Starting 2018 with a clean slate: Tackle clutter for a fresh beginning

Story by Pamela A. Keene
Photos courtesy All Things in Order

Do you dread opening that closet or going into your garage because it’s a cluttered mess? How often do you struggle to find that “I-know-I-put-that-thing-somewhere” item you just saw yesterday?
It’s kind of a joke that if you’ve misplaced something, you’ll find in the last place you look. It can be frustrating, but don’t despair; you probably just need a little help.
“The key to effective organization is to consider your lifestyle,” says Angelina Manolakis, owner of All Things in Order, a personal organizing service based in Gainesville. “You need to think about the way you live and adapt organizational methods accordingly.”
For instance, the old school approach of always having a clean desk at the end of the day or lining up all the cans in your pantry with the labels facing the same way may not work for everyone.
“You can’t just go into someone’s life and decide to change it based on rules,” she says. “That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Manolakis meets with clients to discuss organizational goals and find out what’s important to them, how much space they have and to learn about their lifestyle. Does the client like to accumulate “things,” such as multiple kitchen tools that all perform similar tasks? Is the client a visual organizer who would benefit from grouping items together and storing them in clear bins, or someone who does better with labels and colors?
“Most people don’t like to get rid of things, but they’re open to reorganizing them,” Manolakis said. “For instance, when you tackle a kitchen and begin to group like items together, you may find that you’ve got four different tools that basically do the same thing. Or maybe you have kitchen tools that you just don’t use anymore, or that might be broken. Perhaps it’s time to donate a couple of them or simply discard them. That way, you’re freeing up space and eliminating clutter.”
Even with today’s electronic readers, books and magazines can seemingly multiply overnight for a family that likes to read. Think about donating already-read books to a library, school or used book store.
Closets and garages are major concerns for many of Manolakis’ clients.
“If people are living in older homes, closet space may be at a premium, but think about organizing up by using stackable containers on the top shelf that are clearly labeled. This is especially good for items that are not frequently used,” she said.
Garages can be a catch-all for everything from old clothes and gardening tools to sports equipment and overflow storage.
“Sometimes it can be overwhelming to take on a complete overhaul of your garage, but if you start with just one area, you’ll soon see progress. It doesn’t have to be completed in one session,” she said.
Manolakis suggests working with three bins, boxes or big bags to help with sorting; label them “Keep,” “Donate” and “Trash.” You may also add a fourth container marked “Yard Sale,” if you are so inclined.

“Handle each item only once and stick with your decision,” she said. “And promise yourself that you won’t go back and change your mind. It may take a little longer to decide in the first place, but remember that de-cluttering and getting organized is a process.”

Organizing doesn’t need to be an expensive investment.
“Find stackable storage bins at big-box retailers or dollar stores, and make your own labels rather than purchasing a costly label-making machine. Use colored paper and large markers and attach the labels with clear packing tape,” she said. “Pinterest and other online sites have plenty of innovative and fun ideas that don’t cost a lot of money.”

Manolakis encourages her clients to embrace their personal style and be flexible.
“There’s no one right way to organize,” she said. “No matter what your style, you can make the most of your space, eliminate clutter and feel like you’ve tackled a major lifestyle obstacle when you take time to organize.
“When everything has its place and is put back every time it’s used, you’ll save so much time and frustration. And you’ll really feel better that you’ve gotten yourself organized.”

Organizing tips
No matter what your style, here’s a compilation of tips for organizing and decluttering:
Start small, either one closet or room or one area of a larger space. Stick with it until you’re finished, even if it takes two or three different sessions.
Sort items into three or four groups: Keep, Donate, Trash and Garage Sale.
Handle each item only once.
Kitchen storage plasticware; match up lids and bottoms and discard any that don’t have a match.
Use laundry baskets or plastic storage bins to group like items together.
Keep frequently used items close at hand and store those used less often or considering donating or getting rid of them.
If you’re organizing at the end of the year, keep a record of any items that you donate. The donation may be tax-deductible.

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