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In most environments –- our homes, cars, even purses –- there's just too much stuff, so most of us have a cyclone of chaos, our personal circle of hell, somewhere around us.
Maybe you've got your desk under control, but your front hall is always a mess or you can never find your keys; both are signs that you could use an organizational overhaul and are in need of some home organization.
So we talked to the experts. Here are secrets from pros across the country.
Alex Fayle is president of the Professional Organizers in Canada and owner of Toronto-based FayleSafe Solutions (housetherapy.net) which creates organizing systems for entrepreneurs and busy professionals.
Alex believes many of us struggle with clutter because we're over-programmed. "Our culture demands that every moment of our day be scheduled or we are going to miss out on something," he says. Why does this matter? "Just by being in your space, you will tidy it up." And if you're never home, you're too frazzled and rushed when you walk in the door to keep on top of it all. Fayle recommends creating a schedule with all the things you have to do "and leave time open for doing absolutely nothing." Then read the book How to Change Your Life by Doing Absolutely Nothing (Reed Business Information, Inc., 2002) by Karen Salmansohn, he suggests.
But there are other issues. "People think that if something is printed there is value to it and therefore they should keep it –- all of it," says Alex. "That means flyers, magazines, handouts and bills all get the same level of importance, so no streamlining happens. That means it becomes an overwhelming mess and often mail isn't even opened for months at a time." To deal with this, Fayle suggests opening your mail above the blue box or shredder so the bulk of it is taken care of right away.
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When Alex visits his clients, he finds that gifts are another common hindrance to the organizing process. "People really feel guilty about them and hold on to stuff they don't like," he says. He's got an answer for that, too.
Let everyone in your circle know what you like and be specific so they don't give you gifts you don't want. "Implement a no-gift rule or a donate-to-charity rule instead of gifts. And if you get a gift you don't like," says Alex. "thank the person, then after a suitable amount of time to make sure you don't like it, re-gift it or donate it charity." Alex suggests a similar approach to children's toys, another trouble spot.
When it comes to choosing a system that works for you, Alex's advice is to make sure you can stick with it. "Don't create elaborate systems with computer programmer-like "if/then" statements," he says. "If it's not easy to maintain you won't do it, especially if more than one person is involved. For example, create a house rule that says nothing stays on the kitchen island overnight. Before going to bed, everyone needs to take away their stuff or it's gone –- if it's a toy, it's taken away for a period of time; if it's papers, they're dropped in a bin with the person's name."
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