LIVINGSTON, NJ - This week, The Alternative Press (TAP) of Livingston sat down with Ellen Palestine CPO®, who owns Finally Organized, LLC, 973-868-5589, to learn more about her and her business, as part of a new member benefit being provided by The Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with TAP of Livingston.

Q: What do you do at Finally Organized?

A. Finally Organized helps individuals and businesses cut the clutter, increase productivity, and find more time for the important things in life, such as family, friends and fun. Professional organizers use tested principles and expertise to enhance the lives of our clients. By designing custom organizing systems and teaching organizing skills, we help individuals and businesses take control of their surroundings, their time, their piles, and their lives!

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Our services are for people who truly desire a change and are committed to educating themselves in new ways to live and structure the order of “things” in their environment. Clients enjoy partnering with us because we are authentic, we work with integrity, and we actually are practitioners of organized living. We believe in customer service that includes humor, empathy, and compassion.

Life has a way of reminding you about what’s truly important. My goal is to help clients feel better about themselves and their environment and fully enjoy their lives by getting and staying organized. I want them to be organized to such a high level of comfort, that they don’t need me anymore.

Q. How did you get into this field?

A. I have always been very organized. In 2000, I was helping a friend get organized after a divorce and really enjoyed the process. He said that I should do this for others, which got me thinking. In 2001, I launched my company and have been happily helping people de-clutter and get organized ever since.

Q. What types of projects to you take on?

A. We really do anything except we are not certified to work with hoarders. We work in residential homes and small businesses doing anything from organizing closets and other rooms, to organizing and shredding files and papers, organizing computer files and even photos. We help people set up systems so they can maintain and keep their things in a way that they can find them easily.

Our goal is to teach the concept and transfer the skills so that eventually clients won’t need our help any more. However, once they are a client, I will stay in touch with them to make sure they are able to continue staying organized. There are definitely some people who just can’t stay organized on their own. For those clients, I help them maintain their space on a regular basis.

Q. What if a person is afraid to ask for help because his/her “mess” is the “worst ever?”

A. Many people are embarrassed or ashamed for anyone to see their disorganized home or office. They really have nothing to worry about. I have seen it all and nothing will leave the walls of their space. Everything I do is strictly confidential including anything that I see or hear. Most clients don’t intentionally choose to be disorganized, it just happened. My goal is to get them back on track, reduce the stress so they have time for what truly matters. The services of Finally Organized are non-judgmental and confidential. We follow a strict Code of Ethics mandated by NAPO.

Most people call when they have reached their limit and just can’t do it by themselves. They realize that it is time to hire a professional so they can stop wasting their time and money on inefficiency, when they can get the help they need and be doing the things they want to do instead. Getting organized by a professional is an investment well spent.

We also get a lot of calls from adult children who want us to help their parents get organized. They often purchase gift certificates from us to give their parents.

Q. How do you even know where to begin?

A. Our getting started page has five simple questions to get people on the road to a more organized clutter-free life:

  1. What specifically is working?
  2. What specifically is not working?
  3. What items are most important to you?
  4. How will you know when you are organized?
  5. What do you think is causing the disorganization?

The answers to these questions help us identify priorities, develop a plan, and create a customized organizational system that will work for the individual.

Q. What is your favorite type of project?

A. We get a lot of calls to organize printed photographs that are stuffed in boxes or are still in their original envelopes. In today’s world, where so many homes have been destroyed in storms, mudslides, fires etc., photos have become increasingly important. Photos hold our memories of our parents, children, families, loved ones and friends and being able to share them with people and pass them on to future generations is very valuable. I really enjoy helping people organize and safely store their photos. People don’t always make this a priority and have regrets when it’s too late.

Q. What other things do you organize?

A. If possible, we start with the basement or garage, so we have a place to store things from the rest of the house as we work our way around. Many times, I see inefficient use of closet space and I often recommend my preferred closet designer to create suitable solutions. If a client doesn’t want to go that route, there are solutions to organize and maximize space that I can help them with.

Organizing storage units is also a popular project for us. We can usually help people go through these spaces and either downsize to a less expensive unit or eliminate the storage unit completely.

Q. You were very involved in elevating the integrity of your field. What did you do and are you doing now?

A: When I first joined National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) I really enjoyed my involvement, but felt that there was a need for certification to raise the integrity of the industry. I was on the committee to help develop a standardized test for people to become Certified Professional Organizers® (CPO®). Since then, I have held the following positions:

NAPO Leadership:

  • National Awards Committee Chair 2011 – present
  • Board of Directors 2007 – 2010
  • Inaugural class of Certified Professional Organizers® 2007
  • Golden Circle Member 2006 – present
  • Certification Liaison Coordinator 2007
  • Program Definition Team Member 2006
  • Certification: Job Task Analysis Team Member 2005 – 2007
  • Chapter Membership Director Coordinator 2003 – 2007
  • National Membership Committee 2003 – 2007
  • Annual Leadership Forum Attendee 2003 – 2005

NAPO Chapter Leadership:

  • NAPO Northern New Jersey: Programming Committee, 2013 – present
  • NAPO Northern New Jersey: Nominating Committee, 2006 – 2007
  • NAPO New York: Membership Director, 2003 – 2007
  • NAPO New York: Presidents Award Recipient, 2003
  • NAPO New York: GO Month Coordinator, 2002

My other professional accomplishments and leadership activities include:

  • New Jersey Notary Public: present
  • Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO):  Member 2010 – present
  • Toastmasters: Competent Communicator, 2010
  • Livingston Chamber of Commerce: Member, 2005 – present
  • New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners: Member, 2002 – present
  • Sharing Network of NJ: Speaker, 2001 – present
  • Northern NJ Blood Center: Coordinator, 1991 – 2005

Q: What is a favorite thing that a client has said to you?

A: Last week, a client said that I make organizing fun. She said she was dreading doing it, and that now after working with me, she is looking forward to having her files back and knowing where they are located.

Q: What are some easy tips you can share?

A: It is important to take advantage of free recycling days for things like electronics. If they are broken, you can get rid of them. If they are still working, but you don’t need them, you can also donate them to people who need them.

Sometimes, I find that people keep things like broken or old TVs around because they don’t feel like taking them to be recycled. I often find myself picking them up and moving them, just to get them out of the way. In addition, once you really think about it—if you don’t need or want something that someone else can use, it will make you feel better to know that your item will help someone else and make them happy.

I personally donate a lot of my client’s items (with their consent) to a school for children with special needs. If they can use the items—great and if they can’t use them, they can either sell them to raise money for the school or they send them to Haiti. For me—it is a win-win.

It can be hard to part with things. That is where I come in. I will discuss the options with my client, and reason with them about why it may be a good idea to toss, donate or recycle something, but ultimately it is their decision. I don’t force anyone to do anything they are uncomfortable with.

One more thing I recommend is consignment. This is a great way to make some extra money. Everyone has things they don’t need that they could be consigning for “found money.”

Editor’s Note: The next Livingston Electronic Recycling Day is on Saturday, June 7, and the next Essex County Computer and Electronics Recycling Day is on Saturday, May 17.

Another great way to recycle is to participate in Livingston’s upcoming Operation Take Back, on Saturday, April 26, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Police Headquarters, where residents can get rid of old medications safely. Click HERE for other drop off locations.

Q: If Finally Organized had a theme song, what would it be?

A: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Q: What is your favorite TV show?

A: Ellen

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.

Q: What is something that people may not know about you, personally?

A: In addition to organizing, I am also passionate about organ donation with UNOS and pet therapy with EHR. In 2001, one of my sons was diagnosed with a heart condition, ultimately requiring a transplant. He’s now doing well, thanks to the selfless generosity of the donor and his family.

After being assisted by scores of kind people, both friends and strangers; I wanted to give back in some way. In addition to volunteering for the NJ Sharing Network, I also volunteer at Barnabas Health, the hospital where my son had been both a volunteer and a patient.