitting on a white sofa. She had a 12 month old baby sitting on her left knee and was she smiling as she looked at the laptop to her right on the couch. Clearly this woman has it all, right? She is able to be at home with her child and get all of her work done. Yeah, right. I know from experience that 12 month olds sit still for approximately 9.2 seconds and that’s if you’re really lucky. I wonder how long it took the photographer to get that shot. I also wonder if she really lets that baby crawl on that white sofa. But my biggest question is what is getting her full attention? The answer is neither. It just isn’t possible to be fully engaged and efficient when you are trying to split your attention between two or more things at the same time. I know this from experience too because I am a mother and I work at home. After my daughter was born, I tried really hard to work from home without putting her in daycare. I got up early to work before she got up, I worked while she was napping and after she went to bed at night. I also tried to work while she was playing on the floor in my office during the day. That was just a recipe for frustration and resentment. When she started to crawl, I gave up and found part time daycare for her. We were both much happier. She really wasn’t getting my full attention and I wasn’t able to give my full attention to my work. When I picked her up from daycare I was much more engaged and able to give her my full attention.


What is getting your attention? How can you rearrange your schedule to allow for full engagement in all that you do?

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Time to Eat – A Weekly Time Saving Tip and Recipe

Create a kitchen command center. Include a weekly list of things to do around the house, reminders for school, appointments to make, a running grocery list and the family calendar. Each day, check for items that need to be handled that day so you’re sure not to miss anything.


Turkey Tortilla Casserole

½ c. chopped onions

½ c. reduced-sodium chicken broth

¼ c. chopped celery

3 c. chopped, cooked turkey or chicken

10-12 (6 inch) corn tortillas, torn into bite-size pieces

1 (4 oz) can diced green chili peppers, drained

1 (10 ¾ oz) can reduced-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup

1 tsp. pepper

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1 c. shredded Monterey jack cheese

1 c. salsa


In medium saucepan combine onion, chicken broth and celery. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 5-6 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. In a large bowl stir together undrained onion mixture, turkey, corn tortillas, chilies, soup and pepper. Reserve ½ cup of each cheese, set aside. Stir remaining cheese into tortilla mixture. Transfer to a lightly greased 9x13x2 baking dish. Top with salsa and remaining cheeses. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with extra salsa and sour cream.

It’s really delicious and easy. Keep this recipe in mind for leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

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Retreat and Renew

Fall road The first principle in my time management work is self care. Why? Because self care is necessary in order to take care of anything and everything else in your life.

A few months ago I started re-reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it, she talks about going on Artist Dates. She describes Artist Dates as “a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.”

This week I was fortunate enough to participate in a Women’s Writers Retreat at Heritage Place in Hinckley, MN. Heritage Place is a scrapbooking house about 80 miles north of downtown Minneapolis. Twelve of us shared the large house and all worked on our own projects – some were writing and some were working on other projects. There was also plenty of food and wine and even a massage therapist onsite. This was the ultimate Artist Date for me – the change of scenery, the bonding with other amazing women, the quiet time of reflection and renewal.

For my mental health, I’ve scheduled weekly Artist Dates through the end of the year and I will also be signing up for the next Women’s Writers Retreat in February. Years ago I would have felt guilty for leaving my family and my clients for three days. My wise self now tells me that these dates and retreats are not optional. They are a necessary part of my self care.

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Time to Eat – A Weekly Time Saving Tip and Recipe

Still Tasty: Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide.

This site tells you how long your food is fresh. For instance, sliced deli turkey breast is fresh for 3-5 days in the refrigerator and for 1-2 months in the freezer. Good to know!

The site also includes tips to help you keep your food fresher, longer. They even have an iPhone app!


Southwestern Chicken Salad

6 cups romaine lettuce

1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken

1 sliced red bell pepper

1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

Divide between two bowls.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sour cream, 3 T lime juice, ½ tsp chili powder, ¼ tsp kosher salt.

Pour dressing over salad and serve with tortilla chips.

From Real Simple magazine. The perfect quick lunch!

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Living a Strong Life

I just finished reading
Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do
by Marcus Buckingham.


The book is about
focusing on what matters most, ignoring balance (actually intentional
imbalance) and striving for fullness in your life. It’s about paying attention to what brings you joy. It’s
really the same message we’ve all heard a million times. I believe the biggest
breakdown is that we forget. We forget about ourselves and that the single most
important thing we need to do is take care of ourselves first.


After reading this book I
realized that I’m on the right track with my life and my work. My work with time
management clients
focuses on self care first. I work with clients to review
what matters most and help them set up systems to live the life they want. I’ve
set up systems in my own life to remind myself to take the time to meditate,
exercise, read, and expand my professional and personal development. If I don’t
have systems, I forget.


What systems do you have
in place to help you live a strong life?

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Time to Eat – A Weekly Time Saving Tip and Recipe

This week’s tip: Use
Google to convert measurements. Simply type in the conversion you are looking
for like “cups in gallon” and the answer comes up instantly.


We’ve been making
this recipe for years. It was from a Betty Crocker Recipe Magazine many years
ago. Easy and delicious!

Hamburger Packets


1 pound of hamburger, made
into 4 patties

4 russet or 8-12 small red
potatoes, cut up

Baby carrots

1 bundle of green onions,

4 T butter

Garlic salt



Cut 4 large squares of
time foil. Place one hamburger patty on each piece of foil. Surround the patty
with potatoes and carrots. Season with garlic salt and pepper. Put about 1 T of
butter in each packet. Sprinkle green onions over the top.


Grill at 350 degrees on
medium, non direct heat for about 20-30 minutes.

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