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Clean up your act
The new year a good time to organize
Organized 2 jd
Nicole McCloskey looks at a book she's taken from one of the storage containers that her mom uses to organize the playroom. - photo by Jim Dean (previous profile)


* Too much of a party?

There’s that drawer in the kitchen that everyone dreads going into.

You know the one. It’s crammed with pens that may or may not work, old coupons and a few random tools.

There may even be some paperclips and a ball of string tucked in the back.

Well, if the messy contents of that drawer — or, of the entire house — put a pit in your stomach, you’re not alone.

January is National Get Organized Month, thanks to millions of Americans who have too much stuff strewn about the house.

So with a new year comes a new start.

Dawn McCloskey, owner of Ultra Organized, a Cumming business that specializes in helping people organize their homes and their lives, recommended those of us with a messy side take the clean-up slow. But stick with it.

“I suggest they take baby steps, instead of tackling an entire room,” she said of the advice she gives her clients, who usually call her when they’re feeling overwhelmed by their stuff.

“Let’s say my New Year’s resolution is to tackle a kitchen,” she said. “I say tackle a drawer. It’s a small area.”

The idea, she said, is similar to going on a diet.

Dieters not only need to change what they eat, but also need to change how they eat.

Cleaning up and getting organized, she said, involves changing a lifestyle.

“Just like you did not gain the weight overnight, you’re not going to get organized overnight,” she said.

Catherine Gentile, public relations manager for Bed, Bath and Beyond, suggested the organizing start with the basics and move on from there.

For example, expandable, spring-loaded drawer dividers partition drawers, making things easier to find.

She and McCloskey also swear by clear, plastic storage bins, which allow users to label the contents and quickly store away odd-sized items.

“Put a label on the storage piece so you know what’s in it and won’t have to pull it down from the attic only to find it’s not what you were looking for,” Gentile said.

“If out of sight, out of mind isn’t your style, try a clear storage item that eliminates the guess work,” she added. “If you need constant access, consider a canvas utility tote.”

The tote can hold shoes next to the front door, hold oversized items on kitchen shelves or hang in a bedroom or linen closet for easy access to stored items.

But above all, make time to get organized.

McCloskey said it takes 30 days to establish a new habit. And if looking to get organized, this new lifestyle needs to include to-do lists and a few minutes each day to put things away.

Gentile agreed.

“Make sure you have enough time, even if you organize one room at a time,” she said. “We have all been in the situation where we start off with the best intentions, but eventually wind up putting things back where we took them out of, the same way they were when we started.

“Allowing yourself time will allow you to organize your space in the best way that works for you and eventually save you precious moments searching for things that can be better spent with friends and family,” McCloskey said.

“Schedule time for yourself to pay bills. A lot of disorganized people lose money because they do not pay their bills on time. They suffer bank fees because checks bounce. Get in the habit of paying a few times every month. A lot of disorganized people don’t have that routine.”

It’s also important to keep a calendar — either in a notebook or as part of a smart phone or PDA — to make sure not to take on too many things.

After all, one extra task a day could derail someone trying to find time to keep his or her home and life organized.

“And when something comes up where someone asks you to do [something], you look on your calendar and can say, ‘Sorry, I can’t do that, I have an appointment,’” she said.

“And that appointment can be spending time with your family, paying bills or having ‘me’ time.”