The Smart Life
Real-life organizing tips  for real-life messes

“Being organized means spending less time finding things and spending less money on items you already have,” says Soraiya Kara, Director of Membership for the Professional Organizers in Canada (POC). For some of us, that may be easier said than done. Here are Ms. Kara’s real-life tips for getting organized — and being sane about it.

  • Don’t fix something that isn’t broken — even if it’s messy. Do piles of mail and ongoing homework litter your dining room table? It may look messy to someone with a different style, but if it’s organized in a way that works for your family, then don’t feel as though you have change it. Only deal with things that are presenting a problem.
  • Picture success before lifting a finger. “What are you trying to achieve?” Soraiya Kara asks. “Is it to clear out a closet or entertain at home more? Once you know that, your project has an end.” If you don’t have an end in sight, you’ll never be finished — and that leads to procrastination.
  • Make it work for you. “If you’re a visual person, then it may be better to keep your organized files on your desk or table rather than hide them away in a filing cabinet,” she says. Do you picture a book’s colour rather than the title or author? Then organize your bookshelves that way.
  • Think before diving into digital. Scanning photos, using an app to store and sort recipes, and selling your CDs and DVDs to go completely digital may save space and clutter, but it may also cause frustration. “If you’re a tactile person and want to turn the pages of a book or like the feel of old photographs, then digital isn’t for you,” Ms. Kara explains. The same goes if you like to scribble in the margins of recipes or enjoy reading the CD and DVD jackets.
  • Have kids? Keep it simple — really simple — with a one-step solution. The easier it is for them, the more likely they are to do it. So rather than put their hamper in their closet, leave it out in the open — without a lid. Same for their toys and sports equipment.
  • Start small and easy. “Start with one shelf or one cupboard or closet,” Ms. Kara advises. “And make sure it’s an easy task that can be completed fairly quickly.” You’ll get a real sense of accomplishment and help stay motivated.
  • Move things out quickly. The faster you take items in for donation or put items in the trash, the better. “At the very least, put the items for donation in your car rather than have them sit inside,” she says.
  • Purge and repurpose before you buy. Don’t run out to buy storage supplies until you know what you’re keeping. And before you buy storage boxes or other organizing items, repurpose what you already have. “Shoe boxes are great to organize and store just about anything,” notes Ms Kara. “Even shelf dividers that are commonly used for dishes are great for keeping piles of t-shirts tidy.”
  • Call in a pro. When time is tight or you need specialized expertise, consider a professional organizer. They’re not just for big jobs. “Sometimes you need a bit of objectivity and a lot of experience to put a system in place that works,” she says. “Other times, you may want someone to manage a move or rebuild your closets.”

Expert tip: Organizers offer more than one service. Find one through the POC’s Find an Organizer tool — complete with the option to refine your search by services offered and level of experience.

Lastly, remember that being organized should relieve stress — not stress you out! Be realistic and put systems in place that you and your family can maintain.

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