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Debbie Lillard’s 10 Rules For Organizing

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PHILADELPHIA, PA

Sure we all have our “spring cleaning” seasons where we throw out the old stuff, organize what we have and feel like we’re ready for a fresh start.  Then life happens and this leaves many of us wondering, “How can I maintain this newly organized room/area in my home or office?” Professional Organizer Debbie Lillard says, first it’s a project and then it has to be a process. So here are her “absolutes” for organizing. If you think about them, and apply them to all facets of your life you may find you are a becoming a more functionally organized person.

  1. CPR is the method:  Categorize, Purge and Re-arrange – Believe me, it works. Whether you are talking about a junk drawer or an entire basement. The hardest part and sometimes the most time-consuming is to categorize everything. Then you can see how much you have and begin to purge. Of course you can also purge as you go for obvious items. It’s like taking apart a car engine. The Re-arrange step is where you get the bins, baskets and organizers and put it all back together.
  2. Keep purging simple with “yes” and “no” piles – People often get bogged down with dividing up the stuff they want to give away. I hear, “This is donated, this goes to so and so, this will go to the church bazaar…” Keep it simple by only giving yourself 2 options: Yes or No. You can hammer out the details at the end of the project. Or if you’re lucky enough to be working with a Professional Organizer, let him or her take care of the distribution for you.
  3. Keep only what you use – Don’t keep something because of guilt or “just in case.” If you use it or really appreciate it like a special piece of art, then keep it. Life is a lot simpler this way.
  4. If you don’t plan it – it won’t happen – How many of us wait for “someday?” Or a day when there’s nothing to do and you’ll get on that scrapbook or clean out that closet? Really who has that kind of time these days? If you want to accomplish something the first thing you have to do is schedule it. Put it on the calendar, estimate the time it will take and then focus on that project, eliminate distractions and don’t let anyone keep you from holding that appointment.
  5. Keep like things together – Sounds elementary but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t do this. It happens when we get too detailed in our categories. For example, lacrosse equipment goes in the mudroom, and baseball goes in the bedroom, but hockey goes in the garage. A better system is to put all sports gear in the garage & have different racks or bins for each sport. Again this works all over the house: kitchen, bedroom, family room, etc.
  6. Start with a good list – Whether you are shopping, planning a big project or packing for a trip, the list is essential. Put more time and thought into the list and your task will be easier.
  7. Subtract before you add – When re-doing a room, a closet or an office, the tendency is to buy organizers for everything that is in there first. But if you use CPR and pare down to what you really use and need, you may not need the organizers at all. Don’t mistake shoving everything in boxes or bins as organizing.
  8. Finish one thing before you start another – Again an elementary lesson probably learned in first grade, but how many of us pride ourselves on multi-tasking? Try mono-tasking. Things will get done more completely and in less time. You can also apply this rule to consumable items. Don’t open the new toothpaste until the old one is finished and in the trash – stop wasting.
  9. Organize from big to small – Don’t arrange deck chairs on the Titanic! If your whole house is a disaster, look at the big picture first. Establish the function of each room and make sure the only items in each room serve that purpose. Then you can go room by room and get it in ship-shape.
  10. Daily routines are a must – Routines bring comfort, and help us remember what we need. Ever forget to brush your teeth? You probably broke your routine. Even a 15 minute routine at the end of your work day can set the tone for a better tomorrow. Place your TO DO’s on the left of the desk, file loose papers, clear all voice mail messages, take out your deliver-ables. Even if your day is chaotic, your morning & nighttime routines will help center you.
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