Getting rid of clutter and organizing your space can be downright cathartic. And Spring is a great time to get started! Professional organizers in New Jersey have a knack for helping people put their homes, not to mention their lives, in order during springtime and throughout the year.
Best of NJ turned to them for their top home organization tips to help you get started:
1. Come up with a Plan
Just about every professional organizer says people need a plan to take on organization in their home. “Without clarity of a plan or a goal there is a tendency to be overwhelmed with the task of organizing,” says Elaine Fernando, owner of Organized Transitions LLC in Scotch Plains. “It takes careful planning. For example, what needs to get done in each room and what rooms are the priority?”
A plan can help you to stay focused. But you might give up quickly if you try digging into the biggest mess first. “People try to tackle a project that is too large without having a plan,” says Andrea Walker, owner of Smartly Organized, LLC in Chatham. “They don’t get help, don’t allocate enough time, and often get overwhelmed with all the decisions. They may stall and never finish or achieve their goal.”
3. Start with Storage Spaces
Your best bet is to begin with garages, attics and basements, so that you make storage room for whatever flows from the cleaning out of other rooms, suggests Kathe Roberts, owner of Top to Bottom Organization LLC in Montclair.
One mistake people make is to purchase storage containers before actually cleaning, says Gayle M. Gruenberg, owner of Let’s Get Organized, LLC. “They think, ‘Hmm, if I get this product, I’ll be more organized,'” says Gruenberg. “That isn’t true. There is an organizing process one needs to go through before buying anything; it’s in the mind, not the store. More often than not, our clients have plenty of things they can use as containers to store or display what they own.”
5. Divide and Conquer Your Stuff
Go room to room with a garbage bag and collect trash the first two times, says Fernando. Next, she suggests dividing your stuff into bags or boxes labeled “donation” and “storage.” Don’t stop there. “If there are items of which you are not sure what to do, box them up, seal it, and write a date on that box,” says Fernando. “If after a year you haven’t looked for it, donate or trash it.”
“A place for everything, and everything in its place” isn’t just a cute saying. Professional organizers believe it’s gospel. “Be kind to your ‘future self’ and take the time now to put things away–hang up your coat, put your shoes away, etc.,” says Walker. “It takes just a second to do these things now, but becomes a time-consuming chore if you let it all build up. I tell my clients to complete the cycle. Every task has a beginning, middle and end. Make it to the end.”
7. Create a Central Command Station
Organizing doesn’t just include cleaning the house. Fernando advises clients to create a “command station” to organize the family’s time and better keep everyone in the loop. “It could be in a kitchen, study room, entryway or mudroom,” she says. “You can plan having a family calendar, chalkboard for reminders, important information, mail, children’s schoolwork, etc.”
Experts agree that organizing should be a family affair. The first step is getting the kids involved. “Start teaching your children early, so they can learn how to let go of things,” says Walker. “As the saying goes, if everything is special, then nothing is special. Kids need to learn how to honor and take care of their stuff.” Roberts suggests scheduling decluttering sessions with kids in their rooms and play spaces ahead of birthdays and holidays when they might receive gifts.
9. Rely on Your Calendar
“Make your calendar your friend,” according to an article written by Gruenberg. She tells clients to get a large calendar and assign each family member a different pen color. Once a week the whole family should get together and write down exactly where everyone has to be each day. Put the calendar in a place where all family members can reference it, and use it to plan each day accordingly.
Professional organizers recognize that cleaning isn’t exactly a good time for most people. But you can make the best of it, writes Gruenberg in an article about spring cleaning. “Crank the tunes,” she adds, “listen to a recorded book, or whatever gets your juices and energy flowing.” Also, Gruenberg suggests opening the windows and letting the light in while you’re tidying up.