New Year, New Order

Local organizers teach methods for streamlining a space.

With the holidays now a memory, local organizers are getting requests from those with overflowing buckets of ambition to create and maintain a clutter-free space.

“One of the first things to learn is that a few minutes spent on a few tasks each day can go a long way in maintaining order,” said Jodie Jacobs of SOUPerior Organizing. “Decide how important a clean, clutter-free space is to you and follow through on keeping it that way. Prioritize it like other important things in your life.”

One habit that Susan Unger of ClutterSOS teachers her clients to focus on simple things that can be done easily and frequently. “In general, I recommend keeping up with household duties on a daily basis so none of them become a bigger project,” said Unger. “For example, don't leave dishes in the sink. Load the dishwasher after every meal and put all cooking and food prep items away so the counters are clear.”

Establishing a daily routine so that tidying becomes second nature is a technique that Unger uses in her own life and teaches to her clients. “I always make my bed first thing in the morning,” she said. “Having a neat bedroom is a great way to start the day.”

Also on her recommended list of daily tasks: apparel. “Be sure to put all clothes away on a daily basis rather than leaving them on a chair or the floor,” said Unger. “Clean clothes should be hung up or put in drawers and dirty clothes in the laundry basket.”

In fact, Unger tells clients to gather the entire family at the end of each day and spend 10 minutes tidying as a group. “Make a sweep of your house and determine which items need to be put in their proper place,” she said. “It makes for a less stressful and more pleasant morning when you’re not waking up to clutter sitting around,” said Unger.

Deal with mail on a daily basis so it doesn't pile up, advises Unger. “Immediately recycle or shred the junk mail and put bills, items to file and reading in an appropriate place.”

Whether it’s a small basket by the front door or storage boxes placed under a bed, one technique for tidiness is having a designated space for items. “Kids’ homework should have a landing place like a backpack,” said Jacobs. “The backpack should go in a particular place, like on a hook. You have to figure out what works for your family.”

Keep bathrooms in order by adding over-the-door hooks to hold towels, suggested Todd Martz, Home on Cameron in Alexandria. “This might make the room appear smaller, but it [offers] a place to put towels,” he said. “Include a decorative bag on the door hook for toiletries so they’re out of the way.”

“Add an ottoman or coffee table with storage,” continued Martz. “Maximize the space next to a utility or laundry room by adding a … shelf to hold blankets.”

Whether it’s once a week or once a month, schedule time to spend on organization projects and record it on a calendar, advises Jacobs. “Tie it to something that you already do and select a time that won’t be overrun by other events, she said. “If you know that every Sunday at nine o’clock, you always watch a television show, set aside that time to go through mail, pay bills and respond to invitations while you’re watching. That way, your time won’t get bumped for a soccer game or business meeting.”

One caveat that Jacobs offers her clients is, “Maintaining a routine doesn’t mean that you won’t slip up at times,” she said. “You have to hold yourself to realistic standards or you’ll get discouraged.”

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