How to

By Wende Zimmerman

Many of us are intimidated by the mere thought of getting organized — let alone maintaining an organized lifestyle — but these hints can help.

“What if I Need it One Day?”

This question is the root cause of our inability to let go of things. To make the process easier, it helps if we do it in steps. The first step is to go to your local office supply store and purchase several boxes that are not transparent. Don’t spend a lot of money on them, because they will, one day soon, be leaving your home.
Assemble a box, go through one room in your home and fill the box with items you no longer use but have worried about getting rid of — in case you need it one day. When the box is full, label it with the name of the room and the date. Then wrap a layer or two of packing tape around the box and put the box in the corner of your basement, attic, garage, spare room or extra closet.

Do this in each room of your house. As the year progresses, if you think, “Oh, I really need/wish I had X,” you have it. Just go to the appropriate box, cut the tape and pull out the item. It’s important that you pull out only the item you went into the box to get. Re-tape the box and put it back on the stack. After a year, take the boxes to a favorite charitable organization.

If you haven’t needed it over the course of a year, you really don’t need it. And this slow process of letting go alleviates much of the anxiety associated with the process of clearing the clutter.

Everything Needs a Home

The number one cause of disorganization is not having a place for the item in question. Designate appropriate homes for everything similar. Like items should always be grouped together and live in the same area of the house. Keep all board games together, future gifts in another area, sports equipment in another, arts and craft supplies in another, and so forth.

Develop Routines that Work

Even the most creative artistic types who balk at the very concept of routines can find simple organization habits that don’t cramp their style. Next to your entryway, have a designated “dumping ground”— bowl where you throw keys and mail or a large basket to unload miscellaneous items. Even if you can’t empty it out and put everything in its proper place for a few days, you’ll know where to start looking. Just be sure to clear out the “dumping ground” at least once a week.

Everyone Gets an In-Box

Corporate America couldn’t live without them; why should we have to? Set up a separate basket, bin, box or tray for each member of the family. When you find your son’s shoes in the middle of the living room floor, into his box they go. When you discover your daughter’s latest masterpiece still on the dining room table, toss them into her box. If your kids need something signed for school, they put it into your box. The trick with in-boxes is getting into the habit of clearing them out daily. That way nothing gets overlooked.

Use it … or Hide it

In every room of your house, keep frequently used items at your fingertips. In your office, the files you most often need can live in a desk drawer or on the desktop  in a step organizer. In your bathroom place the toiletries you use every day in the top drawer of the basin cabinet or in a nice container on top of the cabinet. Items used only on occasion should stay in the linen closet or less accessible areas. In the kitchen, put the utensils you use the most in a crock or pitcher on the counter. Keep everything else in cabinets and drawers.

Being organized is a learned skill. With time, patience and dedication, you can have a more peaceful and organized life — and home.

Wende Zimmerman is the owner of Saving Spaces, LLC, in Baltimore. She is the current president of the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers. 

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