My husband and I live in a small house with 3 little girls so
staying organized and clutter free is a constant issue. I
feel awful when I am drowning in "stuff" - it's overwhelming and I
know I want to live more simply.
I am always looking for new advice to help de-clutter and
organize - I want my home to be calm and welcoming, not heavy and
Elisabeth Shake, professional organizer and owner of Yourganized, is an
expert in de-cluttering homes and opening up space for new
possibilities. She knows that disorganization can cause us to
feel out of balance, but our emotional attachment to "stuff" keeps
us from letting go of what we don't need.
Elisabeth was kind enough to answer some of my burning
Why is clutter/lack of organization a problem? How can
it affect me emotionally/mentally/spiritually?
The word clutter originates from the Middle English word
clotter, which means to coagulate or turn something fluid into
something solid. The process literally slows things
down until it eventually stops. This is happening
across America room by room starting with home offices and guest
bedrooms and moving into key living spaces: activity has slowly
come to a stop in these spaces because of clutter.
All of the things in our homes carry energy with them whether
they are kitchen gadgets you don't use or mail and paperwork
cluttering up a desk. These items sit, they chatter with
their energy and they weigh you down.
Try visualizing all the clutter in your life, piled into a
wagon, that you had to bring with you everywhere you went for a
week. That would be a heavy load. The truth is that you
are carrying the energy of it with you regardless and it is slowing
How can I declutter my children's room?
De-cluttering your children's room follows the same principles
of de-cluttering your own space. Clear the space of
unused, unloved items so there is room for your children to enjoy
doing their favorite activities. Then set up a storage system
for the remaining items that makes them easy to get out and to put
For younger children picture labels can make it easy and fun to
clean up; they know that all the cars go in the container with the
picture of the car on it.
One popular method I've recommended is to pack up half the toys
in bins and put them in a storage closet. Then, in a couple
of months, switch the toys out with the ones in the room.
Kids are bombarded with so many options at such a young age this
helps them not be overwhelmed and they may like toys better that
they haven't seen in a while.
How do I help my children stay organized?
An important way to help kids stay organized is to be a good
example. It's tough to ask your child to always put things
where they belong when they are not seeing this from their
Also, help them see how good it feels. Kids are very
sensitive to energy so help them understand how they can calm the
energy of a room just by clearing the space.
I don't want to throw things away - isn't that
There are a lot of alternatives to throwing things away. I
work with my clients to find a recycling or donation solution to
things they are parting with.
We live in a throwaway society; perfectly good items get junked
in favor of newer, better models. I work with a battered
women's shelter that helps mothers who have left their homes with
virtually nothing start new lives eventually helping them get into
their own apartments so many of these items can find new purpose
with someone who needs it. They accept toys and
But yes, sometimes things just need to go. I find a
lot of clients hang on to magazines…they might have a year's worth
of Martha Stewart and they don't want to waste them; they spent
good money on it, there might be good ideas in there etc. If
you haven't read an issue in a year, dump them. Get
current. Clear the space and just try to find time to read
this months issue.
What does a personal organizer actually do?
I support and guide my clients in the process of clearing their
clutter and reaching their goals. Many clients I work with
feel overwhelmed just thinking about the project they wish to
start, or they don't know what solution to bring in to achieve
I manage the project, setting up the steps of the process and
use my knowledge of existing products and organizing solutions -
what works, what doesn't work in my experience. In some
instances I work as a coach…the other day a client said "I would
never finish this if you weren't sitting here with me," like the
personal trainer who pushes you to do a few more sit ups.
I focus on setting up systems that make things easy to put away
and easy to get back out again. And a very important aspect
of what I do is to provide objective, rational assistance in making
Organizing and purging triggers an emotional response from
people. They don't want to lose something…whether that
something is the money they spent on an item (exercise bike they
never rode), the memory that item holds (water damaged picture from
grandma), or the dream that item represents (fitting into those
I walk them through objective questions that help them decide
what they really need and want to keep and remind them that they
are not losing anything…they are gaining space, power and peace by
taking control of their clutter.
Contact Elisabeth at 773/255-3242,
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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