Communicate and Facilitate – NOT Obligate!

Posted on June 10, 2014 by Tanya

As a professional organizer and Productive Environment Specialist, my role is to ask the questions and offer options. Much as my training to be a social worker encouraged, we are here to listen to YOU. It is not our job to come in and decide what you need to do, how you need to do it, and what to throw away. Many fear that having an organizer means having someone dictate to you. This could not be farther from the truth. We are here to help facilitate the process.

We like to ask some basic questions:



And, to create that productive environment, or intentional setting, you need to:

  1. State your vision
  2. Identify your obstacles
  3. Commit your resources
  4. Create your plan
  5. Maintain your success


This art of organizing is all about finding out what will work for you and then making that happen. The goal is to establish a process or system that makes sense to you and you can and will maintain. We can help to facilitate this process through communication and NOT obligation! What works for you may not work for someone else and that’s OK; this process is about you and your interest in living and working in an environment that allows you to be less stressed, more productive, and enjoy your life.

The motto for Structured Chaos is clear:

SC-tagline copy

Enjoy the journey and then live yours! Let me know your thoughts on these questions and the idea of having the support to do what you want and need without judgement, condemnation, or pressure. Everyone is different and I thank God for that and for each of my individual clients!

Paying all Bills

Posted on May 27, 2014 by Tanya

SC - MailBox or InBox?

So we all get mail whether it comes in our mail box outside or our email box inside. As a military kid, I LOVED mail day! Living overseas in the ’80s meant the best communication was every two weeks when our Dad would come home from work and have a stack of mail. It took at least one week for a letter to get from our home in England to a friend’s home in the U.S.A. That was impressive and we just never thought twice about having to wait for a letter or card.

Now that I am an adult with a house, husband, children, cars, and dogs I am not always so excited to get the mail (either version of it) because it is either junk mail or bills. Either way, the experience does not hold the same allure it did when I was a kid.

Recently I received an email from the online account I have been using to schedule all my bill paying, Manilla. At this site, I could log in and see all of my bills that are paid electronically, the balances, when the next bill is due (they send me email reminders before a bill is paid), any documents/notices the companies have sent to me, and a link to go directly to that site to amend any bills. Well, Manilla is closing this summer and they suggest their users download documents and delete the account.

This got me to thinking about all the digital tools I recommend to my readers. How secure are these electronic records? Why not just keep using the paper bills? Well, just like with paper, you must keep your own records in a format that you are comfortable with, makes sense to you, and will allow for any tax implications you may need to address.

As I went through my account, I realized that I was using Manilla as a staging ground, or gathering place to see most of my bills in one place. The reality is that I am already signed up for paperless billing with all the companies and therefore will be just fine without Manilla. Plus, I have reduced the number of accounts we have as a means to better manage our finances. This helped as well.

Now, I can go back to looking forward to getting the mail and know that most of what comes to my house will be something other than bills and maybe, just maybe someone will send me a card!

Videos (Barbara Hemphill and Tanya) are Live!

Posted on May 14, 2014 by Tanya

On April 29th Barbara Hemphill joined Tanya in New Bern to hold a seminar about home organizing and more. You can now see the videos here to learn more:

Barbara Hemphill Barbara Hemphill – talks about basic organizing and how a Productive Environment Specialist can help you through the process of implementing a system that will work for you! We use proven methods to implement simple yet effective systems you are then able to manage. This allows you to accomplish your work and enjoy your life.

BQ4A0244-LowRez Tanya Roberts – shares her new book, The HAINES System™,  as co-written with her sister, Julie. Together they have researched and pulled together resources and then put them all in one simple yet comprehensive format that guides you through the process of gathering all your important documents in one place. What a gift for your loved ones!

How productive are you? Are you interested in seeing what your productivity score is? Click for a link to both:

Scorecard for Individuals – allows you to see what is enhancing or impeding your personal productivity.

Scorecard for Organizations – measure your satisfaction with your current work environment.

If you have any questions, please just let me know! Thanks for watching and reading!

Mother’s Day is Coming!

Posted on May 1, 2014 by Tanya

Mother’s Day is fast approaching and what better gift to give your Mom than one that will provide her and your family with peace of mind and relaxation? The HAINES System is simple way to guide you through designing your blueprint for the gathering, organizing, and maintenance of your important papers.

HAINES was my GG’s middle name, Frederick Haines Schmitz, who died last November at the age of 93. He was highly organized and had his papers in such a format that there was very little we had to do when he died. The gift he left us was incredibly clear on that day. Watching my Mom deal with his passing was difficult, but seeing the immense relief in her face when she realized that virtually everything was in order was priceless. It really was. She was so stressed about doing things properly and appropriately that day, but she did not have to be concerned with what GG wanted or did not want; he had made all those decisions years before.

A gift like this is not your typical gift, but that itself is refreshing. Flowers are beautiful, but they fade quickly. Candy is delicious, but is gone faster than the flowers. This year, consider writing your Mom a note to express your love and gratitude for her and give her The HAINES System – you can do together.

If you need some tips for having this conversation, here are some resources:

Dare to be different this Mother’s Day and really show your Mom how much you respect her wishes by completing The HAINES System with her, for her, and beside her.

Ready for Tax Day?

Posted on April 14, 2014 by Tanya

It’s that time again! Yes, April 15th. Tax Day. This is typically NOT a fun process for most people. But, it does not have to be so incredibly painful. There are steps you can take that will minimize the great paper shuffle at the beginning of each year. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. keep a file folder labeled “Taxes 20____” on top of your desk or in your home “command center”
  2. throughout the year, every paper that may have to do with your taxes (property tax, medical receipts, bank papers…) drop in there
  3. every few months, flip through the file and get the papers in a little better order by grouping them (tax payments, medical bills, W-2s, donations…)
  4. for the more adventurous, try using a simple Excel spreadsheet or use your calendar to track your mileage for non-reimbursed expenses, volunteer travel, medical travel out of the area…)

These are not overwhelming tasks, but they can make a huge difference come the new year. This can help you and your tax preparer and lessen the stress with this fateful annual date we all have.

Let me know your ideas. What works for you? Do you have a simple tool or task that makes tax season easier for you? Please share so everyone can benefit!

Tuesday Tip – Unsubscribe

Posted on March 4, 2014 by Tanya

Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe from lists – mail or email!

Often people sign up for something they are interested in at the time but later realize they always just delete the emails when they arrive. Go ahead and hit that “Unsubscribe” button and free your In Box of unnecessary email that takes up your time.

Use Paper Karma to be removed from mailing lists for junk mail and to keep all those catalogs from coming to you. This is good for you and for the earth.

So be brave and reduce what is coming to you unnecessarily. It is quite freeing! Wouldn’t you rather have your mail box look like this:

Puppy in Mailbox

Money Management – for Elderly & Disabled

Posted on February 18, 2014 by Tanya

I don’t know about you, but I simply LOVE working with elderly folks! They are charming, engaging, insightful, knowledgeable and generally quite fun. And, because of my background in mental health, I also really like working with and being around people with intellectual disabilities and/or mental health issues.

These two groups of neighbors have one thing in common – the likelihood of being taken advantage of. And that hurts my heart and makes me really mad. So, through Structured Chaos I am continuing my help in this way: I provide money management services to the elderly and people who have intellectual disabilities and/or mental illness. My goal is quite simple – prevent loss.

What happens is that people see these folks as easy targets and manipulate or outright take advantage of them and their access to money. With my services, I assist them with sorting through their mail, talking about what mail they receive, explain what is junk mail and needs to be shredded or recycled, what are legitimate bills that need to be paid, and set them up with a personal banker at their financial institution. This way they are learning and retaining control over their life and have someone else they can trust to go to.

If you know of someone who does not have family around to ensure their financial safety, or someone who is independent but needs some basic help with finances, let me know. I work with others in our community who can assist with taxes, financial planning and other more complicated financial issues.

As a social worker by training, it is so important to me that people have access to supports and services that keep them as independent and self-reliant as possible. That is after all what we all want!

Why Virtual Assistance?

Posted on April 2, 2013 by Tanya

We are fortunate that not everyone is good at the same things. We need each other to perform duties, share skills and otherwise provide services that we are either not capable of doing or simply not interested in doing.

If you are really good at your job but realize that there are a lot of other things that challenge you, maybe  you need a virtual assistant.

If you are a loving, engaged parent but cannot keep track of appointments, meetings and more than one schedule, maybe you need a virtual assistant.

If you are older and find that tending to every day paperwork is overwhelming, maybe you need a virtual assistant.

If you have missed deadlines or struggled with creating or editing documents, maybe you need a virtual assistant.

Hands on Appointment Book.jpgWith a virtual assistant, a lot of these seemingly “little” things can be handled for you. This allows you to focus on the things you need to while knowing that the other things are handled and in a professional and efficient manner.

Some of the needs you may be interested in “outsourcing locally” are: scheduling appointments; document drafting, editing and review; errands and courier services; setting up and managing online accounts; organize and file recipes;and more.

See the new page Virtual Assistant for more details and if any of these services might help you!

Does a “Miscellaneous” File Work?

Posted on December 3, 2012 by Tanya

Many people will tell you that having a file labeled “Miscellaneous” (or a drawer, envelope, shelf…) for all those odds and ends that don’t really fit in neatly to another file is simply NOT the right thing to do. My answer to this is to have a “Work” file. This is the file I keep with me and has all bits of information and reminders that simply was not ready to be filed or I still needed to act on. I keep in the back of it, a few reminders of more long term needs as well as a one page school calendar, and a working “To Do” list.

This “Work” file allows me to have with me just those parts of other files that I may need to work on in the coming week or so and not carry the complete file with me.

For example, I have a file for the First Forum I coordinate each year at New Bern High School. This file has the previous year’s flyers, agenda, contacts, papers others handed out at the events, and my own notes. There is no need for me to carry this complete file with me. Instead, I have the upcoming objectives on my “To Do” list – for now. As the date comes closer, I may well need to carry the complete file with me. Until then, I will rely on my “To Do” list only.

Another example is my Craven County DSS file. There is no need to carry the previous month’s agenda and reports with me all the time. Should I need to be working on something related to DSS, I simply add it to my “To Do” list.

This process allows me to have in my computer bag at all times, those things that are really my go-to items. I keep this bag with me every day and if I end up in town and having time to work for a little bit, I have the necessary reminders handy in my “To Do” list and other working files for current projects. This prevents me from carrying a dozen full files with me all the time; I have what I need and no more.

So, I do have a “Miscellaneous” file and yet I have tweaked it to work for me. Don’t be afraid to do what works for you and disregard the “professionals” (including me!) in order to find what works for you. If you need a Miscellaneous file, then by all means make one and be sure you use it as you need it to work for you. After all, it is your work, your goals, your needs. These are not your boss’s or mine.

Take control of that clutter and get your ducks in a row!


Organizing Your Mail — Snail and Digital

Posted on February 11, 2012 by Tanya

Here is a simple way to make sure you handle your mail as it comes in. In other words, this is how you can stay organized with all that paper that comes into your house every day.

Snail Mail

  • Keep a plastic grocery bag on a door handle where it is easy to fill with recyclables
  • As you come in the house immediately put all junk mail in the recycle bag
  • Open all bills and recycle the envelopes and any inserts
  • Shred any inserts with personal information
  • Put only the bill with the envelope in one stack
  • Put a return address label and stamp on each envelope
  • Write the due date on the envelope next to the stamp


Digital Mail

  • As emails come in, immediately delete any junk emails or chain emails
  • If you know you don’t want to receive any, go ahead and unsubscribe
  • Create mail box folders to store emails you want to keep for reference later
  • Create folders for incoming mail so it is automatically “filed”
  • Answer any emails you can do so quickly and delete from your In box


These processes are easy to do and a must if you are going to get and remain organized. The habit of sorting this way will come in time; soon you will realize how much simpler your bill paying becomes and how much cleaner your counter becomes.

Opt out of mail by registering with:

Direct Marketing Association at or Consumer Credit Report Industry at










Call your card issuers and ask to stop sending junk mail and inserts.

One more step to…

Get your ducks in a row with Structured Chaos






Structured Chaos serves eastern NC and the Raleigh area by appointment. Call 252-665-3424 or send us a message today to schedule your time!