Your magazines are spilling out of the rack and onto the floor beside your sofa. Haphazard piles of paper cover your countertops, coffee table, and dining room table. You can’t see your closet floor for the collection of shoes, wire hangers, and purses. These are the telltale signs that you are due for a home organization overhaul.
“There is usually a precipitating event,” said professional organizer Sandy Wright of Memphis, Tenn. It may be as simple as ‘I have lost my keys for the last time’ or it could be a more significant event such as downsizing or a spouse saying ‘I can’t live this way anymore’.”
But many procrastinate because home organization seems like such a daunting task, Wright said.
“People see it as a looming, huge project. It’s like how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time, but when you see the elephant it’s overwhelming,” said Wright, who has been a professional organizer since 1991.
But your life will improve once you make the commitment to getting organized. You will have more time, because you will spend less time looking for lost items, such as car keys. You will save money because you won’t waste money buying items you already had but couldn’t find. “It’s like healthy eating; this is healthy living,” Wright said. “Once you get a system the system will take care of you.”
The best – and probably the only — way to accomplish this goal is to create a written plan. Start with small jobs such as cleaning off the top of the refrigerator and work up to bigger jobs. Write down what you want to accomplish and then how you plan to do it. Break down each job into small, doable steps. Some steps may take five minutes; others may take 15 minutes; a few may take an hour. Then set aside small pockets of time to complete each part of your plan. Tackle each step and go on to the next one. Before you know it, you will have accomplished your task.
Each person’s plan will vary depending on goals and lifestyles. But there are common themes everyone should keep in mind.
One guiding theme is the saying “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Another guiding thought is the acronym SPACE, which was coined by professional organizer Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out.
S – Sort
P – Purge
A – Assign a home
C – Containerize
E – Equalize
“You ask yourself a lot of questions,” Wright said. With each item, you must ask yourself is this something I use all the time, sometimes, rarely, or never?
“If clothing doesn’t fit, it needs to be discarded rather than kept to gather dust, occupy space and possibly rot. Before an item is no longer useful, let someone else benefit from it. A good rule of thumb in maintaining clothes is ‘buy one, discard one’.” Wright said.
If it is something you never use you must decide what to do with it – throw it away, give it to charity, give to a family member or friend, or sell it in a garage sale. For things you do still use, you must decide the best place to store it. Then assign a place and, if needed, obtain proper containers for the items. Then sit back and enjoy your clutter-free environment.
A professional organizer can help you map out a plan for home organization. You may hire someone for a few hours or for several days if you want someone to help you with an “attic-to-basement” overhaul. In the Mid-South professional organizers charge anywhere from $40-$85/ hour. Most require a two-hour minimum and will usually price a flat rate for large projects.
Ask for references and interview prospective organizers. Remember this person is going to be in your house. You want to feel comfortable and have a rapport with the person you hire. The National Association of Professional Organizers Web site (www.napo.net) has an automated referral system. Sandy Wright may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901.647.3343.
Published: May 4, 2004
Source: Sandy Wright, National Association of Professional Organizers
Writer: Elizabeth Todd Bartholomew, MA, APR