Getting fit is still the most popular New Year's resolution, but a new goal has recently begun to encroach on the perennial favorite. Once considered activities reserved for spring, clearing out the clutter and getting organized are getting an earlier start.
Retailers have made getting organized a season all its own with aisles filled with storage bins, shelving units, calendars and paper shredders offering shoppers the tools they need to clean out the garage, the drawer, the office, or just to clean up their act while saving time and money.
"I've noticed an uptick in that in the last three years," said Lorie Marrero, creator of the Clutter Diet (clutterdiet.com), an online service that helps clients organize.
While January may be a good time to begin getting organized, staying organized requires a comprehensive approach to the problem, Marrero said.
"(People) have the mind-set of 'I'm going to clean this up,' but they are not thinking that this is something I am going to keep up," she said. "Crash organizing doesn't work any better than crash dieting."
Deniece Schofield, author of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, notes that getting organized means planning. Schofield said she hit rock bottom before getting organized. She couldn't sleep or enjoy anything until she dumped all the clutter in her brain onto two notebook pages.
It's no surprise then that she said the first step in decluttering is to make a list of all your problems.
"Make a physical list so that you can be objective about what you want to do and prioritize things and work on one thing at a time," Schofield said. "We need to put blinders on so we can focus our attention on one thing."
When it comes to clutter, paper is generally everyone's biggest problem. We've just got too much of it.
Marrero, of the Clutter Diet, has partnered with Staples to promote some of its clutter-killing products. One of her favorites is the Mailmate paper shredder. Clutter Diet clients are often advised to create a "destination station" — a place near the entrance of their home to put keys or process mail — that is the perfect location for a shredder, Marrero said.
Another key to reducing clutter is knowing what you have, Marrero said. Taking stock of your possessions is a task that can help save you money. Marrero said one client found $5,000 in checks while others routinely uncover unused gift cards.
Monica Friel, president of Chaos to Order (chaostoorder.com), a professional organizing service based in Atlanta and Chicago, said another way to save money by getting organized is potentially downsizing your home once you have cleared the clutter. You may realize you need less space than you think.
The biggest obstacle to getting organized is a lack of time, Friel said.
"At Chaos to Order we make people commit to a three-hour window of getting organized," she said. "Even if they are not working with a professional organizer, they should block out that time."
Tips for organizing
Five tips for getting organized from Deniece Schofield, author of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker:
• List trouble spots or speed bumps.
• Choose one thing on that list and break it down into bite-sized pieces.
• Store things at the point of first use. "When I started using crock pot liners I would forget them," Schofield said. "Now I store them in the pot."
• Label. If you are doing the organizing, no one else understands the system. Labeling drawers or items helps people store things in the right place.
• Color code. Don't get carried away, but a little color coding can help, such as assigning kids colored shower caddies to hold their toiletries.