Stacey Platt has come to realize that many people are living in a state of domestic chaos. • As Platt writes in What's a Disorganized Person to Do? (Artisan Books, 2010): "If I came to your house and asked you to show me your birth certificate, would you know where to find it? What about a safety pin? Your checkbook? The receipt for your computer? An extension cord? Your 2006 tax returns?" • Platt and a partner run DwellWell, a company with "solutions for an organized urban lifestyle" ($125 for initial consultations, then $85 an hour). Their sales pitch: An organized home can save a family money. Platt is now posting tips for the messy on Twitter (@staceyplatt). • We spoke with Platt about how everyone can reduce clutter and find what they need.
Where do people go wrong?
They don't want to invest time. Organizing takes time and energy, but it's worth it and pays off. Like going to the gym, the more you go, the more you will see results. We aren't taught to organize as kids.
Maybe we should start. Any tricks for teaching kids about organizing?
When they're around 5, start showing them that everything has a home, and you should sort like things with like. I often use the example of the silverware drawer to start with. Teach them to sort their clothes and give away what they don't need.
What do you suggest to people who are attached to sentimental memorabilia?
Just because you let go of a thing doesn't mean you let go of a memory. You can take a photo before you part with something and put the photos in a memorabilia box. In this box, you can also keep things like ticket stubs or bundles of special letters.
Do you have a junk drawer?
It's not good to keep junk, such as pens that don't work or dead batteries, in a kitchen drawer, although there is room for a spot for random things you do use. I would approve of keeping Scotch tape, paper clips in a little container, 10 rubber bands, scissors. I live in a 500-square-foot place, so I don't have a junk drawer. I am very pared down.
Is there a generational gap in how people deal with clutter?
Yes. People in their 20s have done everything via computer, so they are not going to have sentimental attachment to their CD collection. If you are 50 or above, there is a psychological resistance or mistrust of storing things on computers. Young people aren't as attached to papers, books, DVDs or albums. There is still something about looking at photos in an album, though. A great online source for albums is www.blurb.com.
How has the recession affected our ability, desire or need to organize?
People aren't buying stuff like they used to. They are really shopping their closets, using up shampoos and not wasting food. People are more frugal. Being organized sometimes just means simplifying.