Spanx vs the Lapband: what’s your clutter situation?

Did you ever consider losing clutter to be analogous to losing weight? It is! And though everyone is unique, in Get Organized Already’s professional organizing adventures three different situations show up over and over.

Which of the following weight loss scenarios best describes you? Check out my pro tips to help you get organized no matter what the size of your clutter is.
nonni w basket

Tummy tuck anyone?

Sometimes when we walk in the door with our cute aprons and our magic organizing basket, people want to have a complete overhaul. Their house, or just a room, is too packed to be usable anymore. If this sounds familiar, you are probably too overwhelmed to know where to start.

Pro tip: Start with a trash bag, a lined donation bin, and a box for any papers you find. Start in one corner of the room and set a timer. Touch everything only once, put each item in the appropriate container, and work until the timer goes off. That’s less daunting than tackling the whole room, right? In situations like this, our professional team will spend a few hours getting your room, or home, back to a manageable state. The momentum will keep you moving forward on your own or with people who love you.

Staying in shape

My personal organizing style is livable and comfortable. I know where everything is, but the beds may not be made. (Shocking, I know! But this is real life we are living—not a movie.) As long as the people in my home know where stuff lives, we can all navigate around each other and not spend our time searching for our things (and yelling, “HAVE YOU SEEN IT?” across the house). This scenario is for those who need a maintenance plan to keep their home organized.

Pro tip: Let all users of items know where things belong using labels. (It doesn’t have to be fancy. A sticky note or painter’s tape works just fine inside cabinets, drawers, and pantries.)

People generally flip out about this comfortable style of organizing because they have fallen victim to thinking that organized means rigid and perfect. Newsflash: perfection is not possible! A comfortable style of organizing suits most people because it is realistic and less expensive (as in no fancy labels or matching containers to buy). And works a lot better than what about 56 percent of you have going on right now: the dreaded PicMonkey Collagewe-don’t-have-a-system approach.

Ready for the college reunion

At the far end of the organizing continuum lie the Martha Stewart and Howard Hughes personalities of the world. Get Organized Already can help you, too! I have two lovely ladies on my organizing team with extensive backgrounds in interior design. They are amazing at creating the types of rooms you see in magazines. Whenever someone calls and I can tell they want to take their home to the next level (think Better Homes and Gardens or Apartment Therapy), I send out my Label Ladies.

I love to be in these places: fresh flowers and herbs in the entryway, a calendar printed in chalkboard paint and framed in a custom frame. Open the drawers and angels sing. The labels whisper beautiful phrases like, “fresh nutmeg” and “organic basmati rice.”

I’m not kidding. It is very peaceful and if I could, I’d have a Get Organized Already organizer over here every day to keep my shizzle looking like that in a heartbeat!

Pro tip: Getting organized isn’t a one time event. It has to happen regularly.

Everyone has their comfort level. Whatever your state of comfort or chaos, there’s a way to stay organized. And my team can help you accomplish your vision of the just-right organized home for less than you spend on two trips to Whole Foods. True story.

How to organize your desk

The most popular room I’m asked to organize is easily the home office.

These days everyone has a computer at home and we pay bills on it, we write emails, we shop, and we socialize. As a result of all of this time spent being distracted (and doing some work) on our computers, our desks are totally neglected and in desperate need of love.

Are you with me?

Is your desk a scary vortex?

Here is a quick run-down of how to organize your desk. The home office in these photos is one I worked on this week which belonged to a very organized, neat guy. So, your desk may take longer than this. (And by this I mean it WILL take longer. I’m trying to be nice.)

How to organize your desk

Before photo of the desk

The obvious problem all of us have is random papers floating around on our desktop or even piles of papers. In order to combat this problem you have to start by weeding out your filing cabinet and any other place you store papers.

STEP 1: cull your files and in-box(es) of old, irrelevant papers

Get rid of old insurance policies, utility bills, work papers you don’t need anymore. There will be lots of stuff you can toss here. Use this list to help you. Ben spent about 30 minutes thinning his files while I labeled the ones he was keeping. Most filing cabinets take over an hour per drawer! Be prepared for this to be all you do the first day or two.

**Organizer bonus fact: most of you only use 20% of the paper you have in your filing cabinet right now. You can expect to throw out up to 80% of your files if you are serious about what you really need.

STEP 2: consolidate your to-do lists. Use an online program like workflowy.com or a single notebook.

Ben had 4 notebooks he was using to take notes. We spent about 10 minutes consolidating the to-do lists and put the 3 least relevant notebooks away to be used later. He also put a long term to-do list on a document on his computer. Great idea.

**Organizer bonus tip: If you are a notebook keeper, write the date it your notebook every now and then so when you are going back searching for something you have a time reference. Search your online calendar for a relevant event to narrow down your time frame of notes to go through in your notebook.

STEP 3: find a place for every paper and every item on your desk top.

This means you will remove everything and put back only what you truly need. You put things back in a way they make sense to you, in the nearest available place to where you’ll use them, according to frequency of use, and like with like.

In Ben’s case we used some bowls and containers from the kitchen for paper clips and wrote a shopping list of things to buy to use permanently. For most of you, you’ll have everything you need already. Do not shop (!!) until you are finished organizing.

**Organizer bonus tip: keep on your desktop only things you use daily.

Here is what we ended with. It doesn’t look hugely different, but it is much more conducive to working and everything is easy to find.

Hire an organizer for your office

After photo of the desk

There are other extra steps you can go for if you already have your desk in ship shape.

BONUS 1: organize/cull your electronic files and back them up on dropbox.com

BONUS 2: create a work schedule

Ben is a free-lance guy, so here was our plan:

1st determine which hours of the day are the most likely for him to actually do work. Next, block off all but 1 hour of that good work time on his calendar as WORK. The other hour is marked for emergency things like the Twitter.

Depending on your working style, you can micro-manage your schedule for the week. For most people just putting a chunk of work hours on the calendar is a helpful place to start.

**Organizer bonus tip: Honor the WORK appointment in your calendar as you would any other. If you need to change the time around for another meeting or trip, then take the work appointment off the calendar for that time. If you just start ignoring it and planning things over the Work time without re-scheduling Work time, the block on your calendar will become invisible.

BONUS 3: Tidy up your cord situation

Ben is handy and took my recommendation (stolen from my husband, Jeff, who stole it from lifehacker.com) to use a rain gutter screwed into the back of the desk. All power strips and cords get dumped right into the gutter out of sight completely!

BONUS 4: decorate your space

Get all feng shui-rific, or put up some photos you love. Put a pretty pillow in your chair. Set up your i-tunes to be enjoyed every time you sit down to facebook—I mean work!

This has been a brief overview of how to organize your desk. I know, I know, there are a lot more details. Ben and I only worked for 3 hours and I think we rocked it.

Still, what did I forget? You tell me!

A home office filled with light and energy

Some before and after photos and a couple of close ups.

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As soon as I walked into this space I loved it. So much light coming from sliding glass doors bookending the room. And yet the desk was facing a wall–boring!

This client obviously prefers atypical office supplies. She didn’t want anything white or sterile looking. But, it had to be organized so she could run her many non-profits with ease.

We took hours organizing the files and paperwork both personal and work related. Then I moved some things around, opened up the space a bit and we ended up with a veritable working nirvana. The back-light makes it hard to see the finished desk space, but let that tell you how much natural light she is working with every day now.

Her supply drawers were hidden underneath a second table which we got rid of all together. We brought in a recliner from another room to make room for relaxing.

Now her desk faces out the sliding glass doors and looks onto a lake. Amazing!