Prepare for the purge

(Illustration by Russ Ball/Journal)
(Illustration by Russ Ball/Journal)

Many people make resolutions at the start of the New Year and promptly forget them a week later.

The start of the year is also a popular time to declutter and organize but unlike that commitment to stop ingesting copious amounts of sugar and alcohol, it can continue all year with the right strategies, according to professional organizer Hazel Thornton.

Thornton said January is the National Association of Professional Organizers’ official Get Organized Month. Thornton is a member of the Professional Organizers of New Mexico.

Putting away holiday decorations is probably the first step for most people, she said.

“Don’t just pack everything away,” Thornton said. “Evaluate whether you used it and if you still need those decorations.”

Use an old shoe box and toilet paper tubes to organize pens and other art and office supplies.
Use an old shoe box and toilet paper tubes to organize pens and other art and office supplies.

Professional organizer Heidi Buxam, whose business is called Organizing ABQ, suggests storing decorations in clear plastic bins and not boxes. She said each bin should also have a label, making it easy next year to find the decorations.

“Boxes break down,” she said. “The plastic bins last and keep out dust.”

The decorations, she added, can be stored up high because they only need to be used once a year.

Get started

After the lights, bulbs, tree, wreaths and other decorations are stored away, it’s time to start purging.

“The best thing is starting in one spot,” Buxman said. “You do not want to think about the whole project. People get overwhelmed.”

Thornton said the best spot to start is the area that’s most bothersome, whether it’s a closet, the garage or the kitchen. Thornton said she and many organizers use the system created by famous professional organizer Julie Morgenstern called SPACE – sort, purge, assign a home, contain, equalize. People, she said, might have the urge to go out and buy storage containers and other organizational products.

That, she said, would be a mistake.

“People go to the store and get these gadgets they see,” she said. “You get the wrong thing, don’t need it and then you just have more clutter.”

The first step is sorting through things and getting rid of what’s not wanted or needed.

Setting up boxes or bags for donations and trash, Buxman said, will make the sorting process easier. Buxman said she also tells her clients when organizing a closet, pantry or cabinet to remove everything so they can assess what they have. Expired food should be tossed and anything that has not been used in a year should be donated or thrown away.

“Ask yourself, ‘When was the last time I used this? Do I love it?'” she said. “If not, get it out. Don’t hang on to it just because it was a gift or belonged to a family member.

Put it away

After sorting and deciding what to give away, Thornton said next comes deciding where things will go.

“Clutter happens when things don’t have a home,” she said.

It’s then she tells her clients they can determine what type of bins or containers to buy.

Finally, Thornton said the key to staying organized all year is the last step of SPACE, which is equalize.

“Basically this is about maintaining,” she said. “Make sure you put things away. That’s easy to do if it’s not crowded. Don’t let your containers and spaces overflow. If they do, it’s time to purge again.”

Thornton said she tells clients to follow the “one-in, one-out” rule, especially with clothing. She said if someone has 10 white shirts, she doesn’t tell them they can’t buy anymore white shirts, but if they do, they must get ride of one white shirt.

Thornton said one of the best things people can do to cut back on clutter is go paperless, which means getting bills and other documents electronically.

Buxman advises going through each room and space at least once a year.

“Of course you aren’t going to declutter everything in one day,” she said. “But schedule when you will do it.”

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