My favorite part of magazines like Good Housekeeping or Real Simple isn’t the mouth-watering recipes or fashion guides—it’s the pictures of streamlined spaces. I swoon over beautifully designed desk drawers, linen closets and laundry rooms. I tear out the pages or take pictures of them on my cell phone and tell myself it’s time to get organized! I rack my brain for spaces in my home that need to be cleared out and re-structured (I don’t have to think for long) and feel my adrenaline pumping as I start to picture what those spaces could look like with a little TLC.
Sometimes the adrenaline will produce great results, but sometimes it doesn’t. I might become overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF that I have to go through, or I might convince myself I can’t get started on a project without getting a certain item from the store (like a storage bin or a hanging shoe organizer). Since moving into our home a year and a half ago, I have organized 4 bedroom closets, the linen closet, the coat closet, the kitchen pantry, the kitchen drawers and cabinets, the laundry room, multiple nightstands and dressers. Only a handful of those places remain in a consistent state of order.
I’ve always loved the results of organizing, yet I still struggle with staying organized. I find satisfaction in seeing my clothes hung according to color and my shoes arranged according to occasion, but after a few days some of those clothes are draped over a chair and the shoes are in a pile on the floor. I consider it a personal achievement each time I put something back where it belongs within 24 hours of getting it out.
My mom, who runs an organizing and downsizing business with a friend, is my number one source of encouragement when it comes to treating my possessions nicely. She has probably told me a hundred times that it only takes seconds to hang up my clothes or put my purse on a hook. I admit I often tossed her advice aside when I was a teenager, but I now find value in her words and realize the laziness I’ve allowed to fester in my home. I’ve asked her and her business partner to share more about what they do and what advice they have for anyone seeking help to get (and stay!) organized.
What motivates your clients to get organized?
Sometimes they are moving to a smaller home. Or, they have physical limitations and need help to be organized. Sometimes there is the loss of a spouse and the client is overwhelmed. Sometimes it is to get ready for an event or houseguests. Often, people have messy offices or kitchens or other areas and they know that organizing is not their strength.
What are your tips for helping people STAY organized?
-If you bring something into the house, take something out.
-Stop putting excess everyday stuff in boxes or big storage bins and packing them away. Donate or toss whatever you don’t need.
-When you bring in your mail, stand right by the trashcan and immediately toss any unwanted items.
Based on your experiences, what are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to storing their possessions?
They think that having a lot of bins will make you organized. If you have to buy a lot of bins, you probably have too much stuff. We tell clients not to buy any bins. Everyone always has enough bins and baskets left over once we’ve eliminated items. In fact, we often end up donating many bins at the end of a job.
People put value on things but they don’t give them a place of importance. We pull things out of boxes that people say they can’t part with, but the truth is those items have been packed in a corner of a basement for years. People often keep something just because they spent money on it. It’s just taking up space. We say, “Let someone else use it.” We often donate items for our clients. It helps them feel less wasteful and we find it’s important to get stuff out right away so our clients can see the progress they’re making.
When you are disorganized you don’t always know what you have, so it is easy to go out and buy more of the same items you already have. This takes up valuable space.
Are there any organizational methods or tools that you recommend or don’t recommend?
We encourage people to put “like” things together. For example, it is much easier to find a light bulb if all the light bulbs are together in one place. We also encourage people to not keep too many of one item. Does anyone need six staplers? We see that kind of thing a lot. Get rid of four of them and keep two.
If you could give your clients a short mantra for keeping their home organized, what would it be?
Handle things one time—don’t keep moving things around. If you have a place for everything, you know where to put it and where to find it. You don’t have piles of stuff to sort through. Life is much more efficient when you are organized. You spend a lot less time looking for stuff.
Vicki Becker and Donna Fredericks have been running their organization business, Clear to Go, for six years in the Northern Virginia area. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.