Strategies for Getting Organized
By Jamie Lober / April & May 2012

Organization is important in both the home and work setting. "People can find organizers who do all sorts of things specific to their needs, from small business to medical help to downsizing to clearing clutter," said Michelle Katzman, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers of South Florida.

TV shows like Clean House use organizers. Katzman says that the subject of organization is more familiar to the general public than it used to be. "But it is not about everything being perfect and having beautiful containers, although containers are nice to have," she says. "It is about being able to find what you need when you need it, be on time, and feel you are in control of things."

Pick a place you want to begin, such as your closet. "The first thing is to make the decision about what is going to stay and what is going to go," said Katzman.

Ask yourself questions. Does the piece of clothing fit you? Is it flattering? Do you love it? Do you feel good in it? "If you answer yes to those things, that would be the criteria to keep the item," said Katzman. "If you say no, it might be time to let the clothing go."
Having a professional or friend at your side to help answer these questions can add a voice of reason to the equation. Then, go room by room. "You cannot scoop everything up and make a beautiful room because if you move something somewhere else, you will run into the things you piled up again," said Katzman.

As you go through each room, ask yourself similar questions as in assessing items in a closet. Do you use it? Do you love it? Does it have a purpose? "If the answers are yes, then there is a home for it," said Katzman.

Figuring out how to add more space often means being able to use the space you have, such as hanging items behind doors for easy access. "You can go vertical with unused space by putting shelves up above or in furniture that does double duty like ottomans that have storage," said Katzman. "You can put a storage bench in a rarely used dining room. There are also hidden spaces behind beds."

Be sure you can see what you have. "I recommend using clear containers, so you can see what is inside," said Katzman. "Unless they are decorative and if they are not clear, they should be labeled, so you do not have to take them down all the time."

Your home office can often be the most troubling. Suzy Wilkoff, of Tasks Unlimited, says, "If you become overwhelmed with paper, sort it in different categories. While you are sorting, purge unnecessary documents, things you do not need, things that are historical and beyond necessary for taxes and mementoes like letters."

Have a filing system that works for you. "Some people prefer alphabetical and some prefer categories," said Wilkoff.

Go through mail regularly. "Throw out the trash, shred things that have anything with personal information, and act on it, whether it is filing, paying or making a follow-up call," said Wilkoff.

Some people choose to keep financial things together, like banking, billing and investments. "You would have separate files for warranties, service done on the home, and purchases for the home," said Wilkoff.

Anything related to this year's taxes should go in a folder that is labeled 2012 taxes. Everything should have a designated spot. Wilkoff said, "Scan historical documents, so you can lose the paper, or, if you hold onto it, box it up, label it, and every year. When you add a year, you can pull out the oldest year and shred that."

Pick up some useful tools. The business card holder may be a three-ring binder with inserts for the cards. "You could use a vertical sorter on top of your desk and a business card holder," said Wilkoff.

If you choose to use a professional organizer, make sure that everything is kept confidential. "The organizer is not just there to come and make things look nice," said Wilkoff. "He or she is there to teach you the best practices."

Remember that you can be accountable on your own as well. Make lists. "Create a data sheet which lists all of your account information, doctors and location of documents like bank accounts, investment accounts, veterinarian, kids' school information and social security numbers and give it to a close family member or close neighbor," said Wilkoff.

This way, if something happens to you, someone is there who knows all the details on where everything is located. The key is maintaining your organization skills. "Time management and organizing go hand-in-hand," said Wilkoff. Reward yourself for a job well done. "If you spend a couple of hours organizing, sit down and have a glass of wine or take a bubble bath," said Wilkoff.

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