Reclaim Your Home with Help of Professional Organizer
When Belinda and Scott DeMasso moved into their new home on S. Tropical Trail in Merritt Island four years ago, Belinda intended to meet with real estate clients in her spacious office overlooking the Indian River. But slowly, the office, located just inside the garage door, became cluttered not only with real estate files, office supplies, kids’ school work, mementos and photos, but also her kids’ sports equipment and her husband’s golf clubs. While the public areas of the 8,000 square-foot home are immaculately kept and luxuriously appointed, Belinda’s office had turned into the family dumping ground.
Enter Marcie Katz, a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®), president of Expertly Organized, Inc. With an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Marcie may be the last person one would expect to find sifting through other people’s belongings with a dust mask and gloves. Yet having grown up in a cluttered household, Marcie believes, “this is the work I was destined to do. The thrill of creating order out of chaos just never gets old for me. I know from personal experience how it feels to be overwhelmed by clutter, so seeing the joy and relief in a client’s face as the space starts to clear up is deeply, deeply satisfying.”
While creating functional, peaceful spaces is certainly an end result of her work with clients, Marcie’s main goal is “to help people redefine their relationship with possessions so that their belongings are supporting their life rather than undermining it.”
Making the Commitment
Marcie’s first step in working with a client is to create an “Assessment & Action Plan,” in which she tours the space and asks questions to understand the client’s goals as well as their “struggles with respect to organization.” More importantly, she said, the initial meeting provides an opportunity to build rapport and trust with each client so that together, they can tackle the tasks ahead.
During her initial assessment, Marcie is careful to ask, “’What’s motivating you to get organized now?’ If I know what triggered the phone call, then I can tap into that source of motivation to keep the client on track throughout the organizing process.”
Sort and Eliminate
Once the client is committed to make a change, the hard part begins — the sorting. “You have to do the elimination first or you are just organizing clutter,” cautions Marcie. To make the elimination process a little easier, “I encourage my clients to focus on the things they want to keep and the end result they want to achieve, rather than on the things they are letting go. I don’t force anyone to get rid of anything, that’s ultimately up to the individual.”
The professional organizer equates purging belongings to making an apple pie. ”Before you put the apples in the crust (i.e. the container) you must first remove the cores and trim off any bad spots. When the pie is baking, you’re focused on how good it will taste, not on the parts of the apples that ended up in the trash.”
With two “must have” organizational items in place, trash bags and a box labeled “donations,” Marcie and Belinda quickly identified the need for several other empty bankers’ boxes to be labeled “photos,” “collectibles,” “office supplies,” “files to archive or shred” and “exercise equipment.” Although uniformly sized bankers boxes look nice and stack neatly, any empty boxes or bins can be used during the sorting stage.
While even organizationally challenged people may experience a rush of enthusiasm while labeling their boxes and getting started —the sorting process can quickly kill that enthusiasm.
“Sorting through belongings involves a lot of decisions. And decision making can create stress, anxiety and fatigue,” she says. “So a lot of people put off organizational tasks to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.”
Unfortunately, it’s the discomfort of letting go of belongings that changes clients’ relationships with them, and ultimately sets them on the path to organization. “I could have sent Belinda to the spa for a half day and organized her office myself,” jokes Marcie, “But that’s not the point.”
Belinda found it the most challenging to sort through her children’s artwork, cards and gifts. “I have separation anxiety,” she laughed. Afraid of hurting her sons’ feelings, Belinda had kept virtually everything they had given her. With her sons now 14 and 19, she soon realized these were her own issues, not theirs. “At the time we’re putting it away, it seems so important, but now, how many years later, (I realize), ‘He’s not even going to know he gave this to me!’”
As the hours went by and the pile grew noticeably smaller, Belinda began to gain back her sense of humor. “It does get easier. Now I just want to keep going and get it over with!” Much easier to deal with were items that simply didn’t belong in the space at all. “I pulled out everything that didn’t belong in here — the roller blades, the baseball caps, my husband’s work, I moved everything out that wasn’t mine.”
Marcie reiterated, “With each item that goes in the trash or to the donation box, you feel less of a twinge and you realize, ‘Hey! Nothing bad happened.’”
Develop a Permanent Storage and Filing System
Once items have been eliminated and sorted, only then does Marcie suggest that clients think about permanent storage solutions such as decorative bins or baskets.
“I always encourage my clients to go through the sorting and editing process before purchasing additional furnishings or decorations. This way you will have a better idea of what you really need so you can avoid unnecessary expenditures and inadvertently add to your clutter.”
As Marcie recommended, Belinda saved the boxes of paper to sort last. “Papers take longer because each paper requires a separate decision,” said the organizer. “Sometimes it’s easier to store them and simply let them age out. It’s most important to work forward.”
Although Belinda still has some work to do, she is already excited about her newly reclaimed space.
“Now it’s not so crazy,” she realized. “I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You can actually see where everything is!”
Both Marcie and Belinda are confident that the newfound order will be a lasting change. “In order to maintain the space, Belinda will need to persistently practice her new organizing skills,” says Marcie. “Putting things away in their designated homes will take some extra effort at first but will eventually become automatic.”
As for her office serving as the family dumping ground, Belinda isn’t concerned. “It’s going to come naturally to them now. They’re going to come in and say, “Don’t mess up mom’s area!”
Give it to a Good Home
Several local charities, thrift and resale stores accept used clothing, furnishings, toys, games and other unwanted items. Some offer free pick-up service with a phone call or online request.
- Good Will Industries of Central Florida, Inc. With locations in Melbourne, North Melbourne, Merritt Island, Palm Bay and Rockledge. Visit goodwillcfl.org or call (407) 235-1547 for locations and more information.
- Brevard County Sharing Centers. With locations in Cocoa (sharingcenter.org, (321) 631-0306); Titusville (nbcsharingcenter.org, (321) 269-3272 and Melbourne/Palm Bay mysbsc.org, (321) 727-8581/722-1241
Libraries often accept donations of books in good condition while most hospitals accept recent issues of magazines.
Photos, Photos and More Photos
Whether digital photos are clogging up your hard drive or piles of snap shots, children’s school pictures and old picture frames are collecting dust around the house, professional organizer Marcie Katz suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- If these particular photos were not already framed, would you want to frame them now?
- Do you want look at these images every day?
- Would you prefer to see any of these photos in different frames?
- Is it time to update the photo in a favorite frame?
- Is there another way to enjoy this collection now, such as in an album or digital photo frame?
Several companies offer digital photo management and cataloging systems including Creative Memories’ Memory Manager (creativememories.com), Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 (adobe.com) and Apple iPhoto (apple.com).
About Marcie Katz
Marcie Katz, CPO-CD® is a leader in the organizing industry. She is a Golden Circle member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, and once of the first in the country to receive the advanced Hoarding Specialist Certificate from the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD). Marcie is a past Research Project Coordinator for the NSGCD and currently serves on their Board of Directors as Conference Program Director. She is also president of Expertly Organized Inc., a licensed and insured residential organizing business that specializes in helping midlife adults and seniors organize and simplify their lives. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org visit expertlyorganized.com
Conquering Paper Overload
The U.S. Postal Services estimates that the average household receives almost 28 pieces of mail a week, or more than 1,450 pieces each year. And that’s just mail! To conquer the overload of newspapers, gym schedules, take out menus, business cards, flyers and more, follow this three-step process developed by professional organizer, Marcie Katz, CPO-CD, president of Expertly Organized, Inc.
1) Reduce the flow of incoming paper.
- Give your mailbox a makeover! Visit the Direct Marketing Association website, dmachoice.org to help reduce unwanted advertising mail. You may also opt out of receiving mail order catalogs at catalogchoice.org.
- Save your shredder! Cut down on pre-approved credit card offers by visiting optoutprescreen.com or call (888) 5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
- Cancel magazine subscriptions. If you can’t keep up with the reading, eliminate the guilt and expense!
- Before bringing any sort of paper into your home, consider why you need it and where you’ll keep it. More importantly, will you remember where it is when you need it?
- Before filing those recipes, newspaper or magazine articles, consider than 80 percent of papers we file are never looked at again! If you can reference it online, toss it!
- Take advantage of online banking and bill paying. You’ll receive less mail and have less paper lying around.
2) Set up a paper processing system.
- Designate an official collection spot for all incoming mail and papers —but not on your kitchen table or counter!
- Establish a processing and filing system such as the Freedom Filer™ system, which comes with color-coded labels and an instruction booklet to guide you. Visit freedomfiler.com and use reference number MK889 to receive a special discount on online purchases.
- Get into a routine. Set aside a certain time each day to process your paperwork. Sort papers over your trash can and put any remaining papers into two categories “action” or “reference.” If the action can be completed in two minutes or less, do it right away, such as putting an appointment into your calendar. If not, schedule an appointment with yourself to do it later. File any reference papers such as bank statements.
- Stay focused and handle papers only once if possible! Doing a little each day will help you stay on top of paperwork. If you’re dealing with a backlog, process your incoming papers first, then add on a little time each day to catch up.
3) Keep papers flowing out of your life.
- Recycle newspapers, magazines and catalogs. When a new one comes in, an old one goes out. If you didn’t have time to read a publication when it was fresh, will you have time to read it when the information is stale?
- Destroy expired documents. For large volumes of shredding, look up “document destruction” online or in the phone book.
- Throw it away. If it can’t be recycled or donated and you don’t need it, don’t feel bad about throwing it in the trash.