According to NBC News, the average American has 300,000 items in her home, and one in four Americans has a “clutter problem.” But you don’t need to have a clutter problem to need help. In fact, I recently hired a professional organizer myself.
The stuff in our lives has a way of draining us of our energy. The Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that the bigger the mess in your view, the bigger the distraction, the greater the stress, the more your creativity is hindered, and the slower you work.
I loved working with a professional organizer, but whether or not you hire one, this is a great time of year to declutter. I recommend to my clients that they use the New Year as a time to get organized for success. Read on for easy ways to get the clutter under control and regain control of your time, energy, and workday.
Sometimes We Need a Hand: The Professional Organizer
Last fall, my dad passed away. We were more than six months into the pandemic, and we’d been stuck at home on top of each other with kiddos distance-learning. We’d also started some home projects last May, that for one reason or another, had been delayed through the fall.
We were off of our routine, the dog no longer knew where to use the potty (i.e., my home office carpet), and our boys didn’t have a backyard to play in with all the work being done. Add to that a brutally hot, record-breaking Arizona summer that wouldn’t go away… I felt out of control, irritable, and like my home was no longer a sanctuary.
As a woman entrepreneur, our house had to serve many functions – home, office, and schoolroom. It seemed like no matter how early I got up in the morning or how many “sweeps” I made during the day, I just couldn’t keep our home organized. Closets were overflowing, I took to quickly making piles of bills and notes or toys, thinking I’d circle back, and we had a backlog of cardboard boxes filling the kitchen (thanks Amazon Prime).
It got to the point that I never felt relaxed, I was no longer enjoying my home, and I struggled to focus on my work. I also had to admit to myself that my energy was sapped while mourning the loss of my dad. But taking control of my external environment was precisely what I needed while my inner world felt rocked. That’s when I decided to hire a professional organizer.
I worked with Missy Feldman of No Mess with Missy based in Phoenix, AZ. She made the entire process very simple. I was honest with her that while I wanted to learn systems that would keep us on track in the future, I really needed to focus on work and would find it a relief if she could come in and just get the job done – and she did. After a FaceTime interview, she prioritized the areas in our home I was most concerned about and recommended the organizing products I needed to purchase.
She started in our pantry, throwing out expired items and creating zones for each type of food – canned goods, grains and rice, pasta, snacks, and more, rounding them up in clear plastic bins so we could easily find everything. She made sure that items the kids needed were on lower shelves and any cleaning supplies stayed up on the top shelf. She also removed non-food items like home décor and party supplies and moved them to other closets to make more space. Next, she worked on our kitchen, hall closets, and helped our boys with their bedroom closets, including a system that makes it easier for them to fold and put away their clothes.
My biggest take away is an obsession with clear plastic shoeboxes (a case of 20 shoeboxes is $39.99 at the Container Store). Sounds crazy, but they are extremely versatile – Missy took board games out of their boxes and stacked them up neatly in clear, labeled shoeboxes. Toys are organized by category in the boys’ rooms in shoeboxes. Party and pet supplies, hand sanitizer, and candles are all organized and stacked neatly in them – obsessed!
In the end, Missy took several loads to Goodwill for us. A couple of months later, it still feels fantastic to open closets and see the neat stacks of appliances, canned goods, and clear shoeboxes. The boys have stayed on top of putting their clothes and toys away where they belong, and I feel like I’m hanging on to my sanity! And, it’s made a huge difference in my productivity. Rather than wasting precious time and energy getting up early to straighten up the house, I can grab a cup of coffee and plan my workday or focus on my family – and that’s absolutely essential for my success.
DIY: If You Don’t Hire a Professional Organizer
If you don’t need or want to hire a professional organizer, you can do the job yourself – however you get it done, please start. There are so many resources today from Mindful Organization to Marie Kondo, a quick Google search or scroll through Pinterest will yield inspiration.
My husband, Joe, and I began by visiting the Container Store to design “Elfa” closets for each of the bedrooms in our home. We had extra deep, impractical closet shelves, original from the ‘70s when our house was built. We knocked those out, refinished and painted the walls, and Joe installed the new custom-designed closet hardware (Container Store also offers installation for a fee if DIY isn’t your jam). Each of us chose a combination of shelves, closet rods, and drawers. Then, we began the job of putting everything back.
When you prepare to declutter, be sure to have three large boxes on-hand – label them “Recycle,” “Trash,” and “Donate.” Missy showed us that it’s best to remove everything from the space you’re working in before putting anything back, evaluating each item – if there are doubles, donate one, if it’s expired, toss it, if it’s dirty, clean it. Wipe down shelves, vacuum floors. Then, choose the right organizing products.
When it comes to food, take multi-pack items out of their boxes and bundle them in clear plastic bins so you can see what you have on-hand. We hung up aprons on Command hooks on the inside of pantry doors and used lazy Susan organizers for condiments and spices. I officially cannot get enough of organizing supplies, get more ideas here.
A Final Word on Getting Organized
Getting organized will transform the way you feel about your home and the way you work. I enjoy my home again – it’s relaxing and pleasant to know that everything is clean and organized and that everything has a place. We’re also more mindful that we don’t want or need “more stuff.” Decluttering is an essential part of meeting your goals. That’s because each day starts from a baseline of calm, neat, and organized instead of messy and chaotic. Simple but powerful. Whether you work with a professional organizer or do it yourself, don’t wait.
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