Get it together: Organizers share tips for clutter busters


Has your new year pledge to get organized hit the wall? Keep reading for ideas that may help re-charge your commitment.

Has your new year pledge to get organized hit the wall? Keep reading for ideas that may help re-charge your commitment.
Photo by: Matt Garner


Bedroom closet before

Bedroom closet before
Photo by: Courtesy


Bedroom closet after

Bedroom closet after
Photo by: Courtesy


Bathroom closet before


Bathroom closer after


Desk cabinets before


Desk cabinets after



Jan Swoope



It''s often the second resolution -- the one right after "lose weight" at the beginning of a new year. The promise to get organized, to reclaim jurisdiction of our space, to restore a sense of harmony to our habitat.


Who doesn''t have a closet they fear a guest will stumble upon, the garage they cringe from, an attic that cries out for help? Just knowing those desperate places are there, waiting, is a mental albatross.


Our fast-paced lifestyles provide plenty of distraction from restoring what "Simple Abundance" author Sarah Ban Breathnach calls the "thread of divine order" to our living and work spaces. But every cleared junk drawer, each shelf or closet, every successful attempt at organizing takes us closer to that sense of renewal and joy in our environments.



"And all it costs," writes Breathnach, "is the time (to plan), the courage (to show up for work) and the creative energy (to do it)."


When we don''t know what we have, or can''t find what we need, our lives are thrown out of balance. Time is wasted, frustration spikes and, not uncommon, it''s felt in the wallet when we run out to buy something we already have ... if only we knew where.


Ah, the feng shui that could enter our lives, if we could simply conquer the clutter and chaos.


For those who have declared this will be the year they come to grips with what drives them crazy, a few personal organizers offer thoughts that could help make 2011 a transformative delight.





"You will express yourself in your house whether you want to or not," said the mother of modern style Elsie deWolfe, who influenced the way America decorated for half a century with her book "The House in Good Taste," penned in 1913.


Few of us want our house to express sloppy. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting organized, we''re our own worst enemy.


"We keep things because we persuade ourselves we''ll need them, even if we haven''t touched them in years. There''s a certain security in just knowing they''re around ... somewhere," writes Hara Estroff Marano for Psychology Today. "But that''s our inner hoarder talking."


What most of us really need, says Marano, is a personal push -- an experienced professional organizer to separate us emotionally from the possessions we no longer need and that clutter our minds as well as our space.


Jennifer of Brady of Columbus is one of those professional organizers. She started her business, A Place for Everything, in 2005, just about the time organizing really became a buzzword and related TV shows began popping up on TLC and HGTV, she said.


In the years since, Brady has turned her talents to homes, offices, attics, closets, pantries, bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms -- any space not functioning to potential.


"The elimination of clutter also eliminates frustration, stress and chaos," said Brady. "No. 1 is making it a priority. Carve out that time, write it on your calendar, schedule the time like you would for anything else important, like a doctor''s appointment. Promise yourself you''re not going to answer the phone or stop every five minutes to check e-mail."



Got goals?


"Plan" comes before "work" in the dictionary with good reason, says Breathnach. "But before planning, you''re going to have to think your way through, just as you''d approach an overwhelming project at work. Allow yourself to think on paper before you act. Make a commitment to do one room (or project) a month."


Brady also stresses beginning with a viable plan.


"Don''t just run to Walmart and buy a bunch of random storage containers and think, ''Oh, I''m going to organize this closet today,''" she said. "For instance, you need to measure, you need to make sure your containers are going to fit your space almost perfectly, without a lot of gaps, so you aren''t even tempted to shove or cram something on that shelf that doesn''t belong there."


Apart from size, the design of storage containers can have huge impact, noted Brady.


"Depending on your budget, they could all be plastic (of the same color), or beautiful fabric-covered boxes. If you make all the containers the same it will be aesthetically pleasing, and that works with the psychology of this. It isn''t just a closet any more; it''s a pretty space. It''s more of a deterrent to make it messy if it''s also a pretty space."



Letting go


The fear of throwing things out is an emotional roadblock to getting our house -- or office -- in order.


"Think of your closet as prime real estate; the things that are within arm''s reach there need to be things you are using regularly," advised Brady. "You have to be willing to really evaluate: ''Do I use this? Do I need this?''" she stressed.


For example, do you really need the sweatshirt, T-shirt, the airline ticket and that big plastic bag of brochures and travel books to remind you of a fabulous trip?


"Maybe you have a beautiful picture of the family in front of the Eiffel Tower that holds those memories for you and could get rid of that other stuff, but frame the picture," she suggested.


In Psychology Today, organizer Mia Lotringer says if you can''t be ruthless, you may want to stage some items out of your life. Put the ones you''re on the fence about in a box with "destroy" written on it and a date, generally six months off. If you haven''t fished it out, and used it, in that period of time, it goes.


Brady makes a special effort to shop locally for items she''ll use in any organization project, as well as donate any useable item being pruned out to Palmer Home Thrift Store or other area charities.




    Brady shared several more tips, particularly for closets.


  • While everything is out of your closet, why not repaint the interior for a fresh look? Maybe even add lighting.


  • Use the same types of hangers. "It helps tremendously, whether you want a wood hanger, felt-covered or anything else; it''s the one thing that will make a difference in your closet automatically."


  • "One trick is to hang all your hangers on a rod backwards and turn them around once you wear a garment. If, at the end of a year, you walk down your closet and there are still some hanging backwards, you know you haven''t worn the item, and it may need to go."


    CNN Living also offers:


  • Eliminate plastic dry-cleaner bags, which don''t allow fabrics to breathe, keeping dry-cleaning chemicals in the clothing.


  • Coordinate wardrobe by color, and hang like-types of clothing together (i.e. skirts, pants, blouses, etc.)


  • Keep items used frequently at eye level and those rarely used higher up.


  • Store folded sets of bed linens inside one of the set''s pillowcases.


Brady suggests signing up for Martha Stewart''s organizing tip-of-the-day and a free "Get Organized Now" e-newsletter. Both are free and available through websites highlighted. "They''re just things that are fun and easy to do that can help keep you motivated," the organizer remarked.



It''s all relative


"Out of clutter, find simplicity ..." Albert Einstein once said. The German-born Nobel Prize winner may have had the theory of relativity in mind, but the edict applies just as well to our quest for the "thread of divine order."


The hardest part is getting started. But once we''re in motion -- as the famous physicist would know -- momentum is on our side.



Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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