Learn how to keep your space organized with five key tips from professional organizing experts.
Think you're the only one out there with a secret mess? The good news is you're not alone: We all have difficulty staying organized from time to time.
Plenty of highly effective people get bogged down in clutter, says professional organizer Robin Stephens of Lynnwood, Wash. (www.yourlifeinorder.com) "There was a woman at a major corporation here in Seattle who was so disorganized — papers and files leaking out of her office cubicle — that her co-workers took up a collection to pay for a professional organizer," Stephens says. "They ended up hiring me to help her get control."
Even professional organizers themselves occasionally need a reality check. "We're just as human as you are," says Denver-certified professional organizer Sally Allen, CEO of "A Place for Everything" (www.sallyallenorganizer.com). "When I walk into my office and the floor has become an option for storing things, I realize I'd better take care of it or somebody might walk into my office and say, 'She does what for a living?'"
But professional organizers do know the right tricks to get back on track. Try these five easy lessons for staying organized and you'll see a real improvement in the way you feel about your space — and about yourself.
1. Choose the Right Containers
If you're gaga over the goodies in the latest storage catalog, but you haven't started sorting your stuff yet, perhaps a splash of cold water is in order. "The single most common mistake that I see is clients buying containers or organizing gadgets at the beginning of the project," says professional organizer Kerry Crocker of Chapel Hill, N.C. (www.space-cadette.com).
Instead, take a step back and ask yourself some questions first. Professional organizer Nancy Peham of Helping Hands Personal Services in Dallas (www.helpinghandsps.com) offers these suggestions for choosing containers:
2. Keep Things Where You Use Them
It's much easier to find things when you store them at their point of use, says Ann Bingley Gallops, president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). Some great tips:
3. Keep Organized Spaces Sacred
Once you've cleared a space of unwanted items, it can be very difficult to keep it clutter-free. Unless, of course, you know some great organizing secrets:
4. Practice 5-Minute Organizing
Still waiting around for an eight-hour day you can devote entirely to organizing, but it never seems to arrive? Not unusual.
"I think people think of it as an event — 'I'm going to get organized, period,'" says Heidi Goodwin, a professional organizer in Portland, Maine (www.getsimplicitybydesign.com)."But it's a matter of developing good habits. If you don't incorporate organizing into your day, especially with so much information coming in all the time, even the most organized person will struggle."
Goodwin offers examples of some great five-minute habits that reap a hefty reward for a small investment of time:
5. Give Yourself Some Margin
Finally, incorporate a little breathing room into your life. That's Robin Stephens' philosophy (www.yourlifeinorder.com). "A key component to a life in order is restoring margin," she says. "Margin is breathing room, a little reserve that you're not using up — the space between your load and your limit." Stephens recommends these steps for finding space in your life:
After all, isn't that the reason you were getting organized in the first place?