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 chaotic.
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 questions…..
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 you down.
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 away.
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 parents.
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 waste?
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 household items.
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 their goals.
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 decisions.
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 jeans again).
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.yourganizedonline.com
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.