Getting organized = Gaining control

The NY Times had an interesting article entitled To Create Order… First Get Organized.

It goes over the life of a professional organizer and tries to explain a bit more on how they go through the process of organizing.

It’s pretty interesting to learn about organizers and to kind of get a feeling that this job was a bit of a calling for them, because for one organizer, she was organizing her dolls by the age of 2!

I wasn’t THAT precocious but I do remember filing and organizing a lot when I was a kid. To the point where my mom thought I may have been too neat for a child.

I just recently did a FB Closet purge, and now my closet looks and feels (well, the half that is still in Toronto), a lot cleaner and more organized. The next step is to get rid of all of my books that I don’t read, and other knick-kacky stuff. That’ll all get done in November when I’m done this project and I am back in Toronto to get a couple of things finished.

Anyway, on to the interesting bits – the tips from these organizers.

Tip No. 1: Purge first, binge later. People think freshly purchased containers will make them organized. But it’s not the containers that organize you, it’s the system.

This is so true, not only in organization but in life as well. People think that an IT system will make their business magically run faster, more efficiently and sexier, but it’s really the business process (a.k.a. ‘system’ in organizer speak) that does the work. The system just automates it, and if it’s designed well, it just fits.

Buying organizers is the best part, but if you buy organizers before you assess what you need, you’re going to end up regretting your purchases and/or spending more money in the end, buying what you actually needed.

Tip No. 2: Bankers’ boxes, from the office-supply store, hold legal or file-size folders, and are stamped “Destroy Date” on one end, making them a perfect purgatory for paperwork.

Personally I am not a fan of bankers’ boxes. Only because I hate pulling down a box and reading what I need.

All you need is an accordion file (to start), with little tab separations and clear plastic dividing folders within each separation (get the accordion files that really expand at the bottom, and not just at the top. You’re going to need it).

As for sorting receipts, I buy an accordion file (not the super expandable kinds), for the 12 months of the year, I label the tabs, and I just throw the receipts in there. I could sort them even further, and I might, but that’s just pointless.

But before I throw any receipts in there, I make a note of them in an Excel file, so that I don’t have to dump ‘em out each year and go through them one by one all over again, trying to find the date, the amount, the store and the purpose.

Tip No. 3: Use one Ziploc bag for every appliance or electronics item you own. Store extra cords, batteries, warranties and the other stuff you don’t know what to do with. Then put the bags together in a bin.

I don’t like Ziploc bags. Not sexy. Don’t have a solution for THIS yet, but I’ll think of something. I have a lot of cords to organize.

Do not store your shoes beside each other as if there were feet in them. Store them heel to toe. They will take up less space.

But they look so much cuter side by side. Nix on this one for me.

Attractive wastebaskets are the perfect place to store out-of-season wrapping paper.

This is a true one. Just stick the rolls in there upright!

In September, designate a box for each child’s artwork and school papers. Then go through them the next summer, when you are not so attached to them.

*nods* If I had kids, it sounds pretty reasonable. I ended up tossing most of my projects and schoolwork when I finished University. Or I scanned them in and saved them to my external hard drive so I had a digital copy.

Do not keep something just because it was a gift. Adopt the theory that once somebody gives a gift, they lose control of it.

This is a good one. A lot of people keep gifts for no reason.

To get rid of clothes, put them in a non-see-through garbage bag, date the bag and put a date a few months into the future on the calendar. If you have not gone into the bag by that date, donate it.

That is a GIVEN that I’ll never go into that bag again. I’d just donate it right away (for me). But if you’re hesitant about getting rid of things so quickly, give this method a shot.

My own personal tips are to:

– Start slowly. Don’t expect to get it all done in one weekend.

– Make piles into “Toss into Trash” (They’re really euchred), “To be Tailored” (so that you bring it all in one big pile to the tailor) and “Unsure” (this pile should go in the black bags)

– Go with your gut instinct. Don’t second guess your first instinct about a certain top. If you just feel “No” when you look at it, then put it in the bag. You said No for a reason.

– Make a note of what you have in your closet after the first purge and make a note of what basics are missing (if any) or what needs to be replaced in your daily life (like you happen to only have 2 work tops left and only 2 pants for example)

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.