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Tips and Techniques to Unclutter Your Home and Office

January 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

Written by Kathy Krickett Irizarry

Getting organized is a wonderful goal to achieve. The benefits are less stress, increased productivity and peace of mind. It is also a process that takes time and energy to work on. As an organizer, my goal when working with clients is to find the best way to organize their space and discover what works for them in maintaining the systems designed to keep them organized. I’ve found that the traditional organizing methods available do not always work. Sometimes one size does not fit all. In the presentation given the objective was to find the organizing style that works best for you and use that.

In determining what style of organizing works best for each individual at the NYC HEAL meeting I started off with a quiz. This quiz taken from the book Organizing for the Creative Person by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping asks Are you an Arbie? An Arbie is shorthand for right brain. The quiz determines whether one is a right or left-brain skilled thinkers A sampling of 2 of the 12 quiz statements to be answered:

A. Time often passes without my noticing.
B. I am very aware of time.

A. I file things by subject.
B. I prefer to locate papers by color-coding.

The right brain embodies creativity, sensuality, the abstract, and the intuition. The left-brain is the analytic, organized, intellectual, structured and rational side. The quiz determines whether you are right-brain, left-brain or have well-developed skills on both hemisps of your braiheren.

Several participants shared that they were right-brain dominant. For the right brain person the following techniques work well when confronted with clutter and what to do with it. Begin by asking yourself these questions, Can I find what I need? Am I comfortable with my workspace? If you answered no to both these questions determine what amount of clutter is comfortable for you and those around you. Decide if keeping certain things is worth the monetary, physical, or mental cost of maintaining it. Don’t waste time on items that have no use.

Be prepared for a sense of loss as you let go of certain possessions. The sense of relief you feel afterwards will compensate for the feelings of loss. Create an easy-to-use place or the path of least resistance for storage items to increase the likelihood of their being put away. Make a conscious decision not to allow things to collect. Barbara Hemphill author of Taming the Paper Tiger coined the phase clutter is postponed decisions. The following are tips to assisting in the decision making process.

In deciding whether to keep or not to keep always ask yourself, how long since I used this item? Can I justify keeping it? What will happen if it’s gone? Is it an irritant?

When working on a space such as a home office use the divide and conquer method by breaking your task down into units. Pace yourself. Use a portable kitchen timer and set aside 15 minutes or more to complete your task. If when finished you want to allot more time that do so. Accomplish tasks by anticipating your needs, not leaving until your task is complete, and doing only what you set out to do. Set aside a specific time each day to put clutter away.

When dealing with the piles of paper on your desk I suggest you use the method devised by Stephanie Winston author of The Organized Executive. For each piece of paper either Toss/Refer/Act/File or T.R.A.F.

For those wondering what exactly to keep or toss, check with your accountant or visit
The IRS website at www.irs.gov for exact instructions on record retention.

Lastly be gentle with yourself during this process. Do what you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Take your time and slowly you will be in control of your environment instead of it being in control of you. Time spent each day toward uncluttering your home or office counts whether it’s a minute or 5 hours. Each step will increase the likelihood of having the space you want and living the life you want.

Kathy Krickett Irizarry, founder of Organized for Action,currently serves as immediate Past President of the Greater New York Area chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Her more than 20 years work experience includes American Airlines, Saks Fifth Avenue, and McGraw Hill. Her work in the organizing field has been featured in the Bergen Record, the Newark Star Leger and the Business Section of the San Juan Star.

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