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Everything Has Its Place


To make the most of your space, organize itplaceGetting rid of clutter, which creates stress and occasional chaos, is an on-going project. The only way it happens in one fell swoop is when something big like a move, paint job, or disaster strikes . . . let’s not even go there. There are ways to keep the ever-flowing bits of paper, unread magazines, closet and kitchen commotion from becoming total bedlam. It’s easier than you think.

Sometime back, I learned the value of pulling out magazine articles worth reading and putting them in portable files. Out of the stack and into a portable file, just the sort of reading you want while you wait at the doctor’s office, take short plane trips or sit in the bank’s drive-through line. I do the same thing with articles I want to keep; they go in folders and binders marked travel, clothes, house, and so forth, thereby cutting down the pile of magazines. The “folder project,” as its known, was an idea gleaned from, well, an article not unlike this one.

Another is the “10-minute rule.” I wish I could tell you who came up with this, but it’s one of the most important tools I use to keep life somewhat under control. The idea is to break up projects into 10-minute segments. What can I do in 10 minutes? Shed old papers; open and even perhaps pay a few bills; load a dishwasher; three-hole-punch papers and put them into binders (okay, I’m a binder queen—different colored ones for each project).

Here are a few pointers that may help you get started:

  1. Before you begin a decluttering project, assess your real needs and space. What should you toss, keep or store? General rule: If you haven’t used it in one year, you probably don’t need it. If new technology has come along, streamline. iPods make short work of CDs, old records, amplifiers and huge speakers.
  2. Getting organized is not a chore. Get family and friends to pitch in, welcome the help and suggestions. When done, treat everyone to a nice meal and a glass of wine.
  3. Plan to do a major cleanup four times a year, at the start of each new season. Store items from the previous season.
  4. Remember, there are people and services that can be hired to help. They’ll do anything from heavy scrubbing to heavy lifting, secretarial work to stirring pots and pans. You don’t have to do it all yourself—or any of it.
  5. Be practical. Don’t try to sort out years of hording in one day. Applying the 10-minute rule will help. For big projects, set aside a day or a rainy weekend.
  6. Allow yourself a week’s worth of papers and magazines (except this one) and recycle.
  7. Feel good about disposing things by donating furnishings and clothing to charity and resale shops, or have a tag sale.
  8. Tidy up before bed to wake up on the right side of the bed. Pick up glasses, put DVDs and CDs back in their cases and check tomorrow’s “to do” list before you go to sleep.
  9. Simplify your decor. Fussy prints make a room look cluttered. Think clean and light. Think about how often you look at old photos? Do you really need “shrines” all over the house? Put your special selections in frames; find one area to display them and store the rest in albums.
  10. Reorganize books in modular shelving systems, which allow books to be stacked vertically and horizontally for a more decorative visual effect.
  11. If possible, instead of freestanding storage, go for fitted, which is more space-efficient. For example, in an awkward-shaped room or hallway, a curtain pole affixed across a recess becomes an instant closet.
  12. Use floor-to-ceiling curtains to hide what’s behind it while creating an area with visual appeal.
  13. Use a sleek, slim-line shelf ladder to house a photo, book or CD collection! It’s a two-for-one deal: a ladder and a very chic way to display and store things.
  14. Make use of ceiling space in a small kitchen. Run a pole or heavy curtain rod from the ceiling or affix one along a wall, add a sturdy hook to hang pots, pans, soup ladles, etc. Want something more formal? Look for a crown or half-crown pot rack that attaches over a door or appliance (but not the stovetop).
  15. Wire trays are a practical alternative in bathrooms where conditions are hot and steamy. Also, remove a pedestal from under the bathroom sink and install cabinetry to store supplies. I recently found one that’s only 18-inch wide, which is perfect for a powder room!
  16. Get hooked on hooks. They hold keys at the door, wet umbrellas and raincoats on the porch or mudroom or hand towels in the kitchen. Placing them at different heights allows children, large and small, the opportunity to help you stay decluttered.

That should have been a 10-minute read. So tear this out, file it … and see, you’ve already begun to get organized.