How to declutter your life

There are some people in this world who are super organized. I’m not one of them.

Posted: Thursday, September 02, 2010

    Tchotchkes start crowding the shelves, fighting for space. Paperwork never gets filed, or it goes willy nilly into a folder never to be seen again. I often look around my living space or in my closet and get the urge to throw or give it all away. I fantasize a life with my possessions whittled down to just a table, a chair, a bicycle, a bowl and spoon, and a change of clothes. I don’t have the fortitude to make such a drastic change in my life, so I do the next best thing. I call a professional organizer.

 

    Sharon Soons runs Streamline U. professional organizing services, and sees clients throughout the Hudson Valley. She’s been organizing the spaces around her since childhood. “I grew up on a farm. I used to put crate boxes together to organize my sweaters,” says Soons. Her dad had a big influence. He was a stickler for organizing all the tools and equipment needed to run a farm. Not being able to find something right away meant wasted time. And we all know that time is money.

 

    One of the first things Soons does upon paying me a visit is to assure me that it’s not about turning from Oscar into Felix overnight. “There’s no typical person, there’s no set standard, that your place has to have this or that, or end up looking like a magazine layout,” says Soons as we begin a tour of my home. “It’s different for everybody. You have to honor your proclivities and how you operate to come up with something that works for you.”

 

    A cardinal rule is to keep things simple. She says many people make the mistake of thinking that some elaborate system will solve their organizational problems. “Oh I’m going to do this filing system, alphabetical, this that color coding and the whole thing. It’s too complicated. You don’t need it. If you know where it is and you can get it in a reasonable amount of time you’re fine.” If you don’t keep things simple, you are likely to abandon the effort in short order.

 

    Another rule is to keep things in close proximity to where they will be used. This is common sense, but it’s surprising how many people will store something far from where it might be used then wonder why things don’t get put back in their place. It creates what professional organizers call Delayed Decisions. Do I want to lug that heavy tool bag all the way up the stairs and into the closet in the back room? Maybe I’ll just leave it here in the hallway for now. I'll probably use it in the next day or two anyway. A better solution would be to put a small bench with a hinge top in the hallway where the tool bag can be stored.

 

     As Soons goes through the house, she talks about what’s there, what needs to be there. “I like to see the whole house, to visualize what can go where. I look at stuff and I see spaces where other people don’t see spaces. I see wasted space. I see things we can use to organize it.” She will often repurpose a piece of furniture, even moving it from one room to another to better serve the homeowner’s organizational needs.  She suggested that an end table in my living room with a hard-to-access second tier would be put to better use holding the TV, with the bottom tier used for the DVD player and sound system. A shelf with a collection of knickknacks might better serve to display my partner’s favorite glassware, currently buried inside a hard-to-open credenza.

 

    One of the biggest obstacles for me in getting organized is where and how to begin. The thought of it all gets to be overwhelming. “First off, once you’ve decided it’s time to organize, you need to be realistic about how much time it will take to get things in order,” says Soons. “Start with something small and contained, and be careful not to get sidetracked into other projects, which is easy to do. Work as long as you feel comfortable. if you don’t finish, schedule a time to return to the area. It’s OK not to finish everything all at once.”

Get organized and stay organized with these tips.

Categories: Home and Garden

Tags: organization

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