Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Answers to Some Commonly Asked Organizing Questions

A reporter contacted me to provide some content for a local magazine. Here are some answers to her questions.

Where is the best place for homeowners seeking to become more organized to start?

Real self-starters may want to utilize tips from Real Simple magazine, their web site or email newsletter or from the OnlineOrganizing.com web site or email newsletter. Reading tips from these sources regularly provides homeowners with a constant feed of information to build up their organizing knowledge. These folks can then figuratively "step back" and analyze the organizational challenges in their own home and implement new systems after sorting, purging, and categorizing.

Other folks, those who have a library of books about how to organize but have not been able get organized, would be served well by utilizing an organizing consultant. Some folks just learn organizing skills better through one-on-one personal interaction. Scheduling time for organizing and getting personal help for organizing projects from an objective person, someone who does not live or work in their space, is the magic combination for some homeowners. Professional organizers can be found at the NAPO-NC web site in North Carolina, or the NAPO web site , nationally.

What are some quick and easy tips to become more organized?

* Schedule time to organize. Then, reward yourself after you keep that appointment.

* Set a manageable goal for each organizing session so that you have a finish line in mind. For example, clean out and reorganize one bathroom drawer.

* Organize at a time of day (or night) when you have the most energy and mental focus and the fewest distractions.

* Do whatever helps you stay on track: play music, get a friend to help, turn off your phone and email, plan a reward for yourself.

What are some common mistakes homeowners make when trying to organize their homes?

The single most common mistake that I see is clients buying containers or organizing gadgets at the beginning of the project. Purchasing these should be the next to last step in your project, following the sorting, purging, categorizing, evaluation of habits and design of systems, but just before the final implementation of the new system of which your purchases are a part. I understand how seductive the display windows at organizing stores can be but we must wait to buy until the time is right. Often, we'll find usable containers during the initial sorting process. These can be repurposed later for the new organizational system.

The other mistake I see is that people don't have realistic expectations. I understand that by the time people call me for help they are very frustrated and are hoping for a quick fix. Getting organized has a lot more to do with changing the way we think and changing our habits than putting our stuff in bins and labeling them. Changing our habits takes a lot of time and persistence. We are more successful if we chip away at the problem than if we hit it with a sledgehammer.

What are some of your best tips for organizing the different areas of your home?

* Most kitchens have come down with a case of gadget-itis. Unused kitchen tools and appliances that only perform very specific tasks take up precious space. Besides, most cooking could be done with only a knife, cutting board, a pot and chopsticks.

* Separate grooming tools and cosmetics into categories like lips, eyes, whole face, nails, fragrance, tweezers/clippers, and put categorized items into the small drawers of an apothecary chest.

* In the office, place stacking, horizontal paper trays near your printer. The only good use for horizontal trays is holding your paper stock, separated into categories like plain paper, photo paper, letterhead paper, holiday paper, sheets of printable labels, etc. Remove all packaging from the paper before placing it in the trays.

* Kitchen pantries are best served by shallow shelves (10 inches deep or less) that have adjustable height. This way, you can see everything you have and only stack items 2- or 3-deep. And you won't knock over the cereal while reaching past it for the chicken stock. Put food that you always keep in stock in uniform, clear containers, like Tupperware Modular Mates, and label them. Establish zones for snacks, baking, canned goods, drinks, etc. Remove as much packaging from items as possible before putting them away in the pantry--6-pack plastic rings, boxes that contain smaller boxes, shrinkwrap, etc.

* In any room match the size of the container to the size of the objects that go in it. Small items will get lost in a large deep drawer without any dividers.

* Install a clothes hanging bar in the laundry room so clothes can go directly from the dryer to hangers. Each family member's closet should have a valet rod where clean clothes can be hung temporarily while each item is put away in the correct zone: pants, tops, jackets, etc. When a garment is worn, place its empty hanger on the valet rod. On laundry day, carry all the empty hangers to the laundry room. Repeat.

What are the current trends in organizing in your area?

The North Carolina chapter of NAPO, of which I'm a member and on the board of directors, has recently put a campaign in motion for "green" (eco-friendly) organizing. As a group of organizers we are trying to heighten each others' awareness, as well as our clients' awareness, of the importance of recycling waste created in the organizing process, repurposing items that may have a new use within one's organizing plan, donating or freecycling items that are still useful to others who need them, reducing junk mail, and in my case, driving a hybrid car so that I don't create so many emissions while traveling from client to client.

Are there any new products on the market that make home organization easier?

Organizing product manufacturers are constantly evolving their product lines but there are few specific products that I consider to be must-haves. Instead, I think simple guidelines work the best for most people.

*Use sturdy, clear containers.

*Purchase an inexpensive label maker that has refill cartridges which are widely available. Or even more simply, use white labels in varying sizes from the office supply store and write legibly on them with a black marker.

*Always store papers in a vertical position, whether it is in hanging files or in a desktop vertical sorter.

*Use a single centralized information center to keep track of your calendar, contacts, note-taking and task lists--this could be a traditional paper planner, a PDA, a computer program or web-based solution.

*Avoid the least expensive wire and laminate shelving systems; in our area Schulte closets, available from Just Hangin' Around provide the best value, in my opinion. They are neither the most or least expensive.

Other well designed organizing products that I get a kick out of can be costly and I can usually help my clients improvise with less cash outlay. But, I do like Legare office furniture, IKEA closets, which are sadly, only available by mail order in our region, and MO office products.

1 comment:

ThePurpleSeal said...

Hi there,

I just found your blog, it has been a great read! Thought it may be of some interest to you to know, a while back i managed to find a british labels company who print many types of labels. They printed me some labels for a really low cost, i also ordered a label dispenser as i had been in need of one for a while and they were so cheap.