New year offers opportunity to organize

Staff Writer

Mise en place is a French culinary term that means “putting in place.” For chefs, having ingredients prepared and arranged before the cooking process begins allows for greater organization and efficiency in executing a recipe. Applying that concept in everyday life can bring that same organization to almost any task. “The ability to be organized has become increasingly more important because living in contemporary America, life has become very complex and multifaceted. We live in an age of specialization which creates more options and more decisions,” said Michael Osit, Ed.D., a psychologist, author and speaker from Warren.

Osit offers an example. Forty years ago, he said, one would go to the grocery store to buy orange juice and it was available fresh or frozen and came in either a frozen can or a glass bottle.

“I recently went to the local market and found 27 varieties of orange juice — pulp, no pulp, some pulp, concentrate, vitamin D, and it now comes in cartons, juice boxes, pouches, bottles, etc.,” Osit said. Such mundane decisions can overwhelm individuals and lead to an inability to focus, and in turn, to stay organized.

“To become organized takes a good deal of emotional control and focus,” said Michael Vito, Ph.D., a psychologist with offices in Morristown and Watchung.

To get (and stay) organized, individuals must be “convinced of the value of organization,” Vito said.

Organization, Vito said, leads to better mental health by creating a “less stressful and better functioning” state of mind.

“Organized individuals run their life instead of their life running them. They are in control, which optimizes positive outcomes and minimizes stress and crisis occurring in their life,” Osit said.

According to National Association of Professional Organizers Member Director, Lori Vande Krol, good organizational systems reduce stress and allow people to focus time and energy on what matters most.

“With the speed and volume of information and clutter in our lives today, it has become even more important to have the right systems in place to manage it all,” Vande Krol said.

Organized people, Osit said, can greatly reduce anxiety when life is relatively predictable and surprises are at a minimum.

“Organized people frequently have a plan B, so they do not feel trapped or victimized in specific situations,” Osit said.

The first step to getting organized, whether at home or at work, involves a commitment to putting in the work upfront.

“Employ a ‘work now, play later’ philosophy,” Osit said.

In other words, “become a list maker and prioritize items,” Osit said.

Other suggestions that Osit offers include the following: immediately enter appointments into either a mobile phone or calendar; promptly list items on a to-do list; leave buffer time for appointments and deadlines to account for unexpected events such as traffic or illness; and develop routines for daily tasks so they are automatically completed.

Although technology is often designed to help with getting organized, the opposite effect often occurs.

“Technological devices can be critical tools to help a person be organized in their life if used appropriately (calendar, reminders, to-do lists, alerts, etc.), but they are also a significant distraction from the task at hand, which can cause inefficiency,” Osit said.

The Internet, tablets and mobile phones, Osit said, have created a “tremendous distraction from the present moment.

“Even when people are not sending or receiving messages, a piece of their attention is on the device that could buzz or vibrate at any moment.” Osit said.

Simple advice, like make a plan and stick to it, can facilitate greater organization.

“Put the keys in the key spot and the junk in the junk spot,” Zito said.

In the last decade, the organization industry has experienced growth, as evidenced by the increase in membership in the National Association of Professional Organizers. In 2005, there were 2,945 members, and today there are nearly 4,000 members, about a 30 percent increase, Vande Krol said.

“Interestingly, I am seeing a revitalized interest in living a simpler lifestyle by downsizing space, possessions and activities,” Vande Krol said.

Heather Pierce, owner of House in Order, a professional organization company serving central New Jersey, said the most common request she receives is for help in organizing paperwork.

“Many people hold on to much more paper than they need to because they don’t know what to keep and what to get rid of,” Pierce said.

People often become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper that enters their home whether it’s via mail, their child’s backpack or shopping receipts, Pierce said.

“They do nothing to clear the paper clutter. The result is often cluttered kitchen counters, drawers or cabinets, overstuffed filing cabinets, bags and boxes of papers that get moved from place to place, but never sorted and dealt with,” Pierce said.

Pam of Toms River, a client of Pierce, said her “breaking point” with clutter came after she retired and was at home amidst years of accumulated items.

“I started feeling overwhelmed with my possessions,” Pam said.

With Pierce’s service, Pam was able to organize papers that had piled up for years.

“Now I follow a path that there is a place for everything. I’ve been able to break old habits,” Pam said.

When Pierce meets with clients, she discusses any fears or anxieties they may have about the reorganization process.

“Every client is different, so my plan for each client may be different — what works for one person does not work for all. It is important to set clear expectations as far as the desired outcome, projected time needed to complete an organization project, costs of completing a project and the roles each of us will play in the overall completion of the organization project, Pierce said.

It takes a great deal of courage for many people to reach out to a professional organizer for help, Pierce said.

“Many people feel shame, anxiety and embarrassment about the disorganization of their home or office,” according to Pierce.

By conquering the clutter, she said, clients are able to focus on the things that matter most to them.

“Generally, you first want to determine your vision. In other words, how would your ideal space or day look and feel?” Vande Krol said.

Seeing a revitalized interest in living a simpler lifestyle, Vande Krol said, has led to individuals downsizing space, possessions and activities.

Organization Strategies

Get Organized at Home

Some basic tips for better organization at home, according to, include: find a place for every item; keep clutter out of the house; shop for containers after de-cluttering is complete; get rid of duplicates; de-clutter nostalgia, such as children’s artwork, by taking a picture of a child holding art work or crafts.

Get rid of old clothes using the 80:20 rule: we wear 20 percent of the clothes we own 80 percent of the time; look for simple solutions, like a key hook by the front door; and schedule de-cluttering for areas that need it daily, weekly and monthly.

Get Organized at Work

A focus on time, space and mindset is the key to organization at work, according to

Concerning time, the website recommends that individuals start the day with structured time by sorting through email and responding to quick responses and referrals right away, deleting unimportant information and scheduling more essential tasks.

Space, which refers to physical and virtual space, is critical to productivity, the website stated.

The absence of office interruptions can improve concentration when writing or researching a topic, and this might be a task better completed away from the office, according to the website.

Switching off pop-up notifications on mobile devices and on computers, in addition to limiting the number of times email is checked, can result in greater organization of virtual space.

Finally, there is an individual’s mindset. To reduce the feeling of overload and the procrastination associated with taking on overwhelming jobs, divide large tasks into small chunks to better focus, according to the website.

Get Organized at School

It’s as easy as ABC to keep school-related tasks in order, according to

First: “A” place for everything — keep a ready-to-use homework kit filled with school supplies. Next, “be” focused — studying needs to come first when scheduling time and planning activities. Finally, “calendars” posted in a central place at home can help students prioritize tasks, such as test dates and report due dates.

Children should keep a small, personal to-do list in order to get a better understanding of time management, according to the website.

Contact Information

For info, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers at

Sustainable Jersey recognizes Howell environmental effort

Staff Writer

The Howell Green Team — which works to promote good stewardship of the environment — has earned the level of bronze certification from Sustainable Jersey.

Sustainable Jersey is a nonprofit entity that encourages municipal officials and residents to think about the planet and the quality of life where people live, said Brian Tannenhaus, who serves on the Howell Planning Board and on the Green Team.

The Township Council recognized the Green Team during a recent meeting.

Nicholas Huszar, an environmental geologist who serves on the Green Team and on the Howell Environmental Commission, said, “Howell met the requirements to achieve Sustainable Jersey certification. We were one of 48 towns that attained certification in 2015 and were recently honored at the Sustainable Jersey awards luncheon on Nov. 17 in Atlantic City.”

Tannenhaus added, “It is not all about making sure the plastic bottle we drink our water out of goes in the right container. It is about trying to make Howell a better place, to bring a better quality of life to Howell.” Sustainable Jersey uses a point system to award levels of certification, based on a municipality meeting certain criteria

Huszar said an updated natural resource inventory for Howell was completed and a successful prescription drug safety and disposal program was conducted.

“The town is already doing things that are green and sustainable. Our employees are already thinking about how (they) can save the town money and how can we make Howell a better place,” Tannenhaus said.

The Green Team gathered the information and filed the paperwork with Sustainable Jersey. Tannenhaus thanked municipal employees and the council for making certain everything that needed to be in place was in place.

Tannenhaus said residents are welcome to join the Green Team. He thanked current members Gerard Barron, Daniel Cardellichio, Charles Senders, Mary Ann Cernak and Nicholas Huszar for their efforts on behalf of the community.

“We just need some more people on our team to start gathering the information and start to get some programs put together. There are some points that require people to educate the town. So we need some volunteers who may want to go into the schools and teach (about the) environment,” Tannenhaus said.

Deputy Mayor Robert

Nicastro said, “Since Howell became Sustainable Jersey certified, we have been informed we are eligible to apply for grants of $20,000, $10,000 and $2,000. The Green Team and the administration will review the process and criteria and proceed from there.” Nicastro said the type of projects that would qualify for a grant include renewable energy and green building design, waste reduction, a sustainable master plan, water conservation, natural resources management, energy management and transportation issues.

Tannenhaus said the Green Team will now pursue silver certification from Sustainable Jersey.

Huszar said all of the efforts are aimed at saving money, improving energy efficiency, improving health and wellness, reducing waste, sustaining local economies and protecting natural resources.

Speaking about the residents who joined the Green Team when it was recently reconstituted by municipal officials, Nicastro said, “After working with this group of people, I can tell you they are committed and dedicated. We asked them to achieve this (Sustainable Jersey) bronze certification in a short time and obviously they were motivated and we got it done.”

Mayor Bill Gotto said, “Your group (the Green Team) is an example of some of the good things we just don’t spend enough time talking about. Every member was constantly giving value and making sure nothing was left behind. You had a goal and the mission was clear and the results are just stellar. It is an unbelievable job.”

Residents who are interested in volunteering for the Green Team may apply on the Howell website or email Huszar at

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

Staff Writer

 Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis.  CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis. CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West literally jumped for joy with the good news her doctor recently delivered to her. Gracie, 12, of Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years. After she found out her latest scans showed no evidence of the disease, she was jumping on a trampoline within the hour.

“I knew I was going to hit the clear mark,” said Gracie, who is the daughter of Don and Sharon West.

Sharon West said it felt like “the world lifted off your shoulders” when she heard from the doctor that her daughter’s scans were clear.

Gracie, whose nickname is “Cookie,” as in one tough cookie, is a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.

 COURTESY OF THE VATICAN COURTESY OF THE VATICAN Gracie’s protocol included chemotherapy and radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and additional treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City.

But it was a special blessing given to her by Pope Francis in December 2014 that brought Gracie the greatest sense of healing. “I felt calm and peaceful, like everything was going to be fine after (the papal blessing),” the youngster said. Gracie’s trip to see Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was the result of a wish granted to Gracie and her family by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pope Francis hugged and kissed Gracie and gave her a benediction. The pope also shook hands with her brother, Joey.

“It was just the most amazing thing,” Gracie said.

The most difficult part of her battle against cancer, Gracie said, has been “not being able to do the stuff I normally do,” like swimming and playing with her French bulldog Topy, who is named after her first chemotherapy drug, Topotecan.

Gracie’s approach to life can be summed up in the mantra that guides her: you have no choice but to be strong, but you can choose to be happy and positive. Whether facing cancer or a just bad day, Gracie lives by these words.

Sharon West said the support of family members, friends and the community has been critical throughout her daughter’s fight against illness.

The West family established the Cookie’s Crumblers Foundation with a goal to not only help Gracie crumble her cancer, but also to help other children fight cancer.

A portion of the foundation’s proceeds will be contributed to research aimed at curing and eliminating childhood cancers.

The Cookie’s Crumblers 2016 Inaugural Gala of Gratitude will take place on June 4 at the Battleground County Club, Manalapan. For more information, visit Cookie-

Fire districts will merge Jan. 1

JACKSON – Municipal officials have taken the final step needed to merge the operation of two fire districts in Jackson.

An ordinance memorializing the consolidation of Fire District No. 1 and Fire District No. 2 was unanimously adopted by the Township Council during its Dec. 8 meeting. With that act, the number of fire districts in Jackson will decrease from four to three.

Each fire district is served by a fire company in the district and overseen by fire commissioners who are elected by residents of the fire district.

The consolidation of fire districts 1 and 2 will become effective Jan. 1.

Municipal officials voted to dissolve Fire District No. 1 (which is served by the Whitesville Fire Company, South Hope Chapel Road) and incorporate it into Fire District 2 (which is served by the Cassville Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, one station on Toms River Road and one station on Miller Avenue).

The new entity will be known as Jackson Township Fire District No. 2 and all future equipment will receive that new name.

Jackson Fire District No. 3 (served by Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 1) and Jackson Fire District No. 4 (served by Jackson Mills Volunteer Fire Company No. 1) will remain as independent entities.

The consolidation of fire districts 1 and 2 “means more efficiency and savings for taxpayers,” Councilman Scott Martin said. “This is a means to save money for the taxpayers without compromising safety.”

Fire District No. 1 Commissioner Christopher Aldrich previously said a majority of the expected savings will be realized by the removal of redundancies in the fire districts’ professional staff. For example, the new consolidated fire district will employ one attorney, compared to the existing fire districts each employing an attorney.

Fire districts are supported through a tax that each property owner in the fire district pays. Fire District No. 1’s budget for 2015 totaled $615,902 and Fire District No. 2’s budget for 2015 totaled $1.2 million.

Officials said the consolidation of fire districts 1 and 2 will not bring about layoffs for career (paid) firefighters or require the reduction of available apparatus. The consolidated fire district will be comprised of six full-time paid personnel, 15 paid per diem personnel and more than 100 volunteer firefighters.

— Andrew Martins

Feeding the community

 KATHY McBAIN/STAFF KATHY McBAIN/STAFF Lisa Marie Stecker of Greater Media Newspapers’ Advertising Department shows some of the food that was donated during a holiday food drive sponsored by the newspaper group from Dec. 9-21. The food was brought to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune, for distribution throughout the region.

Team Kevin Strive gives youths a helping hand

Volunteers who share a passion for an active lifestyle regularly dedicate their time to individuals who have a medical disability.

The volunteers make up Team Kevin Strive, which was started to raise awareness and to show that people who have a medical disability can still be participants in an active lifestyle.

The nonprofit Team Kevin Strive started when Kim Hansen, of Freehold Township, entered herself and her son, Kevin, 16, in a race. Hansen said Kevin is a special needs child who is medically fragile, but loves to be active.

Hansen and her son have been racing for three years, while Team Kevin Strive is 1 year old.

“My passion is to let Kevin experience anything he can and wants to experience,” Hansen said. “It makes me really excited and happy to see him doing things he enjoys.”

She said Team Kevin Strive’s goal is to raise money that can be used to purchase wheelchairs that have been designed for racing. The equipment allows individuals who have special needs to participate in races in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

“We have racing chairs, bike chairs and even boat chairs that pull the kids in the water,” Hansen said. “Our motto is you can do anything if you just try.”

She said Team Kevin Strive provides opportunities to individuals with special needs who want the thrill of racing by providing a “pit crew” and racing chairs for races of different distances.

“This past year we have done two triathlons and numerous 5K runs,” Hansen said. “Being disabled does not mean you cannot achieve your goals. It is just amazing how unselfish everyone is in helping those in need. You want to help these kids have a really good experience.

“What is so amazing is that these volunteers come just because they want to. When they see these kids smile, they want to come back and do more with them and the kids just have a great time,” she added.

Team Kevin Strive is sponsored by Hooters restaurants. Hansen said Hooters and the Elizabeth Police Department help to raise awareness and money so that children who have special needs may have an active and fun lifestyle.

“The kids hit the finish line and there is really nothing more tear-jerking than going through that with the child you are pushing,” she said.

Individuals who would like to volunteer for Team Kevin Strive may visit the website for additional information.

Evergreens may be recycled

PLUMSTED – For the fourth consecutive year, the Plumsted Youth for Nature and the Environment (PYNE) will collect discarded pine trees and fir trees and bring them to Bradley Beach, Monmouth County, to support dune restoration efforts.

For many towns along the shore, sand dunes help to stave off beach erosion and prevent flooding.

According to PYNE, the discarded trees help to rebuild dunes because the branches bind the sand together. The trees also feed dune grasses as they decompose. However, because the trees decompose, they must be replaced every year.

PYNE Vice President Dominic Esposito said members of the group became interested in dune restoration and the recycling of Christmas trees after superstorm Sandy battered the state’s coastal areas in 2012.

Since Sandy made landfall and caused more than $71 billion in damage across 24 states, communities like Bradley Beach have been successful in using evergreen trees to help build up depleted dunes.

Undecorated pine trees and fir trees will be collected at the Plumsted maintenance building parking lot at the end of Pine Street on the following dates: Jan. 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Jan. 3 from 1-4 p.m.; Jan. 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Jan. 10 from 1-4 p.m.; Jan. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Jan. 17 from 9-11 a.m. Volunteers will help bring the donated trees to the collection area. Residents who are unable to bring a tree to the maintenance building at those times may request a curbside pickup.

For more information, send an email to or to

Race, ride and party into 2016


iPlay America rings in the New Year with a blast during the Fifth annual New Year’s Eve Bash from 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 31. iPlay America’s New Year’s Eve Party pass includes unlimited rides and attractions, a $10 game card, party favors, spectacular prizes and giveaways throughout the evening, a confetti cannon, light show and great music pumping through the entire park, with a live D.J., all for just $39.99. A la carte treats can be purchased at Sonny’s Boardwalk Grill, Boardwalk Bites, Rob’s Pizza, The Grind Coffee Co. and Mixx Frozen Yogurt throughout the celebration.

The New Year’s Eve Party and Prix Fixe Dinner pass is just $79.99 for adults and $54.99 for children age 12 and younger. This pass includes everything in the New Year’s Eve Party Pass plus a champagne toast for adults 21 and older. Dinner reservations begin at 7:30 p.m. and are for 90 minute seatings with staggered seatings every 15 minutes. Toddlers are free. Reservations are required to 732-577-8200.

You can watch the ball drop on one of iPlay America’s multitude of big screen monitors. iPlay America is located at 110 Schanck Road in Freehold.For more information call 732-577-8200 or visit

Holiday lights to be collected, recycled in Plumsted through Jan. 9

Staff Writer

PLUMSTED – A display of holiday cheer and environmental awareness will return to downtown New Egypt for a third straight year as members of a nonprofit organization showcase the merits of reusing and recycling unwanted items.

From now through Jan. 9, Nurture Environmental Stewardship Today (NEST) will be collecting unwanted holiday lights at its third annual “Rockefeller-esque” winter upcycle display.

NEST is a nonprofit organization which seeks to raise awareness of New Jersey’s environmental diversity and to help people lower their carbon footprint.

According to NEST President William Lewis, a 6-foottall

Frosty the Snowman collection bin made of 50-gallon plastic drums will once again stand between the New Egypt Marketplace and the Subway sandwich shop.

Lewis said this year’s display will also feature a 7-foottall arch made up of milk jugs that have been painted to look like penguins, soda bottle snowflakes and “snow blankets” made out of old volleyball nets.

“Our upcycling display makes people look, stop and think about how to recycle household goods,” Lewis said. “To reuse and repurpose, not to throw away.”

Lewis said NEST is hoping to collect unwanted Christmas lights which primarily consist of copper wire and plastic. The lights will be brought to a scrap yard and turned in. Last year NEST collected 201 pounds of holiday lights and raised about $100.

Although the amount of money raised may seem small, Lewis said it was the benefit to the environment that ended up making the collection worthwhile.

“We kept more than 200 pounds of waste that is not very biodegradable out of a landfill,” he said.

According to Lewis, any funds raised by the sale of materials that have been collected will go back to the Plumsted Business and Merchants Association to help pay for the organization’s annual holiday lights display in downtown New Egypt.

Ensuring that the holiday lights display continues is important to the local economy, Lewis said, adding that “this event on Main Street not only beautifies the streetscape, it also attracts residents to the downtown area and hopefully stimulates sales at local businesses.”

‘Show Your Sole’ shoe drive will support rescue mission

Staff Writer

PLUMSTED – An effort to provide shoes to people who need them is hitting its stride in Plumsted as teenagers have set their sights on lending a helping hand.

Plumsted Youth for Nurturing the Environment (PYNE) has started a “Show Your Sole” drive and is collecting gently used shoes for homeless individuals in New Jersey.

PYNE member Ryan Devine said the “Show Your Sole” drive represents a natural expansion of the group’s community-based nature.

“Although one of the main goals of PYNE is to keep recyclable items out of landfills, helping the homeless in New Jersey, especially during the winter, became a priority to us,” Devine said. “We were … interested in helping the less fortunate and there is no better time then during this season of giving.”

Devine said the shoes that are collected will be donated to the Rescue Mission of Trenton in neighboring Mercer County.

“This organization does not just help the Trenton area, they help people from every county in New Jersey who come seeking help,” he said.

From now through Jan. 2, individuals may drop off usable men’s, women’s and children’s shoes at the Plumsted municipal building, 121 Evergreen Road; the Dr. Gerald H. Woehr Elementary School, 44 N. Main Street; and Salon Bliss, 413 Route 539.

Individuals are asked not to drop off ski boots, roller skates, in-line skates, single shoes or shoes that cannot be worn.

“We are hoping that people in our community as well as our fellow classmates are able to look in their closet and find shoes they no longer want and donate them,” Devine said.

Donated dress shoes will be sold in the Rescue Mission of Trenton thrift shop and proceeds from those sales will support the organization’s effort “to provide a safe, clean, warm refuge for the homeless, the hungry, the transient and the addicted,” according to its website.

Devine, who attends New Egypt High School, said he hopes his classmates will donate shoes.

“I have three brothers, so there are many shoes that go unworn and can be put to much better use,” he said. “Imagine if each student from the surrounding schools donated just one pair of shoes. This drive would be a huge success.”

PYNE’s goal is to collect 400 pairs of shoes by Jan. 2.

Devine said he hopes teenagers realize they can make a difference and added, “It just takes an idea and some help to pull together an effort to help the less fortunate. As teenagers, we sometimes forget how lucky we are and we need that reminder … that there are many people who need our help and we should always be willing to lend a helping hand.”