Organization isn’t one of my strong suits … just ask my parents or any of my former roommates. I could care less if my personal belongings are scattered around or in a pile on the floor. Hunting for misplaced items has become routine — I’ve even had to resort to buying a few Tile Mates, which are tiny squares that attach to items like keys and beep to help you find them when they’re hidden. (If you haven’t heard of them, check them out! They are extremely useful and reasonably priced.)
Recently I decided to make a conscious effort to work on my organization and get things in order, except I honestly didn’t know where to start. So I took a guess — and purchased Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You’ve probably heard of it, as it’s had a lot of hype, which is probably why I fell for it. While I wouldn’t call buying it a big mistake, it was definitely a little overzealous to think I’d be able to emulate Marie’s organizational extremes. As I read the book I was constantly overrun with questions like “I need to talk to my shoes? And fold my socks because they need to rest?” If you’ve read the book, you know what I am talking about. If not, you won’t understand until you’ve read the book. I still can’t explain the theory for the life of me. Instead of feeling encouraged and up for the task of organizing — or as Marie says, “tidying up,” I felt overwhelmed and hesitant. Yet, I refused to give up. Instead, I went to professional organizer (they do exist, thankfully!) in Charlotte, Laurie Martin of Simplicity Organizers, to get her help and am so glad that I did. Laurie broke down the really important aspects of getting organized from where to start, what supplies to purchase, what to keep or get rid of and, most importantly, how to maintain everything once you get it in order.
I’ve found Laurie’s tips and tricks extremely helpful, and I know you will too!
Where’s the best place to start when tackling an organization project?
Wherever is causing you the most trouble. If your closet is a mess and driving you crazy, start there. If your children’s things went from barely under control to unmanageable over the holidays, start there. If you’re worried that your tax records for 2016 are scattered to the winds, start in your office. It’s like asking the doctor what’s the best exercise. The right answer is “whichever one you’ll do.” The same is true for organizing.
How do you help clients decide what needs to be tossed or just needs a designated place?
By reminding them of the definition of clutter. Clutter is anything that is unused or unloved, anything that exceeds your storage capacity, and anything that if tossed, can be easily and inexpensively replaced should the need arise. Let go of clutter and find good homes for the keepers.
What are some small daily steps someone can take towards getting organized?
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Digging out of too much stuff won’t happen in a day either. Like any big project, small, sequential steps get the job done. Can you consider a “spending detox” while you dig out of the excess you already own? Stemming the flow of new things into your home will at least keep you at even. Can you commit to filling one bag each day with either recycle, donations or trash? Another way to consider small steps is by vowing to spend 30 minutes each day on de-cluttering. If you live in a family, get all family members on board. By actively participating, they are more invested in the project, and as the old saying goes, “Many hands make light the work.”
What’s the biggest mistake you see people making while trying to get organized? How can it be avoided?
The No. 1 mistake is leaping before looking. It’s important to really think about WHY you’ve gotten into this situation before you strategize HOW to get out. The solution is to think before doing. The doing is very important, but it will be greatly enhanced by doing some soul-searching first.
Filing important papers is something we absolutely dread. What’s the best way to keep everything in order?
A place for everything and everything in its place is a good mantra for papers, especially. If you have a system (whatever system works for you — and letting them live in unruly piles is not a system), it is very easy to put important papers where they are easily accessed. Most people like file folders with clear labels. Put newest papers either in the front or back — consistently. Purge old papers that are no longer active or relevant. Start your new year’s tax file on January 1 so that no tax record is ever “homeless.”
Once a house or room is organized, what steps are imperative to keeping it that way?
Set a timer, put your cell phone away, play some music, and spend 20 minutes (10 minutes for children) at the end of each day tidying your home. A designated time each evening will start you out on a fresh start for the next day. Daily tidying will prevent hours of organization overhaul. Follow the One In-One Out Rule. If a new toy comes in, an old one needs to go. Ditto with clothes and electronic gadgets. Remember, if an item exceeds the space available to store it, it’s clutter.
Best products someone should have in their home to prep and stay organized?
Label maker, file folders, clear lidded containers, drawer dividers and matching slim-line closet hangers will all make your life easier and neater. But don’t go overboard. And don’t buy supplies until you’ve done the first step in getting organized. Buying organization supplies might be an endorphin rush, but without serious thinking first, these purchases are likely to become more clutter.
Favorite places to shop for organizational products to use in clients’ homes?
What’s one rule you live by?
Needs and wants are fundamentally different. Our needs are much fewer than our wants. Be honest with yourself about whether you’re satisfying a genuine need or indulging a fleeting want.
What’s your top tip or trick for the average person to start their own organizing if they can’t hire a professional?
Start small. You don’t have to get the whole house straight in one fell swoop, despite this notion having been popularized recently. Cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer or tossing all the old magazines, catalogues and takeout menus is a great start. Success in one area will motivate you for success in another. Every family member should be engaged in this enterprise.
How have you seen getting a house in order positively affect your clients?
The obvious effect is a cleaner, calmer living space. The surprising effect is that it’s not just the physical environment that becomes clearer and calmer, but the client’s whole life is enhanced — mind, soul and body. Heads are less busy, calendars are less bloated, and children are less frantic. In summary, it’s life simplified.
If you’re like me and could use the expertise of Laurie and Simplicity Organizers, they offer a number of amazing organizational services. They even offer workshops to help teach kids and teens organizing skills from the get go! Learn more on their website.
Find even more solutions for leading an organized life in our “Organization” archives. Click here!