Life Style

Secrets Personal Organizers Would Never Tell You for Free

Industry experts reveal the dirty details to help keep your home organized and clean.

Michelle Crouch

Create five piles

When you’re organizing, you should sort everything into five piles: move to another room, donate, give to a specific person, throw away and, finally, the “marinating” pile. Pack up the marinating items, and label the box with a date that’s six months to a year later. If you never open the box before that date, you can safely discard those items. 

Your goal should be to remove the clutter, not create more storage space

People who think they’re disorganized always run out and start buying baskets, containers and hooks. You come home and try to use them, and they’re not the right type or size, because you didn’t sort through your stuff first. That’s just backward. All those new containers just end up adding to your clutter. Is storing harder in the kitchen?

Hanging shoe bags

In addition to shoes, I use them for gloves and hats in the winter, sunscreen, sunglasses, and goggles in the summer, and crafts, toiletries, and makeup in the winter.

To expedite an organizational project:

Make guidelines on what you’ll keep and what you’ll toss. For example, in your closet, you can select to donate any clothes that aren’t between sizes x and y, is stained or has to be repaired. With magazines, you can choose not to keep anything older than a year.

Anything that needs to go somewhere should be in your car…

…not in your house. Keep your coupons there in a clear folder so you have them if you need them. Get an errand basket to hold items that need to be returned. Use crates to store kids’ toys and emergency supplies. Also, a car trash bag is a simple thing—get one!

You will always take at least five times as long.

Sorting through a box of personal papers often takes considerably longer than you expect. Make a note of which everyday documents you should shred and set them aside from the recycle pile to be properly disposed of.

The number one problem for all my clients: too much paper

The whole idea of a paperless society is a complete myth. People are seriously scared to get rid of it. Remember, 80 percent of the paper you get you don’t need to keep. So it’s imperative to keep weeding out every single day, whether that’s magazines, catalogs, mail, receipts or anything else.

Sure, you could sell that item on eBay…

…but are you interested in finishing your organizing project or starting a new career hocking used stuff? Unless you sell online all the time or need the money, I recommend just giving things away so you can move on.

Watch out for flat surfaces…

…which can quickly become drop zones for clutter. When my clients have a dining table that is always getting covered with junk, I’ll have them clear it off, put a flower arrangement in the middle, and set it with place settings. That usually prevents them from parking stuff there. 

My biggest secret?

Don’t procrastinate. If you postpone things that take a few minutes, it adds up and suddenly you’re looking at several hours to clear your clutter. Always open your mail right away, do dishes right after you use them, and put things away as soon as you’re done with them.

My favorite tip for a roomier kitchen…

…is to adjust cabinet shelves; it can create a lot more space. Also, get that popcorn machine, bread machine and the other huge appliances off your counter. If you don’t use it every week, store it in the attic or basement and get it out only when you need it. And do you really need all those plastic containers? Most people have cabinets full of them, but they only ever use a few. Figure out which ones you really use and donate the rest. 

Go into your closet today and hang everything backward on the rod

Once you wear something, hang it the normal way. A year from now, if you still have some things still hanging backward, you’re obviously not wearing them, so get rid of them.

Here’s a simple way to transform your closet:

Switch to one type of hanger. It makes a huge difference. If you have varying kinds, they get caught on each other, they’re not the same height and you can’t see everything as well. I especially love the thin hangers that are covered in velvet. Because they’re super slim, you can fit more into your closet, and your clothes won’t slip off them.

You’re going to be more motivated to get an area organized…

…if you make some changes you can get excited about. When you’re doing your closet, for example, throw up a coat of new paint, put down some cool floor tiles or a rug or add a beautiful fixture. It will make you want to keep it organized.

I swear I’m not a neat freak

Being organized doesn’t mean everything is in its place; it means everything has a place. If you can get your house ready for a surprise guest in 30 minutes, then you’re organized. Believe it: I have not one, but two junk drawers in my kitchen—and I sleep just fine at night. Need to get organized? 

Please, get rid of that storage unit

You could buy everything in there for the annual rental fee—and that doesn’t include the cost of the moving truck or your time. Furthermore, I’m sorry to say that the stuff you own are usually never worth as much as you believe. And who cares if they are? That’s still not a good reason to keep stuff you don’t use.

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