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CLUTTER'S LAST STAND , 2nd Edition: It's Time to De-Junk Your Life!
by Don Aslett.

Clutter's Last Stand

This is a funny, helpful and hopeful MUST READ for clutterbugs. As Don so profoundly states, "Life doesn't begin at forty, sixty-five, twenty, thirty, when you get married, when you get promoted, or when you have grandkids--life truly begins when you discover how flexible and free you are without clutter.

Where to Buy Ôø‡

More books Ôø‡


Unclutter Your: Closet
Tame Your Closet
Reader's Digest Ask the Experts
Is Your Home This Organized? It Can Be
Personal Effects
Conquer Clutter
The Why's and How's to Conquer Clutter
Addictive Shopper Bug
Becoming a Professional Organizer



Woman's Day Magazine


Unclutter Your Closet by Mervyn Kaufman
Making the most of available space

Whether yours is a wall closet on walk-in, and whether it's shared space or your own, you can reconfigure it to better suit your needs. Some people arrange their clothing by color, others by function. It doesn't matter how you organize, only that you do.

- If your closet has a solid door that swings open, use it for over-the-door storage accessories. Add dowels or inexpensive towel racks to hold scarves and necties.

- Use stick-on or screw-in hooks for your bathrobe and towels.

- By raising the closet rod from 5 to 6 feet, which may also require rasing a shelf, you can double-hang some clothing: suits or shirts on one rod, pants or blouses on the rod below it.

- If you store shoes in their original boxes, label the exposed end or attach a photo. Or invest in transparent plastic shoe-bins. Your shoes will stay dry and dust free.

- Zip sweaters into transparent plastic pouches. Or, stack them on open shelves, maintaining order by using vinyl- or epoxy-coated steel dividers.

Space-Saving Accessories

In addition to hooks, over-the-door storage and transparent shoe and sweater holders, try these closet storage aids, which are available at most houseware stores.

- Canvas or plastic storage units suspended from hanger-style hooks can hold folded blouses, shirts or sweaters. Some units are designed to store shoes.

- Wire baskets on racks or shelves are great for folded garments you want to see.

- Hanger units designed to hold multiple pairs of pants use vertical instead of horizontal space.

- Clear, zippered plastic bags help keep folded out-of-season clothing neatly stacked but easy to see.

- Hat racks can be mounted horizontally on vertically, depending on the space and how you want to access your gear.

Storage Tips

The best way to manage clutter is to reduce it. Pare down the contents of your closet by finding other places to stow your stuff - the attic, on a shelf in the guest room or under a bed. Wherever you store, here are some ways to do it better:

- Launder or dry-clean whatever you plan to pack away - sweat and food stains can attract moths. Plus, your clothing will be clean and ready-to-wear when it's time to bring them out of storage.

- Whether you're storing shirts, blouses or sweaters, fold them neatly; tuck tissue paper into shoulder and collar areas to hold the shape. If you plan to store suits or jackets, use plastic covers from your dry cleaner instead of tissue paper to soften the creases of folded garments.

- Put mothballs or cedar chips into each storage container (both discourage moths ut nothing is sure to work.)

- Store seasonal items in zippered bags, plastic containers or sheets of plastic taped tightly to create a good seal.

Do's and Don'ts

- Do organize your closet so that belts, neckties, scarves, handbags, shoes and sweaters are accessible.

- Don't stash sports gear and luggage with your wardrobe. Limit closet contents to clothing.

- Don't place anything on the floor in a far corner or at the back of a shelf. It's the same as giving it away; you'll never see it.

- Do ease your closet crunch by expanding your dresser space. Tuck a small chest or trunk under a window or even at the foot of your bed for storing things like scarves, shawls, T-shirst and gloves.

Getting Started

- Take stock; remove everything, sorting as you go.

- Arrange closet contents in separate piles: his, hers, hats, suits, jackets, dresses, blouses, shoes - every category that applies.

- Examine each item. If it's something you haven't worn in the last two years, consider giving it away. (Always be sure to check the pockets.)

- Weed out seasonal gear and anything else you can easily store elsewhere.

- Clean the closet thoroughly, including corners where dust accumulates. (This may be a good time to repaint the interior.)

These tips are based on advice from the following experts:

- Christy Best, an authority on organization (www.clutterbug.net)

Home Remodeling Magazine

Tame Your Closet
And organize your stuff
by David Enscoe
Home Remodeling Magazine

Clutter is out, organization is in- inside America's homes. "Our frustration with clutter appears to be creating a growing trend toward a 'place for everything and everything in its place' movement," says Paula Erickson, consumer affairs manager for Ace Hardware. Of all the areas of the house that seem to be the most troublesome when it comes to clutter, closets top the list. One reason may be that most closets are too small to hold the amount of things we put in them. Another problem is the fact that closets have doors- making it easy to hide the clutter.

The Origin of Clutter
Most experts will say that the problem isn't any of the above. If you really take a good look at your closets you will see a lot of wasted space, especially at the top and bottom. And doors can only hide the clutter temporarily- sooner or later you are going to have to open the door and see the mess. According to Brian Kinkaid, a home organization expert at Rubbermaid, the battle to control clutter is won one step at a time and by having the right attitude and the right tools to help you organize. "Clutter is usually a result of disorganized space rather than insufficient space," he says.

Christy Best
, a professional organizer who has her own website, www.clutterbug.net, says surplus clothes and miscellaneous household items are the primary source of closet clutter. "We wear twenty percent of our clothes eighty percent of the time," she says. "That's a lot of clothing in our closets that we're not going to wear. Add that to the stuff that ends up in the closet because it just doesn't seem to fit anywhere else and you've got a cluttered closet."

So What's the Solution?
First decide what you want to use the closet for- choose its function,this can be based on location. For example, a closet located between a kitchen and bathroom that currently has luggage, old clothes and boxes of photographs could be used instead to store linens for both kitchen and bath. Or if your family is into sports or gardening, designate a hall closet near the back door to store sporting equipment and gardening supplies. After deciding on the function of the closet, it's time to clean it out. Start by weeding out the obvious items, things you haven't worn or used in over a year, broken items that will never be repaired, and items don't fall under the closet's function. Keep in mind that articles that are destined for this particular closet are probably stored in other closets in other parts of the house. Go around to the other closets and pull out any articles that belong in the closet you are organizing. Do not attempt to organize more than one closet at a time, this will cause chaos. Just pull out the articles you need for this particular closet.

Kincaid suggests that if space is at a minimum, determine a second location for off-season clothing and items, such as the attic or basement. Store these items in a container that protects the contents from moisture and dust, such as a Rubbermaid Roughtote.

Planning a System
- Before installing shelves, make a list of what will go in the closet.
- Figure out what storage accessories you will require, like hooks or baskets
- Place drawers in the center so they don't interfere with folding doors.
- Vinyl-coated and metal-wire products can be purchased at home center stores or closet companies. Wire products provide ventilation and easy viewing of the shelf's contents.
- When organizing your closets think creatively; furniture doesn't have to be used as the manufacturer intended. Put a bookcase in the closet instead of shelves. Use kitchen storage containers to hold socks, gloves, or pet toys. Place a lazy Susan on the closet shelf; it's an easy, convenient way to locate items.
- Shoes can be a messy problem in a closet. Try stacking them in the boxes that they came in, then label them.
- Retail stores and catalogs specializing in storage products offer a selection of modular closet furniture that is designed to mix and match. These stacking units can help you to customize your closets to your needs. Items include two-and three- compartment cubes with drawers, vertical stackers and double-width shelves, available in a variety of natural wood finishes.

Preventing Relapse
Once a closet has been uncluttered, the problem becomes keeping clutter from returning. Installing a system of shelves, drawers and pole at different heights will help. "The problem with cluttered closets is that they have a single shelf and a single pole," says Ginny Scott, director of learning and development for California Closets, a franchise that designs and installs closet organizing systems all over the world. "That's inadequate. Clothes come in different lengths and we need different types of storage."

Changing Habits
Keeping clutter at bay requires a change in mind-set, according to Christy Best. "You can spend five thousand dollars on new shelving but all the storage solutions in the world won't help you if you don't get to the core of the problem: collecting clutter."

Best
says an effective tool in keeping a closet organized is a donation box. The box can be stored in any room, she says, but it's important that every member of the houshold knows about it and contributes to it consistently. Make it a rule when something new comes in a similar item goes out.

Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest Ask the Experts
2500 Great Hints & Smart Tips from the Pros
Your Home Inside and Out

An uncluttered pantry not only makes mealtime easier, but looks great and creates a feeling of serenity in your home.

- Don't hang sweaters, which can sag and become damaged.
- Avoid hangers designed to hold more than one item since clothes can become wrinkled.
- Check your clothes for dropped hems, missing buttons, and stains before hanging them up.

Managing the Details
"The key to organization is simplification," says Christy Best, a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers with her own website, www.clutterbug.net. "There seems to be a tendency to hang on to excess things, because there was an initial monetary output. But keeping these items won't make the money reappear!"

Best recommends keeping a donation box going at all times. When it's full, drop it off at a donation station. "It's impossible to get organized until items that aren't being used are cleared. Once that process us underway, life becomes much simpler."

The Linen Closet
Ronnie Essenberg tells you how to create order out of chaos in your linen closet.
- Line shelves with easy-to-clean vinyl fabric or paper.
- Keep only frequently used towels, and sheets in the linen closet. Recycle worn towels and sheets as rags.
- Fold sheets by set. Fold pillow cases, fitted and flat sheets separately, then place the flat sheet and cases within the fitted sheet so they can be pulled out as a unit.
- Stack sheets according to family member and towels according to the bathroom in which they are used.
- When storing sheets, towels, or tablecloths, place the folded side facing the door.
- Use the floor of the linen closet to store large, bulky items, or smaller items in storage bins.

Smart Moves
Storing out-of-season clothing can help you keep the chaos in check.
- Try to store clothes in a well-ventilated part of the house. Overheated attics can cause clothes to discolor or hidden stains to appear, while damp basements may cause mildew.
- Clean everything before storing it. Moths will attack food-stained and dirty clothes first, and stains will set over time.
- Store folded items like sweaters in cedar chests or plastic bins. Use mothballs, but don't let them touch clothing. Don't store clothes directly on wood, which can discolor them.
- Suits, dresses, and skirts can be stored on rolling clothing racks.
- If you're short on storage space at home, find a dry cleaner who offers box storage for your winter clothes over the summer.

Central Coast Living
Is Your Home This Organized? It Can Be
Aromas woman turns "simplifying" into full-time job.
by Dave Nordstrand
The Salinas Californian

Professional organizer Christy Best of Aromas flies to South Dakota next week to clear the clutter from an old family farmhouse.

Nothing in the house, not even bits of string, has been tossed for 100 years.

"This may be the mother of all jobs," says Best, a pioneer in her field.

Since 1995, Best - she calls her business Clutterbug.net - has swept through, helping people in Monterey County and beyond get organized.

USA Today, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping and the New York Times have interviewed her.

"Clutter is a national problem," Best said. "Everybody has too much stuff."

The effort to clear the floor is important. Clutter can reduce efficiency, increase stress and upset relationships.

Best has even noticed a clutter-depression link. "Many of my clients are highly intelligent people with beautiful homes," she said.

"Yet they've manifested their depression in accumulating useless material items, filling their homes to the bursting point."

"My function is to help people simplify their lives so they know where all things are at all times."

Her clients - they include businesses - make a list of places they can't seem to clear on their own, and she goes after those first.

The most important thing to remember is that getting organized doesn't happen all at once, Best tells her clients.

It's more bit-by-bit.

Like losing weight, she said.

"Those items took years to accumulate. They're not going to disappear overnight," she said.

She works in five-hour segments and can make "a huge dent" in the first session.

In the 1950's, when Best was growing up, the assembly line turned out far fewer goods than it does in 2004.

"We didn't have the out-of-control consumption," she said. "No computers. No faxes. No answering machines."

Today, people have too many things, Best said. An industry has sprung up to deal with the result. Stores offer product lines aimed at getting people organized.

Best is a former editor. She developed her organizing skills getting a newspaper out on deadline. One day, she saw a TV special on the National Association of Professional Organizers and decided to get into the business.

Many clients have collected so much clutter that they can't see the floor. One Salinas-area client had not thrown a newspaper away in 30 years. Another kept a tidy closet, but scattered 5000 CD's about in other rooms.

"Only 10 percent of people I work with can fit a vehicle in the garage," Best said.

Many of the items can be of use to others, so Best carries a long list of agencies accepting such goods.

The business of clearing clutter seems rooted in the consumer society. Best is always on a job or en route to one.

"I have a gruelling schedule," she said.

Reducing Clutter
Starter tips from Christy Best on how to create order out of chaos:

- Keep a donation box going.
"We keep bringing things in without getting things out," Best said. "It's simple math."

- Deal with mail and paper daily.
"Don't put it in a stack to deal with later because it never will happen," she said.

- Avoid impulse buying.
Make sure you have a need for an item before you buy it.

- Consider intangible presents, especially during holidays and birthdays.
A trip, for example as opposed to "25 more toys on the floor," Best said.

-Stored family memorabilia or archival paperwork should not be in the living or working space.
Ten years worth of tax returns do not belong on the coffee table.

- Remember, the garage is not a storage space.
Neither is the floor. "If an item doesn't have a home, then you need to rethink having it," Best said.

Personal Effects
by Helaine R. Freeman
Arkasas Democrat-Gazette
Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Survivors faced with decisions about disposing of a deceased loved one's belongings needn't face the pain alone.

Inside the Colonial-style, two-story brick home in west Little Rock, it looks as though the owner is merely preparing for a move.

The elegance of the green-and-burgundy-decorated living room is broken by the intrusion of two oblong portable tables bearing pieces of cut glass, ceramic pottery, dishes and figurines.

In the comfortable den, things are not as neat. Several women sort through boxes, piles of clothing and other belongings. As they go through the items, they price them.

Actually, it is a moving day - of sorts. The belongings in the recently sold home are being prepared for an estate sale. The woman who lived in the house died in February, only three months after her husband's death. The family, currently struggling with the added hardship of losing another loved one, has commissioned Nancy Franzke of Little Rock to conduct the sale.

Franzke, who has been in the business 14 years, knows what will sell best. The cut glass will be popular, she says.

"Another item that's very collectible is military clothing," she adds, pointing out a brown leather bomber jacket. Other popular items: old musical instruments, old toys.

Items such as these must be dealt with by the relatives of those who have died.

Deciding what to do with the belongings left behind by a deceased loved one - whether it's a much-worn blouse, a silver tea set, a French Empire table, a shag rug or an automobile - can be an added challenge in a time already weighed down by grief and stress.

"That is the most difficult thing - having to go back home and be faced with (the deceased's) belongings and their clothing," says Christy Best, a nationally recognized organizer based in California.

It's a situation that Bonnie Jacobsen, a professional organizer in Little Rock, has seen many a baby boomer face.

"One of the heartbreaking things is, it really gets people stuck because there's so much grief involved with it," says Jacobson, owner of Let's Get Organized. "If the family has not started passing on some of the treasures before the parents are gone, it's very very painful to let go of the things after theyr'e gone.

Long Goodbyes
Many survivors make the mistake of taking the items from the home of the deceased to their own homes, where they sit for a long time, Jacobsen adds. "They end up with sort of layers of generations of clutter and so it becomes a multilevel problem. They cannot make decisions on any level - and then they get stuck in the pain and the grief and the memories."

But while some struggle with clutter - or leave their loved one's home intact, paying extra utility bills and worrying about the vacant home being robbed - other survivors make the mistake of trying to get rid of things too quickly.

"The temptation to get rid of everything stems, many believe, from that illusion that if you can deal with and dispose of the possessions, you will make quick business of disposing of the pain and hurt of grief," writes Eva Shaw in her 1994 book What to Do When a Loved One Dies: A Practical and Compassionate Guide to Dealing with Death on Life's Terms (Dickens Press, $18.95).

Sorting Stuff of a Lifetime
Are you the survivor of a deceased relative who left no instructions or provisions on how to dispose of his belongings?

-Don't try to dispose of the items hastily.
"In my opinion, that causes psychological scarring," says Christy Best, an nationally recognized organizer based in California. Give yourself some time to grieve, and deal with the situation only when you're ready. If it's a parent who has died, Best adds, "Don't let the children start coming in and grabbing things."

Best's website, www.clutterbug.net, gives numerous tips and advice on how to deal with too much stuff.

-Seek objective professional help.
"The bottom line... is that you don't have to do it alone." says Dana Estill, a mental health therapist in Asheville, N.C. But the help doesn't have to come from a therapist. Bonnie Jacobson, a professional organizer in Little Rockm works with bereaved clients to establish what type of value a possession may have for them - monetery, sentimental, historic - to help them pare down the belongings.

-Don't sort through the things alone.
Ask for help from no more than one or two close friends.

-Sort the items into three piles of things, labeling them Pile A, Pile B, and Pile C.
Place into Pile A the things you definitely want to keep. Pile B should contain the things you feel you can stand to donate or dispose of. Pile C should be the "I don't know" pile. And that might be all you do," Estill says. "You don't have to do anything else with those piles." After the sorting is over, reward yourself in some way.

-Resist the temptation to throw out items you think are junk.
Old newspapers, documents, letters and notes may provide genealogical information and insights about the deceased's life.

-Make memories space-efficient.
Smaller keepsake items can be organized into a shadowbox or collage, or be photographed before disposal. Fabric items can be remade into a quilt.

-Don't keep things out of a sense of obligation.
If the deceased was an avid reader with a book collection you do not wish to keep, consider donating the books to your local library. Donate old military photographs or other historic memorabilia to a museum.

- Donate to a charitable organization that was important to the diseased.
Give clothing or other possessions to that organization, or sell them and donate the proceeds.

-Share with the friends of the deceased.
Best recalls an instance in which a teenage girl died in an accident. Afterward, the girl's friends were allowed to go through her possessions and choose a memento. That's good for adults, too, she says. "Maybe his best friend played golf with him and maybe his best friend would like a golf club."

-Use your loved one's possessions to honor them or your relationship with them.
Estill tells of taking the bars from her father's police uniform and giving one of them to a friend who had exhibited bravery.
-Helaine R. Freeman


Conquer Clutter
Woman's Day
February 1, 2002

Laundry District
Make Way for Storage
Even the tiniest laundry area has room for a small shelf above the washer for detergents, stain removers, and softener sheets, says Ronnie Eisenberg, coauther of Organize Yourself! Or store supplies in an organizer that slides between the washer and dryer.

Install a retractable clothesline.
Keep a bin full of hangers nearby so you can hang tops and slacks as soon as they come out of the washer or dryer. Molded-plastic shape-savers let you hang lightweight sweaters, instead of drying them flat.

Be a matchmaker.
Collect mateless socks and homeless buttons in a plastic basket or shoebox. Regularly sort through your findings for sock that match and the button that goes on your favorite blouse.

Establish a giveaway bin.
Toss clothes that no longer fit anyone in your family in a recycle bin, rather than leaving them to clutter up your laundry room or take up precious space in drawers or closets, suggests Christy Best, founder of www.clutterbug.net. Pack up the items and give them to someone who can use them.

Your Child's Closet
Make it easy.
Place a large open laundry basket in the closet for dirty laundry, rather than a hamper with a lid or a drawstring bag. "It needs to be easy to see and easy to aim at," says Shannon McDonald, a professional organizer in  Alexandria, Virginia.

Hang it up.
Install a tension rod at your child's eye level. Install hooks or pegs on the side walls inside closets for belts, bathrobes and tote bags. Hang a shoebag or jewelry organizer on the back of the door for small toys.

Sort and stack.
Use plastic bins or copier-paper boxes to hold blocks, train sets, doll clothes. Label with a black marker or affix pictures to the outside to show what's inside, or assign colors according to function, i.e., blue for building toys, yellow for puzzles, red for dolls.

Enlist their help.
When your child gets a new art set or game, ask him to help you determine where the item should be stored. The next time he takes it out to play, he'll be more likely to put it back where it belongs. Hooray!

Bathroom Basics
Contain and conceal.
Use slide-out bins to organize bath and cleaning products under the sink. Attach a skirt with self-adhesive fasteners to create a storage area beneath a pedestal sink. Keep first aid supplies in a plastic toolbox so you can take it to the scene of a cut or scrape.

Hang up appliances.
Attach books or a cup holder to the vanity for blow dryers and curling irons, suggests Deniece Schofield, author of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker. You might also hang a vegetable basket from the ceiling or attach hooks or a strip of pegs to the back of the door.

Get a grip on doodads.
Place combs and brushes in a basket on top of the toilet tank. Slip ponytail elastics on a rod-style paper towel holder; clip barretts on a strip of ribbon. Keep cosmetics in a bag or organize them in a desk caddie. Schofield suggests making a "bouquet" of makeup brushes in a small vase.

Use cleanup caddies.
Still short on bathroom storage? Give each child a handled plastic basket for storing personal supplies such as brushes and combs, favorite shampoos and other odds and ends. Kids can keep their caddies in their bedrooms and carry them to the bathroom when they need to wash up.

Help for Pack Rats
Having trouble parting with old clothes, books, videos, pots and pans?

1. Seal items in a box, date it, and store in the basement or garage. If you haven't unsealed the box and used the contents in one year, it's probably safe to say goodbye.

2. Remind yourself that you can always find books in the library, videos at the rental store and magazine articles on the Internet.

3. Instead of forcing yourself to part with all of your children's baby clothes, hold onto one adorable outfit or pair of booties as a keepsake.

4. Give clutter to friends, relatives or charity. Knowing that someone needs that old skillet more than you do makes it easier to let go.


The Why's and How's to Conquer Clutter
Clutter-Freeing Yourself from the Chaos
By Just Loves Books, published July 25, 2005

Recently, the Dr. Phil Show and Oprah each did a program on people whose homes are overflowing with clutter. Interesting topic, the producers thought. What they didn't expect, however, was the flood of calls and e-mails saying, "That's me. I live like that." One reason for the surprise is that people who have a problem with clutter usually are ashamed and live behind closed doors, not letting anyone in to "see their mess." Many times, they feel they are alone in battling the clutter and wonder if something is wrong with them. Clutter is defined as "anything in our lives we do not use or love." Being a clutterer should not be confused with being a "hoarder". Hoarding is a psychiatric condition that affects less than one percent of the population. A hoarder obsesses over things, feels fearful about their possessions, and may even have difficulty parting with the things in their trash bins. Cluttering, on the other hand, affect millions of people. People collect clutter without much thought, but could make the changes needed to conquer it themselves if motivated. Living in a cluttered environment is not just a problem affecting our physical environment. Clutter drains your energy, affects your efficiency, and adds to your stress. In most cases, being a clutterer means spending hard-earned money for things we do not need or want, except in the moment. It also means that we could be paying a mortgage for a 2000 square foot house, but because of our "stuff", only be able to use a portion of it as space for daily living. Clutter affects our social lives, our self-esteem, and our happiness. It also makes cleaning much more time consuming. Clutter can also mean not being able to locate the things we need. Stephanie Roberts, author of Clutter Free Forever! states emphatically that "clutter is disempowering." There are as many reasons for cluttering as there are people. However professionals agree that there are some common causes. Depression, anxiety, or the need to control can all be causes.

Christy Best, Professional Organizer and author of "Clutter-Depression Connection" believes that "possessions, like fat, insulate us from the outside world, building a wall of junk which we can hide behind. Our clutter becomes an insular mechanism for shielding ourselves from pain." Mike Nelson, founder of Clutterless Recovery Groups believes that "clutter is more than a problem with our physical environment." He further states that "clutter is about our emotions and psychology, not just organizing skills" and "changing our outside without changing our inside is a waste of time." Clearing the clutter from our homes and offices is not a one-time event, but a daily practice. Professional organizers, however, do offer some suggestions:

TENS WAYS TO FREE YOURSELF FROM CLUTTER

 1) Get motivated. Make a list of your top five life priorities. Then beside each one, list the ways that coping with clutter interferes with that priority. Do you want to advance in your career, but being able to not find what you need means you miss deadlines? If one of your priorities is spending more time with extended family, are you avoiding asking the parents over because you don't want them to see your home? Take a good hard look at the way clutter is affecting you personally and professionally.

2) Give yourself time. Don't expect to conquer your clutter problem overnight. Building clutter took time and clearing it will, too. Set a time limit each day to devote to de-cluttering. It's much easier to think of spending an hour or two cleaning out one closet than to face spending the entire day on the whole house or office.

3) Use small blocks of time. If you're stuck on hold with your dentist's receptionist, clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen while you're waiting. Got fifteen minutes before you have to leave for an appointment? Sort through a file drawer. These small amounts of time that would ordinarily be wasted can be used to give you a feeling of accomplishment.

4) Label three boxes "Keep", "Give Away", and "Throw Away". When sorting remember the definition of clutter, "things we don't love or use." If it's not something you love and would be upset to part with, or something that has been used in the past year, out it goes. Even if you feel the item is "still good" and "could be useful", if you're not using it, pass it along to someone who will. Don't get side-tracked if you come across your old high school yearbook or misplaced photo album. Stick with the task at hand.

5) Be ruthless. Remember your goal to live a happier, more efficient life. Make a quick decision about each item and move on.

6) Remove immediately. Once you've decided which items to throw away, bag them and take them to the trash can immediately. If you have items to be donated, take them or arrange pick-up as soon as you finish sorting. Procrastinating is not freeing you from the clutter.

7) Get your family involved. If you live with other people, chances are they contributed to the clutter problem. Get them involved in the sorting/purging process.

8) Stop buying. You can't clear out the clutter if you're constantly bringing more in. Avoid impulse buying. Ask yourself if the item is something you really need and will use. Also ask yourself where you plan to put the item once you bring it home. Many people find it useful to follow the "one in, one out" rule. If you buy new books, donate old ones to the library. If your child gets new toys for his birthday, donate old ones to charity.

9) Deal with things in the moment. Beginning now, put things away as soon as you finish using them. Sort through mail instead of piling it on the kitchen counter. If you finish eating take-out food, throw away all the boxes, napkins, and drink containers. Clear off your desk before leaving the office each day.

10) Ask for help. If your clutter seems totally overwhelming to you, Professional Organizers are available. Check the yellow pages in your local telephone directory. Organizers usually charge by the hour, give free estimates, and can accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time. If you can't afford to hire someone, enlist the help of a friend or family member to help. There are also online support groups if you need some extra motivation. Most people who clear the clutter from their lives are surprised at just how free they feel. Their lives are so much simpler and run more smoothly. By creating a peaceful, serene environment, most find they feel peaceful and serene. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her book Gift of the Sea, said "for the most part, we who could choose simplicity, choose complication." Begin today to free yourself from the complication of clutter.


Addictive Shopper Bug


"We all get bitten by the shopping bug now and then. We just have to have the lastest fashion or coolest new electronic gadget. Our material-based society encourages us to open our wallet and empty it in the mall. It's a difficult pressure to resist. Some people simply can't.

Recently I've had a streak of clients whom I would classify as compulsive shoppers. They shop to feel good, not because they need more stuff. Their homes are littered with unopened packages and multiples of the same item. What's worse, many of these people really can't afford to buy the things they're buying. Some of my clients are drowning in debt, yet continue to shop until they drop.

I see this evidenced all the time in my work. I see rooms full of electronic equipment and software still sitting in their boxes. I've seen garages stacked with unopened purchases. I helped one client remove the clothes off her bedroom floor-- it took four hours. Who can wear that many clothes, and how could that time be better spent? Compulsive shopping manifests itself in the kitchen as well. One woman I know had an entire pantry full of canned green beans.

Then, when people become buried underneath a mountain of stuff, they go out and buy mass quantities of organizing tools, plastic bins and filing cabinets and closet organizing components and the like. Or they hire me. So the irony here is they're spending even more money to get a handle on the stuff that put them into debt to begin with. And interestingly enough, some of these people aren't connecting the dots. They don't make the connection that their shopping habit has dissolved their home into disarray and buried them in debt.

So how do you know if you're addicted to shopping? If you can say yes to most of the following questions, you could be a compulsive shopper:

Do you buy things simply because it feels to good to buy them?
Do you buy things just because they're on sale?
Do you make purchases based on packaging?
Do you own new items that are still in their boxes?
Do you buy clothing and shoes you never wear?
Do you buy duplicates of items because you can't find the originals?
Do you buy things for your familyfriends, knowing they're unneeded?
Has shopping sunk you into debt?

Compulsive shopping is a real psychological condition that should be treated by a professional therapist. If you think you might be a shop-a-holic, please seek out therapy. However, here are some simple tips that I think everyone should follow on every shopping trip, be it a quickie to the corner convenience store or a trek to the mall:

Don't shop when you're feeling anxious, depressed or powerless.
If you're shopping for pleasure or to pass time, find another activity.
Leave your credit cards and checkbook at home.

{Christy lists several other good, practical suggestions and elaborates on all, including the three above.}

Remember that by buying lots of stuff, you're not only depleting your own financial resources to feed the corporate monster (and make someone else rich), but you're depleting the Earth's resources as well. If you think of it in those terms, it might be easier to leave stuff on the shelf.

Most importantly, keep in mind that stuff cannot possibly make us happy. Quite the contrary, I have found. Too much stuff bogs down our minds, space and time, while simplicity frees us up to pursue the worthwhile things in life, be it family, career, athletic or creative endeavors, or simply getting lost in a good book. Keep it simple, and enjoy life.

All the Best,

Christy Best
Professional Organizer
Member NAPO
Founder, Clutterbug.net LLC

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Becoming a Professional Organizer
Question: I need help figuring our my career path. I have a bachelor's degree in Journalism, and worked a couple of years towards a master's in Geology. It has been a few years now, and I still haven't gone back to finish my masters degree. After several deaths in my family, I reevaluated my life and decided that I don't really want to work full-time - I want to be home for my children and my husband. I would prefer a job with an easy-going environment, and one where I don't have to sit at a desk all day. I have considered becoming a professional organizer, but don't know where to begin. Also, is it possible to apprentice with an established professional organizer to see if this is what I'd really like to do? Thanks for your help.
Sherry

Answer: As the workplace continues to take some interesting turns, you are certainly not alone in deciding that you'd like to forgo a full-time career to be home for your husband and children. Initially, when considering a career downshift, it's helpful to look at possible adaptations of your current profession which would supply easy carry over of skills, expertise and credentials. It is also beneficial to make note of all the things you really enjoy doing versus things you never want to do again and evaluate these in light of your resume to see what directions emerge. As it appears you are no longer interested in pursuing either your former interests in journalism or geology, it will be even more important to see if such an overview supports your newly identified interest in professional organizing.

Generally speaking, professional organizers help too-busy - or simply disorganized - people who require being led into a more methodical way of life. Guiding people through this kind of change requires a touch of diplomacy and a little letting-go psychology to go along with organizing skills. You can begin to determine whether or not you're adaptable to this profession by studying your past positions and the skills they required. If they match up handily, you can feel confident to continue your pursuit of this profession.

Keeping in mind that you stipulated that you - "would prefer a job with an easy-going environment, and one where you don't have to sit at a desk all day" - you'll want to determine whether or not professional organizing fits successfully into the category of a low key, part-time job. In any event, be clear that making a go of even a part-time business (or any service profession) will, at least in the beginning, require a lot of time, effort, marketing and dedication. You must, therefore, establish exactly what you are willing to invest in this kind of startup effort.

If you decide to proceed, one of the most important things you'll need to do is develop a program that will support your ability to deliver on your promise to help your clients get better organized. This includes putting into place organizational tools that will assist you in this effort. Expert Christy Best says about the profession, "Professional Organizers provide information, products and assistance to help others organize to meet their needs. A professional organizer should guide, encourage and educate clients about basic principles of organizing by offering support, focus and direction’ĶWhile being organized yourself is a definite asset, simply doing what works for you may be too limiting for the client. The critical skill that a professional organizer must have is the ability to create customized organizing solutions that work for the client."

Best also indicates that "public awareness of the organizing industry is increasing and stimulating the demand for organizers"; that many organizers "bill between 20-40 hours per week; and 42% said they had a gross income of $30,000 and above." So it would seem there is good potential in this field depending on the amount of income you need to derive from whatever work you elect to do.

Another website to visit which will give you some answers regarding your startup question is: http://www.organized-living.com/apprentice.html re: "Apprenticeship Program For Professional Organizers Want to Get started as a pro?"

Finally, take a look at this state-by-state directory: http://www.clutterbug.net/directory/ You'll not only see the variety of ways people in this profession describe themselves, you can also find out if there's someone in your area to connect with along the lines of an internship.



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