The arrival of Labor Day Weekend signals the inevitable start of the busiest season of the year. It\’s a challenge to handle our life responsibilities in general. Now the kids go back to school, we are either hosting Thanksgiving or making travel arrangements to join family and friends and of course there is the end of the year frenzy involving gifts, travel and parties. An extra 5 pounds, anyone?
A calm, organized, peace filled home will enable us to think more clearly about all those added responsibilities. Let me begin by asking you some questions. You may want to make some notes in a special notebook you keep for this purpose. I refer to this as your Zen Organizer Notebook. Let\’s pretend you have never been in your home before. I want you to walk from room to room. Take a few minutes and do this walk slowly and mindfully. When you are done have a seat in a nice comfortable chair. Grab your favorite beverage and settle in. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What\’s the major problem here? Are the rooms crowded? If so, is that due to too much furniture in the space or is it due to clutter. Please identify the problem and be specific
  • If the answer is ‘too much furniture,\’ can you eliminate some pieces? Perhaps you could donate some items to your favorite charity and secure a nice tax deduction before the year ends. Have you inherited furniture you really don\’t think you\’ll ever use but you don\’t want to be rude to your late Grandma Gertrude who left it all to you? If another member of the family would relish having these pieces, call them and arrange for the transfer. Or maybe some of the pieces could be more fun if they were painted. Are you willing to try a bold accent color?
  • If the issue is clutter, be specific as to what type of clutter it is. Here are some common examples and possible antidotes.
    • Perhaps you noted that there are magazines scattered all over the house. The obvious question is ‘are you getting too many\’? Maybe it\’s time to cancel one or two subscriptions or keep your hands by your side at the supermarket checkout counter.
    • Do you hold onto magazines for too long? Think about the last fancy coffee drink you had. How much did it cost? Probably upwards of three dollars, right? How long did it last? A few minutes? Consider that a magazine is about the same price if you got it at the news stand and a lot less if you have a subscription. Flip through it for a few minutes of pleasure and be done with it.
    • Are you bothered by tossing your magazines unread? Call around and see if a hospital, orphanage, old age home or women\’s shelter would enjoy the issues. Don\’t forget ye olde recycling can.
    • Is there some article you want to read? Tear it out. Are there images you want to save? Clip them and save them in a folder. Decide first why you want to have them. Is it a decorating reference, to help you create a dream board or to inspire you to diet? You want to organize your images in specific file folders.
  • Speaking of files, if your clutter is paper related, I can guarantee you need a better filing system. You can find detailed information on how to do this in both of my books: “The Zen of Organizing” and “Sharing a Place Without Losing Your Space.”
  • Is your clutter related to toys? The fall is a great time to sort through and see what you can donate. If you want everything but you realize the total is overwhelming your child, put some away and rotate them. It will Christmas morning several times a year! Check to see if you have adequate storage for the toys you want to keep.
  • Finally, what is the state of your closet? If you live in a climate that gets 4 seasons, you may be thinking about bringing out your winter wardrobe and packing away your summer things. Don\’t just pack everything away. Examine it first. Is it faded from the sun? Was it a trendy piece only meant to be enjoyed one season? Did you regret making the purchase? If you say ‘yes\’ to these, donate it. Give it to a friend or trash it. Don\’t pack it away for next season.

    As you take out your winter clothes, be sure each item still pleases you. Perhaps a few months away from your favorite sweater has allowed you to realize you no longer want to wear it? Is it pilling? Are some buttons missing? Is it saggy and shapeless? Did the moths attack it? Yes, you can wear it at home but I ask you: don\’t you want to feel your best at all times? Looking like a homeless person will not raise your self esteem every time you look in the mirror.

  • Set a timer and give yourself anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes in each room depending on the size of the room and the amount of clutter. The goal here isn\’t to organize what stays; it is to eliminate what needs to go. This is the first step in creating an organized life. Not only will you be amazed at the immediate difference it makes in your environment, you will have knocked down the first organizing domino. Next month we\’ll take another step. It takes time for clutter to grow into a problem. It can take some time to clear it away. Don\’t be discouraged. Give yourself credit for starting the journey.