Kitchens: The Heart of our Homes

Our kitchens are the heart of the home!  We want to nurture and communicate with our families, have dinner together, and make this hub of activity more efficient and less cluttered.   Take a simple, step by step approach to making this space more effective. Kitchen organizing makes family life more cohesive, less stressful and more fun!

  • Pare down to what you need by assessing what is in each drawer and in each cabinet.  Keep the multi-function tools and donate the single use tools.  Do this in baby steps, just drawer by drawer.
  • Arrange your kitchen tools by use.  Keep food preparation items near the sink, food storage items near the refrigerator, cooking items near the stove, and plates and glasses near the dishwasher for easy retrieval and storage.
  • Be brutal about your food storage containers. Keep all the rectangular containers nested together with the lids nested in a separate container and then the circular containers nested together with the lids nested in their own container.
  • Group small appliances together for easy access and improved storage.  Assess when was the last time you used your bread maker or waffle iron  and donate these if it is a while ago.
  • Establish work zones for frequent tasks.  A lunch zone is great for getting your kids’ lunches together, including sacks, Ziplocs, and snacks that go into the bag.  A coffee zone for the morning java might include coffee pot, coffee filters, mugs, and sweetener.
  • Your “command center” for paper keeps piles from forming.  Use a desk top sorter with hanging files for categories such as Action, Pay, File, and then one slot for each of your kids and husband or wife. Drop paper in when it arrives and then take an hour once a week for administrative tasks.
  •  Add a calendar space for your family calendar.  Be sure to hang this where everyone sees it regularly and add information during your family meeting to keep it up to date.
  • Review the expiration date of food in your pantry.  Set up the “grocery store” on the shelves and put a label where food goes.  Remember to keep a section for healthy snacks for your kids to easily grab and go.

Your kitchen organizing really makes a difference as we enter the holiday season. You will be ready to prepare for holiday family gatherings with less stress or mess, as well as feeling in charge!

About Ellen Delap of

Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap launched in 2000 in Houston, Texas. Ellen works one on one with clients, streamlining their environment, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle and helping clients realize their organization and productivity goals. She holds specialist certificates in ADD, Chronic Disorganization, Life Transitions and Work Place Productivity and completed the Coach Approach curriculum.  Ellen works primarily with ADHD individuals in Houston and virtually throughout the United States. She is President of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap
NAPO President

Changing the “I Don’t Have Time” Narrative

This is a guest post by NAPO Houston member Donna Matthews, of Slay the Chaos.

Let’s look at the tale of two mornings…

On the first morning, you wake up in anticipation and excitement. You are headed out of town on vacation. You jump out of bed, grab your coffee, finish packing and head out the door to the airport. Your phone is dinging with random text messages, Facebook notifications, and the occasional email. You glance quickly to make sure it’s not flight related but otherwise, you are focused and on your way.

The second morning looks much different. You wake up and grab your phone wondering what happened overnight. You check your Facebook feed and Snapchat stories. You look over email. You clear all the notifications and feel productive because you’ve been busy. But now what? Because we’ve been focused on staying busy, we look for other busy work. Perhaps, we start the communication cycle again. Or we grab another cup of coffee and get distracted by the kitchen mess? Or if already at the office, we run into a meeting. We spend our day being busy and taking care of other people’s priorities. Because busy is productive, right?

On the first morning, you had clarity on your purpose. You had to get to the airport and go somewhere. You had places to be, things to do, and your goal was your priority. Get somewhere important to you.

On the second morning, without the same kind of clarity, you allow your morning to be whittled away by what others think is important. It’s more spinning wheels than getting somewhere.

Peter Drucker once said, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”

Why are we attracted to busy work?

Busy work is easy. It doesn’t require a lot of thought and checking the checkbox gives us a rush of endorphins. We’re accomplishing things! Look at how busy we are today! I am important! But do you ever end the day wondering what in the world you accomplished?? And then something you didn’t do will come up and you hear yourself say “I don’t have time.”

You do have time. You just have to take it back.

A perfect example of this is a fiercely INTERNAL debate of mine… Inbox Zero. As in All.The.Emails processed. Inbox Zero gives me a great sense of satisfaction…but on the other hand…so what? The narrative goes something like this: Your inbox is empty but you didn’t write an assignment for your memoir class. Or you didn’t read a chapter in that book you’ve been meaning to read. You also didn’t try out the new recipe and you missed out on an important conversation with a co-worker. And that big work project…yeah, still not done. In order to accomplish inbox zero, I gave my precious time to busy work and missed out on the places I wanted to go.  It’s not so much the quest of the empty inbox but what I exchanged for the empty inbox.

Let’s back up a minute.

Busy work screams for our attention. Electronic media feels urgent. In some cases it is urgent but I think after a deep breath we can all acknowledge that most of it can wait. Email, text messages, social media, errands, phone calls, idle chit-chat, another cup of tea, etc.

I’m suggesting that we make “our places to be – our airplane to catch” THE PRIORITY of our day. Once our priority is accomplished, then we look at the minutiae of everyday living.

Let’s take back our time!!

Productivity Thieves | Slay The Chaos

It starts the night before.

  1. You sit down and determine your 3-5 most important tasks you want to accomplish. Not the laundry list of things you think you should be doing…but rather the Most.Important.Tasks.(MITs)
  2. Write down the MITs. Your brain takes you more seriously when you write down the tasks.
  3. Go to bed knowing you have a plan. You have places to be tomorrow.

* Not sure what your MITs are? A great place to start is thinking about the times you hear yourself say “I don’t have time.”

Morning Arrives
You have your list – your places to be today. If at all possible, work through your list BEFORE you work through busy work. Sure, glance at the email and text messages to be sure there isn’t a fire somewhere but then return the focus to your objectives, your MITs for the day.

Momentum Method of Habit Change

The momentum method of habit change states that habits can be effectivity built using consistency as a starting point. Momentum is gained by a DAILY PRACTICE. If you are serious about changing your morning routines and breaking the habit of busy work, I suggest you consider the Coach.Me platform. There are hundreds and hundreds of habits you can join for free to build consistency, accountability, and structure to your schedule. As an example, I am currently in a habit titled Limit Email and Social Media. I check in each day I limit my online activity…I’m loving the accountability.

Now get going on your frog for today… you’ve got a plane to catch. Places to be. Goals to accomplish. Dreams to realize.


About Donna Matthews

Donna is a passionate soul eager to help others clear the chaos from their minds, souls, and homes with keep it simple, real life, productivity and organizational solutions.

The 2 Essential Back-to-School Organizing Tips You May Not Have Thought Of

This is a guest post by NAPO Houston member and President, Liana George, of By George Organizing Solutions.

It’s that time of year again…..time for lunch boxes, backpacks filled with papers, and school buses! Before the first bell rings you’ll want to do a little homework in the area of organization to make sure you and your child are ready for another school year.

Pinterest and Facebook feeds are already filling up with articles, tips and pins to help you start the school year on solid organizational footing – which is great! But as a former teacher and a mother, sometimes outside the box thinking is what can really make your year a greater success.

2 essential back-to-school  tips

That’s why I want to share 2 essential back-to-school organizing tips you may not have thought of:

1. Know your child’s organizing style.  Because organizing isn’t one size fits all, your child has a particular way to organize based on his/her personality (I promise they do, even if it doesn’t seem like it to you!). Can you recognize if your child:

  • likes color-coded binders for each subject rather than just one binder for everything?
  • prefers digital calendars to paper ones?
  • enjoys studying in the quiet of his/her room or being in the kitchen where you are?

If you can identify you’re child’s organizing style and preferences rather than forcing them to organize like you, their teacher or their classmates, then you’ve taken a huge step towards helping them be organized this school year!

So how do you figure out your child’s organizing style and make it work for them? I suggest reading Lanna Nakone’s book, Every Child Has a Thinking Style. It is one of the best books I know that breaks down personalities, learning styles and thinking styles to help you identify your child’s organizing style. It is a quick read and offers valuable suggestions on how your child can organize their time, paper and space that you can implement during the school year.

Once you better understand how your child organizes based on his/her personality, then the struggle for school organization can be greatly minimized and success can be in your back pocket!

2.  Set the example. This one may be a hard pill to swallow, but it is true. If your disorganization keeps you from finding the field trip permission slip that needs to be signed and returned or causes you to forget about the class party you were supposed to bring cookies for, how can you expect your child to find his papers or remember her assignments?

Truth is, kids follow their parent’s examples.

If you want your kids to be organized this school year, show them the importance of an organized lifestyle by living it out yourself. Set up a central Command Center where you keep school papers, create a launch pad for school-related items to “live” to make getting in and out of the house easier, or purge unnecessary items out of your spaces. If your kids see you making an effort to be more organized, you’ll have much greater success in helping them achieve organizational bliss too!

As parents we all want our children to be successful in school.  Key to that success is an organized approach to school and learning.  Identifying your child’s organizing style can help give them the confidence and the ability to be better organized in and out of class.  Modeling an organized lifestyle as a parent will show them the importance of being organized at home, a valuable lesson that will help them in life and in school.

About Liana George of By George Organizing Solutions:

Liana George is a Professional Organizer and the owner of By George Organizing Solutions. In her years of working with clients, she has helped people bring order to their homes and lives with customized solutions, whether it be in their kitchen, their garage or their clothes closets.

In addition to working with clients, Liana also writes organizing blog posts, books and articles, teaches organizing classes and webinars and speaks to numerous groups on a variety of organizing topics. She knows that not everyone may be as passionate about organizing as she is, but she does believe that everyone can be organized. She has been married to her husband, Clint, for over 25 years and together they have 2 wonderful daughters, Kayley and Abbey. When Liana isn’t organizing something, you can find her reading a book, watching or playing tennis, or planning her next diving adventure.

Currently, Liana serves as the NAPO Houston Chapter President.

Back to School and Back to Homework for Your ADHD Student

This is a guest post by NAPO Houston member and NAPO National President, Ellen Delap, of


It’s the first week of school and you and your student are not ready to buckle down for homework.  With less structure and more free time, homework is an unhappy addition to going to school all day.  The first week of school is an important time for yearlong homework success.  It’s time to set up a successful homework time and station for your ADHD student.  Here’s how to make homework time work for you both.

What most ADHD students need

ADHD students struggle with organizing and planning, getting started and getting finished, taking more time than imagined to complete, and turning in homework.  As you plan for homework time, be sure these needs are met during homework time.

What works and what doesn’t

Last year’s homework successes and struggles are a great starting point to jump start this year.  Coach your kids about what works for them, rather than tell them how.

Here’s topics to discuss

  • Are there organizing tools will they use for homework
  • What are the possible organizing tools will they use for papers
  • Where is a positive location and set up and location for their focus
  • What are the times that  work best to complete their work

While coaching, you can help by asking positive, engaging questions to set up structure for your student. Keep it simple with how to set up for success.

Organizing tools for homework can include a planner, post-it notes, or a dry erase board.  For paper, your student can use an accordion file, pocket folders or binder with slash pockets.  Best locations for homework are the dining room and a study.  It’s easiest to get to work after a short break and a snack.

Distractions, interruptions and more

Here’s a variety of solutions for distractions, interruptions or trouble getting started.   Have a homework helper each afternoon to partner with your child.  Arrange study times with other kids, swapping spaces and moms to help with homework.  Use a timer to get your student started.  If you are away and your student is at home working, identify your student’s independent work before you get home.

Real distraction, such as Instagram, texts and online browsing can be difficult to monitor. Internet blockers can help you student stay on track.

The real outcome is support. As you and your student head back to school and back to homework, you will both need support to feel successful about homework each day.  Reach out to local support with ADHD specialists, therapists, coaches and educators to make each afternoon a positive experience. Be sure to have an expansive team to support you both!


About Ellen Delap of

Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap launched in 2000 in Houston, Texas. Ellen works one on one with clients, streamlining their environment, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle and helping clients realize their organization and productivity goals. She holds specialist certificates in ADD, Chronic Disorganization, Life Transitions and Work Place Productivity and completed the Coach Approach curriculum.  Ellen works primarily with ADHD individuals in Houston and virtually throughout the United States. She is President of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

The Ultimate Back-to-School Checklist!


This is a guest post by NAPO Houston member and Marketing Director, Valerie Thompson, of  Chronically Organized

It seems like school just ended, but here we are in August, and I’m already in full “back-to-school” planning mode. I’ve been working on a checklist for myself, and thought you might also find it helpful.


I’ve been thinking about next year’s school schedule since school ended. Starting early means I can get the exact class times I want for extracurricular activities. For me that means having girls in dance classes on the same day at overlapping times. I also signed the girl’s up for one afternoon of after-school care so I can work late one day. I want to make sure all of this works, so I signed up for everything as soon as it opens. I also like to get all the doctor’s and dentist appointments on the calendar before the craziness of the year starts.

  • Create a master calendar
  • Put all school holidays on calendar
  • Sign-up for after-school care
  • Sign-up for extracurricular activities
  • Schedule doctor’s appointments
  • Schedule dentist’s appointments
  • Schedule haircuts


Summer usually means we’ve gotten pretty lax on bedtimes, routines, and screen time, but when school starts it’s back to business! Adding to the normal struggle to get back into a routine, our school system has moved the school start time 30 minutes earlier than last year. Whew, morning are going to be a little rough, so I’m going to be working with the girls before school starts to develop morning and afternoon routines, and adjust to an earlier bedtime. In addition, I’m also going to refresh our homework caddy and launch pad to make sure everything at home is set-up to help us succeed in our new routines.


If you need help on organizing your children’s clothes, I’ve got a whole blog post on the subject. I like to use the beginning of the school year as a trigger to buy all new socks and undies. I also like to make sure I’ve got uniforms and a jacket for winter. That first cold day always surprises me, and this way the kids don’t go to school in last year’s too small clothes.

  • Evaluate last year’s uniforms and hand-me-downs, make shopping list
  • Buy new uniforms
  • Buy new undies and socks
  • Buy new shoes
  • Buy new jackets
  • Buy any clothes/shoes/uniforms needed for activities (ex. dance shoes)
  • Buy new backpack or wash last year’s backpack


Thankfully my girls eat school lunch most of the time, but there are still times they like to bring their lunch, so I’m making sure I’ve got all the supplies I need on hand.

  • Buy lunch box
  • Replenish supplies of ice packs, water bottles, lunch containers
  • Practice opening containers, for first timers
  • Create and/or add money to lunch account


One of the reasons I love this career, is the schedule flexibility it allows for me to be more involved in my daughters’ school. So my first to-do, join the PTA/PTO, is near and dear to my heart, as I’m serving as the PTA’s VP of Membership this year. Make sure you join to support you school, and volunteer if you can. For school supplies, we’re very lucky that this year our school has decided to purchase supplies for everyone, so all I had to do was pay a supply fee. If you’re not as fortunate, check with the school about how supplies are used, they’re often pooled together, so there’s no need to get your child a “special” supply that they won’t actually get to keep.

  • Join PTA/PTO
  • Buy or order school supplies
  • Sign-up for any school wide communications systems (ex. LivingTree)
  • Check with nurse about any forms you need for special medial needs (allergies, asthma, etc.)


The deluge of paperwork that comes with the start of the school year, can be overwelming. Get ready by seting up an action paper station to stay on top of everything that needs to be completed, returned, reviewed and referenced later. Also, if you don’t have a system for organizing you children’s art and schoolwork, now’s the time to set-up a children’s memory box.

Did I miss something that’s on your back-to-school checklist? Good luck getting ready for the school year!

About Valerie Thompson of Chronically Organized: 

In 2016, after spending over a decade in the world of corporate interior design and workplace consulting, Valerie decided to pursue her passion for organizing. She’s always loved organizing her own home and helping family and friends. Once she discovered that it could be a full-time job there was no looking back.

Valerie likes to think of herself as a personal trainer for your home. “There are some people, who have the motivation, time, and skills to follow through with an exercise program.  I’m not one of those people, the only time I’ve ever exercised was when I hired a personal trainer. The same thing applies to organizing, some people have the motivation and skills to do it alone, and some people need a little help.  That’s where I come in, I coach my clients through the process, teaching new techniques, setting goals, and encouraging them along the way.”

When she’s not organizing, she’s having fun with her husband and two daughters riding bikes and playing at the park. A few more fun facts about Valerie:

1. She prefers tea over coffee, and beer over wine.

2. She’s a bit of a self-help junkie and probably Oprah’s biggest fan.

3. She loves to read everything and her Kindle is her most prized possession.



Three Ways Death Can Make You More Productive

by Donna Matthews

Let’s talk about your funeral today. Will it be in a church or funeral home? How will people find out? Who’s your legacy appointee for Facebook? Who will speak in your memory? What will they say?

And what does my death have to do with my productivity???

Thousands of years ago, the Stoics practiced meditating on this very topic and often referred to the idea of Memento Mori – Remember you will die.

Memento Mori | Slay The Chaos

Isn’t that a tad bit morbid?

Is meditating on death a morbid practice? Not unless you digress and get distracted by all the horrible ways you can die. But the actual dead part? The part about not being around anymore? It’s an oft-forgotten aspect to your personal productivity.

Productivity isn’t necessarily busy. It’s about being focused on what matters most to you. Take for example cleaning the house. You spend the day in a whirling dervish and afterward, you enjoy a hot cup of tea or glass of wine in all the spic and span glory you’ve created.

But now… imagine you have a new book you want to study, or you have a craft or skill you’re trying to improve or master. Or you dream of revamping the backyard garden. Or you kid wants to play cards with you.

Which action matters most to you? Cleaning house or learning or planting the new garden? Which one brings life to your soul?

It’s not that we never clean the house but one urgent but unimportant task turns into days of relentless chores turns into weeks of undertaking the same o same o turns to months of precious energy spent on things insignificant to your long-term goals… If we aren’t continually intentional with our time, it slips from our fingers like sand in an hourglass.

And it’s not just YOUR death

Imagine if your precious loved one died today. How are you going to feel if y’all spent the last month with meaningless time together? Or your last dinner together was spent looking at phones instead of sharing your day, thoughts, your very self?

I’m totally not trying to make you feel guilty, depressed, or helpless.In fact, I think most writers would agree that we often write to ourselves as much to others.

But what I AM TRYING TO DO is to get you to WAKE UP and embrace the FACT that your life is so very precious and so very ephemeral.

But what I AM TRYING TO DO is to get you to WAKE UP and embrace the FACT that your life is so very precious and so very ephemeral. CLICK TO TWEET

Let each thing you would do, say, or intend be like that of a dying person.
– Marcus Aurelius

How much differently would you live out your days if you had a month or a year left to live? It’s a hard question because I think we’d all quit our day jobs and blow all our savings – I know I would. But, yeah, reality beckons…

Would you wait to write the book?
Would you wait to take the trip?
Would you want to spend time on final arrangements when you could be running around completing your bucket list? Loving on your peeps?
Make amends? Seek forgiveness?

Alright, Alright…I’m going to die…now what?

Let’s look at three ways acknowledging your eventual death will make you more productive:

You will prepare, protect, and put your affairs in order:
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” Seneca

This point is two-fold:

Estate Planning: At a very minimum, you need a will in place. This document is invaluable to those you leave behind. Some other things to consider are Power of Attorney documents, critical banking data and relevant passwords.

Always harnessing technology to my advantage, I’ve recently discovered a company called Everplans ( and am in the process of setting up my personal directives. This nifty website walks you through numerous checklists and allows you to store your information in a single location. If electronic storage isn’t your preference, you can click here for a free printable to help you get started manually compiling documents.

Daily Review: Each evening, take a few minutes and consider your day. Where did you excel? Where could you improve? Do you owe an apology? Is your side of the street clean?

You’ll make priorities…well… PRIORITY:
Stephen Covey wrote, “Begin with the end in mind.” What is your end? Visualize your funeral. What is it that you want to be remembered for – there will be the accomplishments but there will also be attributes.

“She was kind.’

“He was a good friend.”

Now – what changes do you need to make for that to happen? Do you need to go back to school? Buy a book and brush up on some skills? Change jobs? Maybe join a support group to lose weight or to address an emotional or physical addiction. Whatever IT is – JUST start. Be intentional about your Time.Every.Single.Day

You will stay above the fray and your quality of life will improve:
In a hundred years from now will this matter? Your clean house won’t but the system you created might. Inbox zero and that last tweet won’t but the time spent with your child probably will still matter in the lives of their children. The words written by your soul might provide comfort and guidance much like the Stoics do today for us.

Our days are already filled with distractions, vitriol, fear, noise, rapid change, but knowing it could all be over today helps us have the courage to step back and say no.

“No, I WILL REBEL – my life is precious and ain’t nobody got time for this day to day societal minutia.”

” I WON’T live in this temporary mess.”

“I WILL rise above the fray and keep my eye on the prize.”

Yes, you will die.


But probably not today.

So live it loudly and entirely. LAUGH. LOVE. RISK. DREAM. CREATE. But also, take care of your business and protect your loved ones. Spend your days intentionally. Stay above the fray.


About the Author

Donna Matthews, owner of Slay The Chaos, is a passionate soul eager to help others clear the chaos from their minds, souls, and homes with keep it simple, real life, productivity and organizational solutions. In addition to one-on-one client work, she shares regular encouragement on her blog and social media outlets.