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Transform your Space, Transform your Life in 2011

A local organization expert shares some tips with Evanston Patch readers.

Many people resolve to “Get More Organized” in January. Is this one of your New Year’s resolutions year after year?

Working with my clients, I witness the struggles people have to get and stay organized. Many people just can’t do it alone and need a professional organizer to work with them. But many others just need some simple tips to jump-start the process.

In my opinion, being disorganized takes a toll on our health and well being, both at home and at the office. I believe our personal space should be a sanctuary from life’s chaos, not a repository for its artifacts.

Clearing out the physical clutter allows us to have more space, more time and more positive energy in our lives. The average American spends 55 minutes a day looking for something they know they have but can’t find. Wouldn’t you prefer to use that time for yourself and your family?

I believe disorganization comes from deferred decision-making and clutter is the physical manifestation of indecision. So be the “decider!!”

Do you keep too much paper? 80 percent of what we file is never looked at again. And we tend to wear 20 percent of the clothes in our closet. The other 80 percent just takes up space and gets dusty. 

Do your kids have too many toys and complain they can’t find anything to do? As a former teacher, I know how to help people set up their homes to maximize the educational value of toys. Toy rotation is one method. Museums rotate their collections rather than putting every item on display at the same time.  So you don’t need every toy, game, or puzzle out at the same time either.

If you resolve to start out the year getting more organized, here are some tips that may help you:

  • Start with a vision of your ideal space (home or office) Are you going for a “Zen” look? Or do you like to have things in sight that give you pleasure to look at? Use magazines to help you if you aren’t good at visualizing.
  • Be realistic: Don’t say, “I’m going to organize my entire house today.” Start one piece at a time: with one drawer or one shelf of a closet.
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and see how you feel when it rings. Can you keep going or have you done enough for one session? This helps people who feel that it’s not worth starting if you can’t organize your whole project in one sitting!
  • Use sticky notes to sort into piles/stacks as you go along (keep, trash, recycle, donate).
  • Keep like things together and use containers to bring order to chaos. Smaller items can be put into small plastic bins, or small boxes.
  • Avoid Zig Zag organizing. This means stay on task in one room and don’t run all over the house putting stuff away in different rooms. Use your labels for that. For example, make a label that says “Put in Basement later,” or “Put in Garage later.” Then do it later, not now!
  • Use the 2-3 second rule for keeping the momentum going: If you need more than 2-3 seconds to decide on a item or piece of paper, put it in a “sort later” or “read later” pile.
  • In general, remember the simpler the system is, the better it is. Also, store items closest to their point of use.
  • Keep in mind your “public” and “private” spaces when making organizing decisions, as well as “in season” or “out of season.”
  • Keep the things around you that you like to look at and that have meaning for you.
  • Don’t hold on to things that someone else can use: Donate, donate, donate! Or use freecycle.org.

And finally, here is a  “mind trick” to help you clarify what you really want to keep. Pretend you are moving in one week to a much smaller space, and hiring really expensive movers! This helps you to identify the relative value of your things. Remember, if everything has equal importance/value then nothing has value or importance to you.

So get rid of your clutter, free your space and enjoy an organized, healthy 2011!

 Cindy Levitt is the owner of Peace by Piece Professional Organizing and Design in Evanston. You can learn more about her business by visiting its website: http://www.pxporganizing.com/ and you can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pxporganizing.

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