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Professional Organizer Danielle Hass tells clients, “The No. 1 thing preventing most people from staying on top of clutter is not having a donation box.” Courtesy photo
Professional Organizer Danielle Hass tells clients, “The No. 1 thing preventing most people from staying on top of clutter is not having a donation box.” Courtesy photo
Community News

Why clutter is bringing you down, and what you can do about it

REGION — Certain people just seem to have it together. Perfectly organized house, free of clutter? Check.

A plan and a place for everything? Check. Time to do it all? Check. And stress? Nope.

The good news is that while some people are born with a need and aptitude for organization, there is help for the rest of us.

Two North County professional organizers have weighed in on the negative impacts of clutter in your life, and offer some tips on how you can reclaim your home and improve your quality of life. 

Danielle Hass is one of the lucky ones. “I am a classic Type A, and have had a passion for organizing as far back as I can remember,” she said. “Rearranging, paring down and organizing the pantries and kitchens for friends and family — aka, I was a nerd.” Her passion has led to a career, and she created Inspired Home, Organization & Design, which is based in Oceanside.

Over the years, Hass has helped many families get their lives on track. “One of the most rewarding aspects of getting organized is that it helps us figure out what’s most important in our lives,” she said. “With less clutter holding us back, we have more time and space to pursue the things that bring us the greatest satisfaction and happiness. Great victories can come from decluttering, and reclaiming your space, time, priorities … and life!”

Another self-proclaimed Type A is Megan Wookey of Simplicity by Megan. “Becoming organized is not a quick-fix, but rather a skill that needs to be practiced until it becomes a regular part of life,” Wookey said.

Her work involves helping those who are less naturally organized to find the cause of their disorganization. “What seems common sense to me is more complicated for others and I have found it incredibly rewarding to help teach these skills, in order to make others’ lives simpler and easier,” she said.

“One of the most negative impacts of living with clutter is the stress it puts on us,” Wookey said. “Most simply, not being able to find what you need when you need it can cause frustration and waste time that we simply don’t have in the busy and fast-paced world we live in. On a more subconscious level, constantly being surrounded by clutter and stuff makes us feel overwhelmed.”

One of her goals is to set up organizational systems to relieve worry and stressful thinking.

For anyone who doesn’t think they have the time to get organized, Hass often refers to one of her favorite quotes by Benjamin Franklin: “Every minute spent in organizing, is an hour gained.”

“It really is that simple,” she said. “There is no secret or complicated trick to getting organized, it’s just a matter of devoting time to sorting and arranging your space in a more functional way.” She added that while it’s different for everyone, there are some simple tips to help you get started. First, is to organize by category. “Focus on organizing one category in your home or office at a time,” Hass said. “Not by room, or drawer, or cabinet, but by category. For example, your system for storing cleaning supplies, sprays, sponges might not be working well. But the problem won’t be solved if you just organize under your kitchen sink. It would be a matter of days before yourself or a family member made a mess under the sink again in search of the Windex.” She recommends putting together a small bin for each room in the house where you need cleaning products.

“The same holds especially true for other tricky categories like electronic charging cords, office supplies like spare folders and paper, and kids’ toys,” she said. “Approaching the process of organizing by category does wonders for maintaining long-term functionality and order.”

Another suggestion Hass has is to make a donation box. “We are not lying when we say the No. 1 thing preventing most people from staying on top of clutter is not having a donation box,” she said. “We keep a ‘donate’ box in most rooms of our house. Then, when we hang up a new shirt, it takes two seconds to drop an old one in the box.”

Wookey advises people to start small when it comes to getting organized. “Start with a small area, such as a drawer or pantry,” she said. “Small spaces won’t overwhelm, and it’s fairly easy to eliminate what you don’t need and then organize what is left. It will also leave you with the confidence and motivation to continue on to more challenging areas. You will be surprised at the ‘high’ you get from creating a clean and clutter-free space.”

Spending 10 minutes at the end of each day picking up around the house is another way Wookey advises people to get and stay organized. “Ten minutes seems short, but when made a habit every night, it can make a big difference,” she said. “I also encourage people to make it fun. Put on your favorite songs and see how much you can get done by the time they finish. And involve the whole family. It teaches kids good habits and makes it a fun whole-family time. You will wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day on a good note.” 

The key to a clutter-free life is to realize that it’s about more than just being tidy, according to Hass. “The obvious goals are greater efficiency and time-management, but organization also lends to many physical, emotional and financial rewards as well,” she said. “Try not to let Pinterest or keeping up with the Jones’ discourage you or get in the way of reclaiming your space, and the freedom that comes with it. Getting organized is a personal and unique process for everyone. But well worth it, no matter what it looks like.”

Wookey points out the importance of not feeling that being disorganized is a permanent state. “Something people think too much is, ‘I’ve never been organized, I just wasn’t born with the organizing gene,’” she said. “This is a mental hurdle that has to be overcome. Organizing and living simply is a skill that anyone can learn with practice and persistence. Once you start living a simple life, you are free to focus on what matters most to you.”


Aztec69 September 22, 2016 at 6:28 am

It’s so easy to say and so hard to do. As I type that I’m looking at nine stacks of 2 feet each of print-outs of everything I’ve written or copied from the internet since 2007. If I had the money I spent on paper and ink I could afford that RTW cruse I’ve been dreaming about for years. As it is, I don’t even have the strength to put it all in the recycle bin.

Cat Taylor September 22, 2016 at 8:20 am

I totally feel your pain. Start small. Look at one or two pages every day. I’m trying to do that with my office right now. Good luck!

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