The Organization Conundrum

Picture this: You are running late in the morning. The kids have spilled milk; they do not want to wear the same outfit they have worn to school 10 times happily before. As you finally get the chance to get out the door, you cannot find your keys. So, now you must look in every place you can think of to find them. You are out the door, finally, after finding the keys under a pile of unopened mail, but you are in a panicked rush because everything and everyone is running behind schedule.

Organizing your life can be a daunting task. Many people look at the piles in their homes and do not know where to begin. Some quit before they ever get started or they tell themselves they will “get to it tomorrow.” Unfortunately, the problem does not go away, even if you do everything in your power to ignore it. In fact, the chaos only expands every time you get more stuff. Being surrounded by clutter or the chaotic feeling associated with disorganization can negatively impact your productivity as well as your overall ability to relax in your own home. We are inundated with “stuff” all day, every day. From files and messy desks at work to piles of laundry at home, how can you handle the load?

According to IKEA, on average, we spend about six minutes looking for our keys every morning, and Newsweek states that the average American wastes 55 minutes a day looking for things they cannot find. Wow! It is no wonder that the home storage product industry is responsible for the spending of billions of dollars.

If you live here in Frisco, you have a couple of options and people in your corner for these overwhelming times. First, you can hire a professional organizer or you can buckle down and commit to decluttering yourself. Pam Bowers, the owner of Chaos Pros, a local company specializing in organization of businesses and homes, calls this point “the storm before the calm.” She recommends that if you plan to tackle the job yourself, to break the process down into as small a piece as you need to make it work for you. “Pick a room to start. Then, pick a corner in that room. Set a timer for 20 minutes and stop when the timer goes off.” Maybe you take a break when that timer goes off or maybe you keep going, but the important thing is to get started.

Ms. Bowers also suggests to schedule organizing time on your calendar. “It is an appointment with yourself,” she adds. And of course, it helps to be organized to get started. Have bags or boxes to sort through your things — one for donating, one for trash, one for keeping and one for things that go in other places in the house. Kids are also great helpers. Depending on their age, they can help with things like finding one kind of item throughout the room. It is one less thing you should worry about, and you are teaching them about the process of organizing.

Be aware that some items can take longer to sort through than others. Ms. Bowers says, “Paper can be extremely time consuming.” Seemingly small stacks can end up taking several hours to sort, if you want to make sure you do not throw out tax returns or important receipts. A large percentage of the papers we file, we never use again. So why hang on to them?

Another obstacle can be figuring out whether you are emotionally attached to something that is cluttering up your home or office. Are you using those antique tea kettles or are they taking up what Ms. Bowers calls “prime real estate.” She suggests keeping things that hold sentimental value to you, but keep them in a place that does not get in the way of you being able to keep items you use frequently.

In relation to keeping items of importance, many people have found helpful advice in the popular book titled “The Magic Art of Tidying” by Mari Kondo. In the helpful guide, Ms. Kondo stresses the importance of only keeping items in your home that bring you joy. This is helpful before a move or to simply de-clutter and prevent unnecessary stress in your life.

If DIY is not your thing, professionals are available to help, but Ms. Bowers says it is important to be aware of some of the myths that are out there about professional organizers. And believe it or not, with just about any industry these days, there are true professionals, many of whom are members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). At the same time, there are also some out there who are less qualified, so it is important to meet with a few to make sure the one you hire is the right fit for you.

It also must still be a team effort. There are examples of clients initially thinking that an organizer shows up, puts everything in a place and then tells the individual or family where everything goes. The organizer does not know your home, office or garage like you do, so it is important to take cues to make the organization system fit best to your unique needs and goals. Ms. Bowers says, “There are ways to keep the clutter down but still keep it visual by labeling.”

It is often the case in a marriage that one person is the “neat freak” and the other person is more relaxed about putting things away. Ms. Bowers even shared an extreme client story of a family that was considering adding on to their house to get more storage. They were already using a spare bedroom as storage when Ms. Bowers and her team got to work on organizing the entire house. Once they were finished, the family not only no longer needed to add on to their existing home, but they now had a spare room. They ended up saving ninety-nine percent of the cost it would have taken to build onto their home.

Ms. Bowers warns, “Just because you did it once does not mean it will stay. You have to develop new habits or things will go back to the way they were.” But, if that is not a priority for you, professional organizers often offer maintenance appointments to help keep you on track.

Involve kids early in donation sorting to teach them about the needs of others. With younger children, use pictures to show where things go and include the words so they can learn along the way.

With New Year’s resolutions happening all over the world, consider making organization one of your priorities this year. It does not have to happen in one day, but if you tackle small chunks at a time, you will be amazed at how much time and money you can save.

Christi Redfearn is a wife, mom and Aggie in search of that perfect lap time in her weekend race car.