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Bust your clutter in 2009

Professional organizing specialist offers tips to bring order out of chaos

Posted: January 9, 2009 9:25 p.m.
Updated: January 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Before photos of a cluttered dining room table. The New Year is the time to get organized, change your life and get rid of "the clutters."

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Does your daughter make you close the garage door every time she is expecting company? Does she close all the bedroom doors before that company comes inside? Is your "filing" room or office both a fire and health hazard? Did you nearly sprain your ankle stepping on shoes overflowing from your closet? Has every horizontal space in your home become "temporary" storage for everything from old magazines to leftover screws?

Man, you gots the clutters, and it's time to shake them off and get organized for the new year.

Bob Farkas, The Clutter Wizard, Santa Clarita's home and office organizing specialist, can cure the clutters for you. He's been in the clutter-busting and organizing-you business for nine years and knows the quickest and most efficient ways to get you neat and organized and keep you that way. If you think you can tackle it yourself, without a professional, here are some tips from Farkas' Web site,

General organizing tips
To organize your life use either an electronic organizer (PDA, Blackberry, etc.) or an address book, a calendar/schedule book and a daily "To Do" list. Be sure to only use one calendar to schedule both business and personal commitments so you don't double-book time slots.

Get the largest file cabinet your space will allow to store files, papers, warranties, manuals, etc. File cabinets are even great to store bulkier items like electric cords, etc.

Balance is the key to a stress-free life. Making time for work, chores, friends, family, relaxing and playing is so important to a healthy life.

Buy bedroom furniture that makes the most out of your storage needs, particularly if you're at a premium for space. Get hide-a-beds, futons, storage trunks, beds with built-in drawers underneath, headboards with drawers, shelves, cabinets and cubbies, etc. Anything that gives you extra storage space is what you should look for.

Keep office papers out of the bedroom. This is your sanctuary.

Limit the number of magazines in the room. They tend to stack up and create lots of clutter. Read them and move on.

Keep clothes that need mending or ironing in a basket in your laundry room or your closet not on a chair in the bedroom.

Go through your shoes and clothes regularly and give away or toss those you haven't worn in a couple of years.

Keep a "donate" box, replenish it regularly and deliver it or have it picked up as soon as it's full.

Try on all your shoes to make sure they still fit. Don't assume they do. If you find they are too small and don't fit properly anymore, give them away or trash them.

If you haven't worn a piece of clothing in a couple of years, get rid of it. It's too old, too small or it has gone out of style.

Keep sports equipment under control by putting a large empty container on the closet floor and don't let it overflow. If it does begin to overflow, consider what to keep and what to toss or donate.

Install hooks low enough on the inside of the closet door so kids can hang up their own coats.

Limit the number of towels in your linen closet. Make hard decisions about what you really use and donate the rest.

Keep only two sheets, two comforters and two bedspreads per bed. Donate all the rest.

Kids rooms
Use stackable, plastic, see-through, covered storage containers of all sizes in a kids room. Smaller-sized ones with dividers are great for things that have many small pieces. Larger containers are good for building blocks, stuffed animals, action figures, dolls, sports equipment, etc.

Separate containers by category and don't mix categories. Leave room in each container to grow.

Label what goes in each container as specifically as possible.

Keep a clothes hamper in each child's room or closet.

Save any hand-me-down clothes by age and season.

Install hooks low enough on the inside of the closet door so kids can hang up their own coats and hats.

If you don't have the space to keep a complete set of cleaning supplies in each bathroom, then store one set in an easy-to-carry container so you won't go searching around for supplies every time you need them.

Keep a toiletry shelf or drawer for extra deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, etc. so you won't run out of an item when you need it. Keep a running list and replenish each when you have only one left.

Trash old makeup. It can be dangerous to your health. If you haven't used a particular lipstick or eye shadow or other makeup in the last six months, toss it. It may no longer be hygienically pure or safe.

When your cabinets and drawers are overflowing, it's time to start tossing or donating stuff.

Keep appliance warranties and manuals in a file cabinet (which all households should have). Papers in the kitchen are often misplaced or lost.

Use a three-ring, 1.5-inch binder to store recipes. You can tape or glue cut-out recipes onto a page or simply write a recipe on a page. The binder can be expanded just by adding more pages. Use dividers to categorize different types of food.

Buy some good plastic square and rectangular storage containers (instead of round ones) in various sizes and use them.

Put up a bulletin board near the telephone for notes and messages.

Garage and attic
Keep photos, slides, audio cassettes, home movies and videos inside the house. Garages and attics are not usually climate controlled and any items that are stored in them are affected by weather conditions more severely than they would be inside the house.

When your storage space is overflowing it's time to start tossing stuff. Period.

Buy aesthetically pleasing, good quality shelves, cabinets, dressers and desks if they will be displayed throughout your home or business.

Closed cabinets are neater. They don't show your clutter.

Buy the tallest, widest bookshelves, cabinets and dressers that will fit your space. Room to grow is the key here.

Have a stepladder handy to reach the tallest shelves and spaces.

Have only one junk drawer and every once in a while go through it. Trash what you don't want and put what's left where it belongs.

Good organizing habits
Farkas says the true key to clutter control is changing bad habits and replacing them with good ones.

Relieve some of the stress, turmoil and chaos in your life by trying some of these.

Put each item away after each use so you won't waste time searching for it when you really need it.

Set up a box in each room and use it for your clutter. Before it overflows clean it out so it's ready to start collecting more stuff.

Make tidying up before bedtime a daily obligation for everyone in the family.

If something has been broken for a few months and you haven't bothered to repair it, throw it out or donate it to charity.

Use clear containers to store stuff. Seeing what's inside will save you a lot of time.

Keep a permanent "Charity" box and add stuff to it regularly when you find things you don't use or don't want anymore.

Keep a small container in a convenient place to hold keys, glasses and wallets.

Collect the day's change and put it into its own container. Separate change by pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Talk to your partner daily about needs to be done.

Write things down.

Schedule regular bill-paying and paperwork sessions weekly.

Keep files well categorized, alphabetized and up-to-date.

Time management tips
Take time for yourself first. Your mental, emotional and spiritual health should be your top priority. Then make time for family, community affairs, physical activities and professional projects.

Put your personal and business schedules into one calendar so you know what all your obligations are with just one glance.

Plan in advance but be flexible so you don't get stressed out.

Don't plan too much into any one day.

In an office, have a short staff meeting each morning to set the day's priorities.

Have a clock in your office so you can see how much time certain tasks take you to do.

Make being on time a habit. It's just one less thing you'll have to worry about.

Avoid banking on weekdays between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 pm. This is a bank's busiest time.

Make appointments for doctors, dentists, haircuts, etc. when they first open. You'll wait the least amount of time.

Leave yourself an extra 25 percent of time for things you do throughout the day. You never know if something unexpected comes up and it's better to leave yourself more time than less.

Make a single list of personal things you need to take care of each day.

Go over your schedule each evening for the next day.

Confirm meetings the day before and then, again, an hour or two before the scheduled time.

Delegate some tasks to family, staff members or professional colleagues.

Establish a routine and spend a few minutes every day picking up and putting away clutter. This will save you loads of time in the long run.

Don't leave things where they don't belong overnight. They will turn into clutter very quickly.

Use a safety pin to keep pairs of socks together before you toss them in the hamper. This will save you time when sorting.

Separate gift-wrap items so they don't get tangled or hard to see. Use one container or drawer for gift wrap, one for gift bags, one for cards, one for bows, one for ribbons, one for writing, cutting and taping materials.

Label all your storage containers so you know where things are when you need them.

Keep a box of assorted generic greeting cards. This is a great time saver. It's best if you can categorize them by occasion.

If you've tried tackling your clutter yourself but seem to be running into a brick wall, see how Bob Farkas, the clutter Wizard, can help you win the clutter battle. check out his Web site at or give him a call at (661) 298-9100 to schedule an appointment.


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