Several years ago a woman called me because her friend threatened her! The friend was concerned and frustrated because she tried to help the woman get rid of the excessive amount of stuff in her home without any success. She reached the last straw when the woman tripped over a pile of newspapers and as a result of the fall, broke her foot. Now in a cast and forced to go up and down the stairs on her bottom, the friend threatened to call protective services if a professional organizer was not hired. This was an extreme situation, of course, and yet it raised numerous issues related to organizing and how it can improve both personal safety and health. In less extreme situations clutter, or excessive quantities of items, objects, and paperwork, can cause a variety of other concerns in addition to obstacles that cause falls: Fire hazard Compromised emergency preparedness, inability to access important items in an emergency or exit a building safely Injuries from stacked items falling Dust and mold that may cause or aggravate allergies, asthma Social isolation that may be caused by shame surrounding a cluttered environment, including estrangement from family members, and a negative impact on interpersonal relationships. If this sounds like someone you know or a situation that troubles you, it’s time to talk with a Professional Organizer. As a Professional Organizer I am part of an industry that trains us to work with these situations in a systematic, confidential and non-judgmental manner. It is stressful for a family member or friend to help no matter how much they care and mean well. They can support the work that the individual does with the professional. Write down your questions, concerns, and most importantly, your goals. All it takes is a phone call to start your forward movement.
You may think that a nice big container will help you organize all of those papers, take out menus, receipts and so on but wait! Deep containers and bins for a variety of items end up attracting large, unsorted piles of paper. Notice the green container holding that pile and taking up what we Professional Organizers refer to as valuable real estate? Eventually, you’re going to have to take action and the question is, will it be the best use of your time? Some potential hazards include: Losing something important. Forgetting to pay a fee. Missing a deadline. Being closed out of an event. Forgetting an appointment. Expired coupons and gift cards. The result? Wasted time, energy, stress, self criticism or loss of credibility. Organize first by doing a quick sort in order to avoid the piles and desire for something to contain them in. Take action the same day…keep it? If it is something that you need to act on, do it right away or schedule it. If it is for reference later, put it in your tickler file. If you can find it elsewhere (Internet), then recycle it. Confidential? Then shred it. Deep containers and bins are good for larger items such as large toys, blankets, and off season clothing and gear.
A clutter-free life! What does that mean to you? Some people imagine having a schedule that allows them to balance their time between self, family, volunteerism, work, exercise and creativity. Others long for a comfortable, open space. There are those that wish for a stress-free wardrobe. Read on… TIP: To create and maintain this type of clutter-free schedule: Your balanced schedule: Accept balance as a dynamic rather than static state. Balance is not 50-50, it is constantly shifting. Make sure that your goals are realistic. Some rather than all: Doing everything every day is not realistic. Avoiding or procrastinating about doing or starting something because you can’t find time every day sounds like sabotage. Find 3 times a week, commit, and be consistent. Some people tell me that a clutter-free life, for them, looks like clear counter surfaces. TIP: To create and maintain your clutter-free space: Clear it when you are done: Space is meant to be used. Commit to creating your “Optimal Habit” and clear the space when you are finished using it, and before you leave the room. Establish zones or areas: Focus on the function of the space so that the items that are in or near it are only the ones that you need for that function. This will make it easier to put things back where they belong. A clutter-free wardrobe is the easiest task of all! TIP: To create and maintain your clutter-free wardrobe: Donate or consign: Let go of the clothes that do not fit you now and haven’t for a year or more. Let go of the clothes that have negative emotions attached to them. Remember that someone else can make use of items that no longer make you look and feel fabulous in the body that you are in today! Use… read more →
What is your goal for decluttering and organizing your space? You want your space to align with your needs, that’s your starting point. Then you can begin the decluttering process and remove what is not needed in that space. Clear surfaces look nice but they also need to be functional. Identify what you will want to use a specific space or surface for…serving food? Working on arts and crafts? Once you determine that, you can gather what you will need to organize and store in or near that space. Go ahead, use the space! After you use it, get into the habit of clearing it. Store the materials and supplies where you created specific “homes” for those items. Grow your space to create and live an abundant life!
Here are 3 guiding principles that you can post in a visible place and use to help you get out of feeling overwhelmed from the clutter in your life: A little bit of organizing is better than none. Set yourself up for success. Expect that you will go off course. A little bit of organizing helps you to see success more quickly and feel less overwhelmed. Doesn’t it feel great to start and finish a project? Don’t try to tackle an entire room. That can create a feeling of being overwhelmed and keep you from starting. Instead, clear out a specific space like an all purpose (aka junk) drawer. Set yourself up for success means that you want to learn to accurately estimate how much time something will take you. If you cannot complete a project or task in one sitting, it’s better to break it up into smaller increments. Rather than think you can reorganize an entire room in 3 hours, schedule an hour to work in one part of the room and see how much you accomplish in that time. Off course? Of course! Life is always changing. The key to effective organizing is to first have a system in place. When something unexpected happens to derail you from optimal organizing habits it’s easier to get back on track if you know where it all belongs. If you share the space, it allows everyone to put things back as well.
At Outside In Organizer and Makeovers one of my organizing mantras is, “love it and use it”. There is nothing “wrong” with keeping the things that you love, use or wear. When organizing and decluttering you want to set some reasonable ground rules and avoid the pitfall of making excuses for why you “can’t” let go of items. Use means current use, not “I might need it someday”. Unless of course “someday” happens within the year! If you are keeping an item that is stained, broken, or missing a part, try to set a date to take it to be “fixed” so that you can use it. If you don’t do this within that time frame, let it go. Consider how long you’ve been “planning to fix it!” These are more effective ways for you to get rid of and prevent clutter: First,take stock of everything that you have and keep it visible. Does seeing it all feel overwhelming? When you gather everything from a category into one place and see how much you have it makes deciding what to keep and what to let go of easier. Second, you can create a display of items so that you remember to use or wear all of them over time. If after a couple of months you see that you are not using them, you can let go. Third, rotate items from the back of a deep shelf or cupboard to the front so that you can remember that you have them to use, consume, or wear. When in doubt, remember your goal is to be organized and clutter-free.
Rotate your hangers: Turn all of the hangers in your closet to face the other way…every time you wear an item and return it to the hanger, put the hanger back the correct way. At the end of a month look at what you haven’t work, and wear it! At the end of the season, look at what you haven’t worn, and let it go. Contain it: Gather all of the magazines, newspapers, circulars, articles and catalogs you want to read and put them into a single container. Make yourself a promise that the container will never be more than 3/4 full. Each time you add an item, act on the bottom item (read it, discard it if you can find the information somewhere else in the future, scan it if you need the information within the next 3 months). Put it where you need & use it: Gather all of your unexpired store coupons, sort them into a plastic slotted envelope, put them in your car. Create a mail station in 1 convenient, centralized location. Gather all related supplies for your station – letter opener, paper clips, stapler, stamps, return address envelopes, highlighter, shredder, recycling container. No piles!
As your San Diego Organizer I love to look at all of the places that we can utilize for storage after we declutter. For instance, think vertical and add movable shelves on legs. These are great for under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Think about stick-on hooks for the back of a closet or bedroom door. Of course, there may be space under your bed for off season items in storage bins. Recently I worked with a client and we created more drawer space by hanging the belts that she stored in the drawer on a belt hanger, instead. Here are some more ways to maximize your storage space: 1. Utilize vacuum seal bags for off season clothing as well as excess linens. 2. Stop stockpiling plastic grocery bags and recycle them in drop offs bins at the grocer store. Commit to using the reusable grocery bags instead and store them in your car where they are handy. 3. Clear out your junk drawer; discard expired coupons and gift cards, limit the number and type of items you store there, use drawer organizers to keep things sorted and accessible. 4. Make space in your file cabinet. Shred or recycle items that are no longer useful or current in content. 5. Store less used items such as camping gear and off season clothing in empty suitcases.
As a Professional Organizer I get great satisfaction from 2 things…helping clients to make decisions that enable them to clear clutter, and the reactions and comments that they offer afterwards! “Wow, I didn’t realize how spacious this could be, it looks so much bigger now!” Often, the client wants to clean the space, first. The use of touch and motion when dusting, polishing or vacuuming is comparable to a loving hug for the space or area. Decorating the space or area with aesthetically and emotionally pleasing items is another way to honor the space. Placing just a few special things in the cleared space is so attractive now that the client is more likely to maintain their new organizing habits to keep the space clear. Putting out items that have been stored is another creative way of celebrating the open area; it’s like shopping in your own home! Every couple of months you can rotate items from storage to keep it fresh. During the process of sorting, de-cluttering, and deciding what to keep you identify what is useful and what you still love. Using or displaying the item you keep is the ultimate way to honor and celebrate cleared space. Enjoy!
It’s not uncommon when someone calls me and says that they spent a lot of time organizing and clearing out their space and within a short amount of time, the sense of being disorganized returns. I call that “yo-yo organizing”! How frustrating when you set aside time, sort things, purge items, buy bins and containers, and then wonder what did you do wrong? Okay, take a deep breath and realize that you probably didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe it’s time to put away the yo-yo, and try something different. Here are 3 strategies to consider today: Create a systems approach – a regular schedule of organizing tasks to keep you maintained. This is more realistic than binge organizing! Hire a Professional Organizer, and Time Management Coach to be your Accountability Partner. Reward yourself for a task well done!