How can I get help?


Read everything about organizing you want; for many people it’s just not enough to help them actually do it. Not only is it hard to know where to start, how do you stay motivated and finish one project without getting sidetracked? Having someone to model, provide support or simply keep you accountable is often what it takes for people to actually get the work done. Here you have several options: 

1.     You can enlist a friend or relative. This may seem like an obvious choice, but people often feel guilty about asking others for their time or are concerned about being judged by people close to them. So maybe that’s not for you.

2.     Use professionals in the media as inspiration and motivation. Watching a show like Hoarders can motivate you to eliminate things, be vigilant about how much you bring into your home, or at least compel you to tidy up. A recent arrival on Netflix is a new series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, from the professional organizer and spokesperson behind the KonMari craze. A couple episodes of that could be your inspiration.

3.     Then there is the option of a real-life Professional Organizer, knowldgeable and sensitive to your plight. You can hire one for a couple hours to help you develop a plan and get you started. Or he or she can work with you from beginning to end, whether it involves specific rooms, paperwork, photos and digital documents, or a whole house clean-out. If you can’t find an organizer in your area, some even work virtually, through Skype, email, phone and text. You can search for one through NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.

Whatever motivation you need, once you take that first step of calling that friend, turning on the TV, contacting a Professional Organizer or just putting that sweater in the donate bag, you’re on your way to getting it done!

How do I begin to get organized?

So, you’ve decided to clean up, declutter, organize and/or simplify. That’s great, but it can be hard to know where to begin. You can start:

  • With your papers, to ensure you haven’t missed a bill,

  • In your living room, or spaces guests see the most,

  • In your bedroom, which is supposed to be your sanctuary, right?

  • In a closet that is overflowing with clothes, shoes and bags,

  • Or, might I suggest, in your kitchen!

Getting rid of expired food, spices and other consumables can not only create more space for storage and cooking, but be important for your health. And fortunately, there is little guesswork involved: The date on the can or box will make the decision for you. Sometimes, the condition of the food will help with that too. (Note: I’ll never forget the childhood experience of excitedly reaching into my grandmother’s refrigerator for a carrot to feed a wild rabbit outside, only to pull out something black and slimy, which I immediately dropped on the orange shag-carpeted kitchen floor. Scarred for life.)

For those items that don’t have dates, you can get a sense of whether you should toss them here. For food that isn’t expired, but you know you’ll never eat, you can donate to a food bank. And when you’ve whittled down to what you really need, check out this site for organizing ideas.

For more help with getting started on decluttering and organizing, check this out.

What’s the best way to start decluttering?

The answer is: start small. Especially if the job is really big or at least seems that way.

It may seem overwhelming to even begin, much less finish. But the only way to make change, or get started on something, is to actually do it.

Start small.

  • Set a timer – on your watch, phone, microwave – for 5 minutes.

  • Look to your left. Is there a cluttered table top? A stack of papers? A pile of laundry? Start there.

  • Begin at the top. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by what is below. What is that first item? Do you need, like or just want it? If it’s a keeper, set it aside. (Here’s more about what to do with things you keep.) If it’s not, throw away, recycle, or put in a box or bag for donation or sale.

  • Move on to the next item.

Time’s up!

Keep going or give it a rest. But be proud that you started. While you bask in the glow of your accomplishment, take time to laugh a little with this article.

Where should I put my stuff?

People have different systems for organizing, but think of the “why” behind organizing: It’s so we can find things. Therefore, your things need homes.

We have homes, which have addresses, so people and mail can find us. We know where to go, and so should it be for our stuff.

Some homes for things are easily determined for us. What’s a typical home for a plate? On a shelf in a kitchen cabinet. In the kitchen, because that’s where food is prepared, served, and often eaten. On a shelf in a cabinet, because it is protected and stacks easily with friends there. But what about swim goggles? Clipped coupons? Rubber bands? You’ll have to create homes for those. It doesn’t matter where, but it has to make sense to you. Think about:

  • Where are you likely to use it?

  • Is it something you want displayed or tucked away?

  • Is the home an appropriate size for that item and all of its friends (others like it)?

  • Most importantly, where are you likely to look for and find it?

For more methods of getting organized, see some of my other posts and check out some of these links I like because they’re helpful and fun (and not because I’m endorsing anything in particular):

My Holiday Organizing Stress Management System

Ok, it's not really a formal system. But when you make a list, and implement the items on the list year after year...then you have basically created a system. Here I will outline all that goes into the holidays in our house, by me, in list form.

Let me start by mentioning that Step One of this year's Holiday Organizing Stress Management System was to get and decorate our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. The day of turkey was so early this year, I was hesitant to do this. I was worried that with so much time yet before Christmas, the tree would be crispy by then. Then it occurred to me that our tree is crumbling and brown every year by the time we drag it to the curb. This is because it's dead, and has been as long as we've known and loved it. After I accepted that, it was a huge relief to have it all done. And, of course, I'm watering it like crazy to prolong the bitter end.

So here's the list, probably not exhaustive, of what I need to take care of this month. I'm sure yours is similar, regardless of what holiday(s) you celebrate. (You're still battling the same crowds and holiday media frenzy.) If you don't have such a list, I suggest making one. It will help you get organized, but it's also pretty amazing to see how much more you accomplish this month! On second thought, maybe you should make this list AFTER the holidays, and take that time to reflect on work well done. Regardless, here's mine:

  • Decorate house - Complete. Yay.

  • Make gift lists - Family, friends, co-workers, service providers, coaches, teachers, pets, others I forget until the last minute, like the kids' piano teacher, who is fortunately here as I write, so I'll remember him this year.

  • Gift purchasing - Ugh. I hate shopping. Driving from place to place, waiting in line, wandering aimlessly or purposefully in ginormous stores. And see below.

  • Gift wrapping and sending - We have a lot of family far away. This time of year is when our Amazon Prime subscription really pays off. My mother-in-law laughs that I single-handedly drive those distribution center people crazy, because at times I'm placing several orders a day. To the same recipient. I don't think it's just me.

  • Order and send Christmas cards - Yes, we still send those out. I actually had a picture I wanted to use, so I ordered them weeks ago (I guess that was really my Step One). But they're still sitting in the box, so I'm not really ahead in this department anymore.

  • Party planning - We host a holiday "open house" most years. Somehow, if I call it an "open house" rather than a "party", I don't feel so much pressure to perform and provide. One of many sneaky stress-management strategies.

  • Food prep - Always a challenge, but thankfully Costco comes through for many needs. And I'm not afraid to shout, "it's pot luck!"

  • Travel plans - We like to ski. Or rather, my husband loves to ski, and we happily go along. This year our Christmas plans involve a ski destination that we can drive to, where we will be joined by family members. Bonus: fewer people to send gifts to. Amazon workers, stand down.

  • Make year-end charitable contributions - I admit, I respond to those last minute pleas. In fact, I depend upon them to ensure I'm donating to worthy causes. Keep that in mind if your kids have any school fundraisers going on.

  • Other - I know I'm forgetting something. That's the stressful part, isn't it?!

So in summary, to manage stress and stay organized this holiday season, make lists when you can. Rely on family and friends. Go potluck. Shop online. I didn't mention this before, but make sure you don't run out of wine. Forgive yourself. It will all be over soon.



5 minute chronicles: From mess to makeover

Have you ever noticed that an accidental mess or mistake can actually result in a cleaner, neater space? A kitchen floor dirty from daily use can long be ignored, in my house anyway. But spilled orange juice can’t. Left alone, it becomes a sticky ant magnet or worse. I can’t tell you how many times a child (or adult) in our home has spilled an entire glass of OJ or milk, prompting me to fly to the sink for a wet rag. After the spill is dealt with, that floor is considerably cleaner than it was before the accident!

Similarly, I recently knocked a semi-full, open container of Bare Minerals powder – the bronzer, no less – into an open drawer in my bathroom. The drawer contained various open bags of hair accessories, a first aid kit, and old medications. The powder snowed down and blanketed it all. I didn’t have time to deal with it at the time, but today I returned with a vacuum to address the issue.

As I was removing the powder, I realized I hadn’t really looked in those bags recently, or even in the past year. The hair accessories...those plastic headbands always give me a headache, so why do I have them? The first aid kit: the items that hadn’t been pilfered already had long ago expired. And those old medications were in a bag in that drawer, because I’d forgotten about them and had bought newer versions, which were now in the medicine cabinet where medications belong.

I added 5 minutes of cleanup time to purge the old stuff from this drawer. Thanks to the makeup powder mess, that drawer got a makeover!