Guide to Keeping Organized
Learn how to keep your space organized with five key tips from professional organizing experts.
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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:
- "Some key questions to ask: How frequently will the objects be used, how accessible must they be and who will be using them?" she says. "For example, small children require easy access and containers of manageable size and weight."
- Square containers hold more items, are more stable and sturdy and waste little space when stacked.
- Clear containers are best for visibility, but if tidiness is more important to you, go opaque.
- Remember the cardinal rule: Measure your available space before shopping!
- Once you have the right containers, clear labeling will help keep the contents organized.
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:
- Go scissor-happy. "I keep a pair of scissors in every room so I can cut tags off things, cut articles out of newspapers, whatever," Gallops says. Rulers, paper, tape and tissue are other good multiples.
- Every phone deserves its own notebook and pen. "It can always stay open to the current page, and you never have to look for pieces of scratch paper lying around," Gallops says. "Occasionally, write down the date for reference."
- When a friend e-mails you directions to his or her house, print them out and keep them with your maps. "I have my maps in two separate boxes on a shelf in a closet," Gallops says, "one for U.S. maps and one for international, and I just slip e-mailed directions in with them."
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