Operation Organize

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    It’s astounding how clutter affects our daily lives. Check out these stats from the National Association of Professional Organizers:

    • 80 percent of what we keep, we never use.
    • 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (resulting in late fees) because they lose them.
    • The average American kills 12 weeks a year looking for things they know they own, but can’t find.
    • Americans waste more than 9 million hours each day looking for lost and misplaced items.
    • About 80 percent of the clutter in your home is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.
    • Getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home.
    • A study conducted by IKEA reported that 31 percent of customers were more satisfied after clearing out their closets than they were after sex!

    It doesn’t end at home. Messes and clutter can put a real damper at the office.

    • Executives waste six weeks per year searching for lost documents.
    • 73 percent of workers say that impressions of colleagues were influenced by the way their desks are organized.
    • The average business loses one out of every 20 documents.

    The Learning Channel (TLC) brought us the first show to put organizing in the spot light with “Clean Sweep.” The show is captivating with mounds of clutter that put Mt. Rumpke to shame, and can leave you awe-struck with the final reveal of a neat, tidy place to live. For anyone that has seen this Emmy worthy show (excuse the personal bias), it never fails to ponder, “How on earth did it get that bad?”

    According to Janice Ash, professional declutterer, organizer, Feng Shui provider and owner of I Declutter, there are many reasons. If we don’t know it, how can we do it? With 17 years of decluttering under her belt, Ash should know. She says, “we’re not taught how to cohesively set up out living and working environments.” Keeping things organized might seem like common knowledge, but if people who are chronic clutterers aren’t shown how to keep things tidy, the mess can just accumulate. Also, in today’s day in age, people are rarely home to keep things organized, and we are there, most of our time is spent taking care of our families or catching up on other things around the house that have been neglected.

    Sales can also have the “Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde” effect. Yes, we save money during these low costs times, but we also tend to take the store’s complete stock without the real need for those items. Who doesn’t love the 10 for $10 deals at Kroger and Biggs? As much as we love to stock up, it just adds up to an overcrowded pantry. Speaking of buying power, Ash also says that we have lost sight of the “less is more” state of mind, and we have fallen into the “more is more” lifestyle, always wanting the newest, latest and greatest items.

    You have the motivation, but it can deflate on a dime when you stop and really look at your mess. Perhaps you have one room that needs a little fixing up – that’s no so bad. But what about when multiple rooms and spaces are in dire need of help? Ash provides five places and areas to start with:

    1. The first place to organize is the space that bothers you the most. Is it your bedroom? Pantry? Basement? Wherever it is, it typically gets under your skin more than any other place, and will give you more satisfaction to see tidy.
    2. Think about the first think you see in the morning – the four walls of your bedroom, which also happens to be the last thing you see before you go to bed. How do you feel waking up to a closest spewing like Mt. St. Helen, or a dresser that hasn’t been seen since the day you got it? How does this make you feel? More than likely, it’s not exactly the best part of waking up.
    3. It is also known as your personal storage unit – your garage. Ash reminds us how important this area is, particularly when you can use it for its intended purpose. Similar to the bedroom, it is usually the last thing you see when you leave for work, and the first thing you see when coming home, assuming you can even park your car in there.
    4. The most common thing people tend to organize first is their closet. Have you ever felt like you needed a miner’s hat with the beam light on top just to see the back? Often times, it is crammed with old clothes that you haven’t worn in years, don’t fit into or won’t ever fit into. Ash says that “a cluttered closet makes us late more often than traffic.”
    5. Drawers and cabinets are just like closets. Aside from the “junk drawer”, searching through a cluttered drawer is time consuming and wasteful. Old products or food take up space, and can be very harmful is used past their expiration date.

    Here are 10 quick and easy tips to get a start when opting to “do it yourself” from HGTV and TLC:

    • Clean out that makeup drawer, or in some cases, the entire counter. Toss makeup that is over a year old. Some products have expiration dates, but are in different form. They appear on either the case or packaging as a container with a number on the inside, typically in months.
    • Can your garage double as another room with all the extra furniture in there? Load it all up on your truck (or a friend’s) and donate it. Most of the time, the furniture is old or out of date, and that is why it is in there in the first place. It’s amazing how much space a coffee table and an old couch takes up.
    • “Clean Sweep” says, “If you have shoes or accessories that go with a certain outfit, keep them in a bag and tie it to the hanger the outfit is on.”
    • Pick and purge before you start. It will make putting things back in place much easier when there isn’t so much junk.
    • Have a home office in an extra bedroom and a small space? Take off the doors and put the desk in the closet.
    • Use bed risers/lifts/blocks. They are an inexpensive way to give you a little extra storage, plus it gives your bed that “high and royal” look.
    • Kids’ toys can be a pain in the neck (and feet when you step on them). Attention mothers: if you have more than one child, assign them each a bin and label it with their name. Teach the children to put toys in their bin when finished.
    • You don’t need expensive plastic totes for storage. Ask a grocery store employee in receiving if you can have a couple of large boxes. They are free and great to store holiday or seasonal items.
    • Sharpie markers can be your friend. Label, label, label – it makes it much easier to find things later.
    • Use closet space vertically as well as horizontally. You can buy kits or “build-you-own” materials at home improvement stores to get extra hanging space. Use the extra depth and height space for a full “wall shelf” for the home office. Keep the doors on the closet to tuck it away, or take them off if accessed all the time.

    Your space is clean and organized. Now what? The first rule of thumb is to purge items in your trouble spots every six months. Sell or donate any items you don’t use anymore, and don’t be afraid to toss. Another rule is the buy/toss policy. This can be extremely hard for us females, but it helps to keep that closet clean, and it can actually help save money when you get the shopping itch. For every new item of clothing you get, toss or donate one. Hard – yes, but people swear by it. It works for kids toys too! Also, work together to keep you space organized, and teach your children to take care of things they have.

    If you feel that your clutter is out of your hands and you know something needs to be done, contact a professional, such as Ash. She not only helps with decluttering, but also uses Feng Shui to help create a more serene and calm space. The cost of hiring a pro is minimal and can take a ton of stress off of you. A professional is also great for the office because it doesn’t take away from the time that you need to spend on getting down to business.

    If you want more tips on how to do it yourself, here are a few online sources that offer addition help getting organized: