LIVINGSTON, NJ – Professional organizer and founder of Everyday Organization Solutions, Sherry Onweller, gave a host of helpful room-by-room and paper organization tips to a packed room at the Livingston Public Library on April 27.
The primary strategy she offered, across the board, was for individuals to “be brutal” with themselves if their aim is to declutter their space and maximize it for everyday living.
Some of the tips that participants of this event found useful were as follows:
To truly get organized, Onweller recommended purchasing a paper planner and dedicating a minimum of one hour per week to scheduling organizing activities.
She then suggested that the organizer make a first sweep of a chosen room to toss anything the he/she can live without, followed by a second, third and fourth sweep to determine items that can be set aside for donating, selling or giving away to family or friends. Once all sweeps are complete, the organizer should be left only with the items he/she wants to keep and will use either frequently or infrequently.
While frequently used items should be accessible, Onweller suggested clearly labeled boxes to store rarely used items in backs of closets, attacks or basement storage areas. For future reference, she suggested writing reminders of these items into the planner.
According to Onweller, one of the most common errors is keeping a “mish-mosh” of food items in cabinets that have no rhyme or reason, making items hard to find. Reorganizing cabinets so that each food type is grouped together is a time-saver, according to Onweller.
With respect to family and living spaces, Onweller said being purposeful about what actually belongs in there, based on the room’s use, will help guide de-cluttering efforts. She said linen closets should contain no more than one back-up towel and one set of sheets per person in the family. She suggested sending spares to animal shelters.
The laundry area and garages are easy “dumping grounds,” she said, stating that 75 percent of all Americans use their garage for storing things other than their cars and car-related items. She recommended resisting the temptation to park rarely used items in these areas without first considering whether they should be tossed, donated, sold or given away.
Another of the most common areas where clutter can build up is in entrance halls and mudrooms, she said. Here, Onweller recommended encouraging each family member to have one storage box for shoes and a smaller one for wallets, cell phones, key, etc.
She also said that no more than three in-season coats should be kept in a primary closet so that there are always empty hangers when guests come to visit. Hangers also come into play when organizing bedroom closets, she said.
“I always tell my clients, if you get matching hangers,” said Onweller. “If there’s one change you make, get the skinny velvet hangers. You won’t believe what a difference switching all your clothes over to matching hangers will make. “
Onweller suggested flipping hangers around each time an item is used in order to see which items are not used by the end of the season as well as organizing by color to determine which colors are either lacking or excessive within the wardrobe.
“When you respect your clothes, you respect your closet,” said Onweller.
When it comes to organizing paperwork, Onweller suggests one large bin for mail as well as a file box nearby for bills to be paid (along with checks and stamps for easy access); bills that have been paid; magazines and catalogues; tax information; and investments and healthcare items. Onweller suggested a copy of Suzy Ormand’s file retention guidelines for on-schedule disposal of unneeded receipts, invoices, credit card statements, etc.
For sentimental papers, like photos or children’s schoolwork, Onweller offers this rule:
“Think about what your 23-year-old self would want to have seen saved and also think about your kids having to go through what you haven’t cleared out if you should pass away and let that be your guide.”
She suggested taking photos of representative schoolwork or sentimental items in order to always have a record to reminisce. She recommended places like Costco to deliver boxes of old photos to be converted to a CD to share and preserve for posterity.