By the way...

This page will contain some thoughts I have, as we go on this journey together.

October 2019

I Can Do It Myself!

"I can do it myself!" says my 2 year old granddaughter

                                                                                          Our Virtual Lives                April, 2020

As I write this, our world is in the middle of  the Coronavirus Pandemic.  Within the last month, life as we knew it changed.  Everything.

Schools, churches, stores, malls, gyms, restaurants (except for take out) are closed.  Many are without jobs as a result.  Most are told to stay home.  We work from home, go to school from home, go to church from home,  work out from home, and of course shop from home.  

Our world has gone virtual.  Fortunately with technology, we are still able to  continue with somewhat "normal" activities. 

One recent Sunday morning, I attended a yoga class in Knoxville,Tennessee, a church service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and prepared a class on organizing which I presented to a  client in  Annandale, Minnesota that afternoon.  All from my iphone and ipad.  

Many have more time at home than they have ever dreamed of.  Enter projects!  Get that painting project done that has been waiting for months (years??).  Organize that closet.  Put photos in albums.  The list goes on and on.

For some, the novelty of it all helps them begin.  But then, it gets tiring and boring.  And what is the best system for that closet, drawer or cupboard?

That's where virtual organizing comes in.  The concept may seem odd at first. But, it really works. 

As a professional organizer, I am offering this service.  There are many advantages, including:

-No spread of viruses

-Less anxiety.  No one is coming into your home.  You can show me only what you want me to see

-Less time.  These sessions are one hour with me, one hour on your own.  (Not necessarily consecutive).  My typical organizing sessions are 3 hour blocks.

-Less cost.  Because they are less hours, the cost is less.  

-There is someone there to consult with and provide ideas. Also, there is someone there to keep you on task.  We will get things done!

Each session begins with a phone interview to determine your needs and goals.  We will then schedule a one hour session together.  Following, you will work one hour on your own.  After this is completed, we will connect to discuss progress, answer questions, etc.

So, if this sound like what you need to get going on organizing projects, contact me on this page.  Working together can be more fun and productive!

12 Landscape Tips To Make Your Outdoor Space Eco-Friendly

April 2020

(This article was copied with permission from BusyBeeblog.  It has some great information on recycling products for your lawn and garden.  Enjoy!)

While being focused on creating an eco-friendly indoor space, sometimes, we forget to create an equally eco-friendly outdoor space. Luckily, the summer is the perfect time to make your outside space as green as possible. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lawn or just a window: Making your available outdoor area natural, efficient, and eco-friendly can be really easy and fun. Try any of these tips:

Reuse plastic bottles as plant containers.
When creating an eco-friendly space, it all goes back to the three “R’s” that we were taught in school: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Container gardening is all about reusing. Use any of the things that you look at every day and pile up in your bins: plastic bottles, egg crates, tin cans, etc. (I personally love starting seedlings in egg cartons because they’re the perfect size.) This awesome New Yorker created amazing window gardens out of plastic bottles and tubes using hydroponics. For city-dwellers with only a window serving as their outdoor space, window farming using bottles is a new and attractive option.

Create a vertical garden out of used pallets.
There are locals who have only a window, and then there are others who have a bit more space, but not much: balconies, fire exits, or small outdoor areas. Maximize the green in those spaces by creating a vertical garden rather than a horizontal garden. Trust me: It’s a great way to decorate your space while reusing materials.

Get rid of a water-guzzling, boring green lawn.
Many people in New York City don’t own a bit of green, but some may be lucky enough to have a small lawn. For those who have a lawn, eliminating grass may be the better thing to do. Green lawns are not only water-guzzlers (they need frequent, regular watering to stay healthy and verdant) but gas-guzzlers (most people have to use gas or diesel lawn mowers to maintain them). Cut the sprawling homogeneity with some colorful ways to reimagine the classic suburban landscape: walkways, sculptures, raised garden beds, or something unique to you!

… Or use an old-school mower.
Don’t want to get rid of that classic green? In that case, swap out your motorized mower for a push mower and get better exercise while you take care of the lawn.

Xeriscape to the max.
“Xeriscaping” might sound like the landscaping done on a far distant planet, but it really means landscaping for better water conservation. Wasting water damages the environment, and xeriscaping tactics like irrigation can help avoid it. Follow xeriscaping advice like remembering to water your plants in the morning rather than at noon, as evaporation rates are lower in the morning.

Light your summer evenings outside with solar-powered lights.
Introducing solar-powered mood lighting to your outdoor space is one of the cheapest ways to “go solar.” You don’t have to spend a lot, and you don’t have to increase your energy bill. (There’s also the old-school, romantic approach of candles, which don’t waste electricity.)

Collect rainwater in an old bin.
This is something that’s really become big in California due to the drought, but it can always be done here in New York, too: Reduce the amount of water you’ll need to use later by collecting rainwater in bins. This cuts down on your clean water usage, and rainwater is perfect for gardening.

Create recycled outdoor art.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle your way to amazing art pieces. Be creative and create something fun out of weather-resistant junk like bottle caps, plastic bottles, old spoons, or repurposed furniture.

Use organic weed killers, and pull weeds regularly.
You don’t need to spray toxic chemicals everywhere to take care of your lawn or garden. There are plenty of alternatives. Salt and vinegar kills plants effectively, for example.

Invite the “good” bugs, and avoid using unnecessary pesticides.
Prevent problems with plant-chomping bugs by planting marigolds to attract pest-killing ladybugs.

Plant native species.
This is one of the absolute best things you can do for the environment: Respect the natural, local ecosystem by planning native, or at the very least non-invasive, species. Don’t worry: Wildflowers look just as nice as the non-native species.

Reduce food waste and get free fertilizer.
If you have the room and time to start a compost pile, do it! It’s a great way to reduce your non-protein-based food waste. Create a compost pile in a box or bin, and occasionally turn and aerate the pile. Months later, you’ll have reduced the amount that you’ve thrown out and have nice, organic, nutritious soil. This reduces the amount of manure you’ll need to buy, which comes from diesel-guzzling farms.

Source: BusyBee Cleaning Service

television shows, books,magazines,and newspaper articles.

How can an organizer help you? Let me count the ways.

1. You will actually set aside time for decluttering and organizing.  When you schedule a 3-hour block of time with an organizer, you will want to use every minute. You won’t get distracted. You will FOCUS!

2.  An organizer will bring specific methods to the project.  Many times, we “don’t know where to start.”  An organizer does.

3.  An organizer knows tools and tricks that you may not be aware of. They have learned what works best in many situations and can pass that knowledge along when working on your project.

4.  Organizers bring a neutral view point. Many of our belongings; clothes, memorabilia, and décor have emotional connections.  A neutral party can add another dimension and viewpoint. Organizers have suggestions for keeping and cherishing the memories. 

5.  Many organizers belong to NAPO (National Association for Productivity and Organizers.) The group has a forum whereby they help one another. They can literally get ideas and assistance from organizers all over the country within a day!

6.  Organizers are aware of places to donate items for reuse or recycling. It is much easier to declutter if you know your items are going to be usefulto someone else.

So, before you become completely overwhelmed and frustrated by trying to get 2 legs in 1 pant leg, or before you rent a storage unit, (or 2 or 3), consider hiring a professional organizer. It will be worth every penny!

I would be honored to be your professional organizer. I find joy in helping you lighten your load and giving you

 renewed energy!

Julie Starke

Keys to Living Light, LLC

April 2019
   It happens to all of us.  We know we have an item somewhere, but where?? 
When our son was baptized April of 1990, I bravely broke family tradition.
   Up until that time, all babies born on my side of the family, whether male
or female, were baptized in the same gown. When our son was born, I
learned my husband had been baptized in a little white shorts outfit.
His family didn't think our son should be in a gown, so they offered up
this outfit to us.  I tried it on our son. It fit, so I broke tradition.  After
baptism, I washed it, and stored it away.
   Fast forward to 2017, when our first grandson was going to be baptized.
"I have dad's baptism outfit, he can use that," I said. 
   Then the search started.  I combed through the contents of numerous
boxes of clothing and other items in the basement and in our two spare
bedrooms at least a thousand times.  "I know it's in this house!"
   Much to my disappointment, I couldn't find it anywhere. Our daughter bought a baptism outfit, that she then passed along to two more of our grandsons. 
   Then one day, I was cleaning our linen closet.  In a white garbage bag I found my husband's white baptism outfit!  I was embarrassed to tell my daughter, but I did confess before our newest grandson's baptism.  She put the outfit on him for a photo, then used the one she purchased to continue her "new" tradition.
Why in the world would one put a baptism outfit in a linen closet in a white bag with no label....!
   I have learned a few things about organizing and storing items over the years.  I hope to pass some of the things I've learned on to my clients.
It happens to all of us...

May 2019

   October 2, 2018, it happened.  I turned 60.  It really didn't bother me in the least.  I feel great, and age is just a number.  What I didn't expect though, was how that "number" on the scale would change!  I've never really worried too much about my weight.  I am active and blessed with the "Marohn" metabolism, as my sister-in-laws lovingly refer to my family's ability to eat healthy amounts of food and not  gain but a few pounds here and there.  I really think the Marohn metabolism is more about our inability to sit than anything else!  We were brought up to work and be busy.  Sitting and relaxing was never really in the picture.  I'm sure that is why to this day, I feel "guilty" about sitting to read a book. 

  That is another issue to discuss in the future, Namely, how to relax and de-stress....

   In the meantime, my weight.  I am in the habit of weighing myself every day.  This is good for some, not for others.  For me, it helps me to gauge how things are going.  As I watched my weight gradually creep up in the past months, I had lots of excuses.  It's muscle, it's fluid, it's the time of day, the scale the...  "O my gosh, it's being 60!" 

   I know how to help people lose weight.  I have been doing it for 35 years.  I also just completed on intense training from the Academy of Nutrition and  Dietetics in  Adult Weight Management.  But...what do I do???

   I came up with a plan for myself and to my suprise I am staying with it.  It is not hard, I don't feel deprived or hungry, and it's working!! The weight is going down. 

   I love to exercise, and do it daily.  As I already discussed, I can't sit down.  So I worked on my diet . Here's a quick summary of my plan.  Be advised though, every one is unique and requires an individual plan.  That's what I do in my business, "Keys to Living Light."  I begin with an extensive questionnaire, and tailor a plan for each individual.  But,  for now let's look at my plan.

1.  Sugar:  I love sweets, and have a difficult time stopping at one small serving. So knowing this about myself, I switched to one or two pieces of dark chocolate after a meal.  I savor it and then done!

2.  Snacks:  I get hungry often.  In fact, my blood sugar does go down sometimes between meals.  So my new best friends are lightly salted almonds.  I can't do raw almonds, and many of the flavored variety are too salty and make my fingers a mess.  So a handful (28) are my snack of choice.  They satisfy me because of the protein and fiber they contain. 

3.  Vegetables:  I include a green salad every day.  Preferably an entree salad with dressing on the side for one meal each day.  When I go out to eat, the only section on the menu I read is "salads".  Watch out though, many have tons of calories!  Grilled vs fried meat is a must.  Keep cheese to a minimum.  Dressing always on the side.  Dip fork in dressing, then salad.  "Works like a charm!" as one of my patients told me after I suggested it to him!

My "go to" salad at home is a grilled piece of chicken or fish on a bed of greens.  Voila, an entree salad!

So that's it!  Nothing earth shattering.  But it works for me.  There are

times I deviate a bit, but I get right back to it.

I feel sooo much better, and I don't dread getting on the scale anymore.

Maybe I'm set until 70 hits...!

Weight and Clutter-What's the Connection?

Keys to Living Light was founded on the premise that losing weight and losing clutter can and often do go hand in hand.  What is the connection here and is this really the case?  If you look carefully, most articles on decluttering and organizing have at least 1 paragraph that discusses weight loss in the process,  So let's dig into the connection,  Here are the main principles I have found to be true.

1.  Stress.  When you look around your home, car or work environment and all you see is clutter and mess, stress often results.  It is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.  How will I ever get a handle on this, when I barely have time to do the essential things in my life (think wash clothes, make meals)?  Stress causes our bodies to release hormones so that we are ready to fight off the stressor.  One of these hormones, cortisol, releases sugar into the blood for energy, increases appetite (not for vegetables), and contributes to an increase in fat storage over time.  Constantly elevated cortisol levels are associated with weight gain, reduced energy levels , and sleep disruptions,  

2.  Meal preparation.  Making healthy meals does take some planning and preparation.  A clear and clean work space is essential, along with an organized and well stocked pantry.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Even the best intentions can go south if these things aren't in place,  A frozen pizza,  or a stop at a fast food restaurant on the way home may sound much easier after a busy day if cleaning and organizing are needed.  

3.  Exercise.  There are several issues here.  One is energy.  As we discussed stress zaps energy.  The feeling of overwhelm can also lead to feelings of depression, which drains energy and can lead to poor sleep.  It's hard to get motivated to exericise when energy is low.  
The other factor is accessability of exercise clothes, shoes, equipment.  Where did I put that pair of running shoes?  The treamill is so full of stuff and dust, it would be a project just to get it ready.  Get the idea?  Having the necessary items ready to go takes planning and organization.  

4. Energy.  The abundance of stuff can suffocate a home.  Energy is blocked and there is a heaviness.  I  can literally see the relief on my client's faces and feel their energy and the energy in the space at the end of a day of organizing,  This lightness can minimze or eliminate the urge to eat.  Don't believe me?  Try it!

5.  Time.  Once you have things under control in your home, you won't believe the amount of time  you will have!  You can use this time to dedicate to your weight loss goals and to make healthy food choices at home.

"I Can Do It Myself!"

says my 2 year old granddaughter

July 2019

Is Moderation Possible?

Moderation:  the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior.  From the Latin verb “moderare” meaning “to control”.  In practical terms; 1-2 cookies instead of a row of cookies, 1 handful of chips instead of half a bag!

Why is moderation so difficult for us?  As a Registered Dietitian over the past 35 years, I can’t count the number of times I have advised moderation.  When a patient or customer would ask, “what about candy, pie, chips, or fill in the blank…”, I would often advise anything can fit if moderated. 

Here are some suggestions I have found to be very useful.   I hope they work for you!

-Practice “mindfulness” when you eat.  Multitasking has become a way of life for most of us.  Most of the time we aren’t even aware of it.  As I am writing this, I have clothes in the dryer, the dishwasher is washing my dinner dishes, and I am mentally planning what I have to do to get ready for my evening activity. Multitasking can work in some situations, but not when eating. 

When you eat, really focus on the food you are eating; the flavor, texture and the satisfaction you get from the food.  Turn off the distractions.  You will not only enjoy your food more, but will be satisfied with less.

-Avoid extreme hunger. Incorporate a balance of carbohydrate for energy, and protein and healthy fat for the satisfaction they provide, into your meals and snacks, every 3-4 hours.  A classic set up for anything but moderation is being famished. The time 4:00PM and after spells disaster for many. 

Picture this.  You ate lunch at 11:00.  You stop at the store on your way home from work to pick up ingredients for dinner.  All of a sudden, a host of high calorie foods make their way into your cart!  And once they’re home… forget moderation.

-Avoid all or nothing thinking.  This is so easy to fall into.  You are on a roll with eating more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains at meals and snacks.   Until…grandma’s birthday party of pizza and birthday cake or that pot luck at school.  Yikes, then what?  I really blew it so I might as well give up.  Not so fast!  We are all going to deviate from time to time.  The key is, get right back to your plan the next meal.  Not the next week, or the next month!

Moderation is possible, just practice, practice, practice. 

January 2019
     God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things.  Right now I am so behind
I will never die.
      These were the words on a sweatshirt I gifted my mother years ago.  She loved it and wore it
often.  My dear mother always felt she was behind in her work.  Especially at home.  Mom grew
up in the depression era, and learned not to waste or throw anything away that may be  useful
   Because of this, she had stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  Clothing, décor, sheets, towels, over the
counter medicines (she didn't worry about expiration dates), and gift wrap, to name a few.
   My mother left this earth to go to heaven in 2012.  After she died, I cleaned out many of her things. I took her Christmas gift wrap home to use up myself.  Well Christmas 2018 just wrapped up and I am still using her paper.  I am wondering if it will outlast me.
  I spent time with my mother while she was still able, trying to pare down and organize her things.  She was so grateful, and thanked me over and over.  She would find joy and relief when she went to her newly organized spaces.
   This is what I want for my clients.  I want them to feel joy, relief and satisfaction as we declutter and organize their things.  Let'
s achieve freedom together as we tackle them, one by one.  To gift wrap that never expires, and to a New Year- cheers!

every 5 minutes or so. Then, after a period of struggling to get both of her legs into 1 pant leg, spilling milk all over the floor, or messing up the remote beyond nana’s capabilities to fix, she may accept some help. Of course, this is normal 2-year-old behavior (and 3 and 4 and...), and must happen to promote independence.

This sentiment follows us into adulthood, which is also good. But at times, we all need help. Why does asking for help make us feel inadequate or even like a failure?

Picture a couple with young children. They both work outside the home, and of course, have all the daily home responsibilities as well. Making meals, shopping, laundry,cleaning, etc.  So,as life goes on and things accumulate, how is this couple supposed to find time to declutter and organize the many spaces in their home? They’re lucky to get dinner on the table and the dishes done before it’s time to eat again. Life for them is overwhelming.

Another picture for you. A couple with an empty, but very cluttered nest. They are looking to move to a smaller home. But, what about all the stuff??  The kids don’t want it. They won’t have room for it. Life for them is overwhelming.

Fast forward. Mom died. Then dad. The family feels such grief and sadness. Just going into the family home is a dreaded task, let alone making decisions about mom and dad’s belongings. Life for them is overwhelming. So, why don’t we ask for help in these situations? Many times, it may be because we are unaware it is available. Professional organizers haven’t been around for very long. It’s only in the past few years that they have become more mainstream, thanks to