Becoming more organized and getting rid of clutter will do more than just clean up a physical space like a kitchen or a closet, studies show.
It will do wonders for our emotional well-being, bringing about a greater sense of calm, reducing stress and frustration, and even making a space safer.
But often just the thought of tackling such a project is overwhelming.
“The first step is to dismantle that fear,” said Kristen Townsend, a professional organizer and expert on time management. “It’s very intimidating, and it’s easy to become paralyzed, and the cycle will just continue.”
Townsend is one of two former owners of organizing companies teaching classes soon in Wichita on streamlining, organizing and cutting the chaos of a cluttered space.
She is the former owner of From Here to Clear, which she ran as a nationally certified organizing consultant for four years in San Antonio. Before moving to Wichita 18 months ago when her husband became an administrator with Wichita Park and Recreation, she worked with a boutique investment company in Dallas, providing organizational and time management lifestyle services to clients.
Townsend will teach “Creating Organized and Functional Space” on Feb. 21 through Wichita State’s Community Education office. Jennifer Espinoza will co-teach “Cutting the Clutter” with the owner of the Finishing School for Modern Woman, Jill D. Miller, at Miller’s business on March 12.
Until last year, Espinoza ran a local organizing service, with many of her clients dealing with the more significant psychological issue of hoarding, she said. After 10 years of running that business, she returned to her previous career in medical billing.
We asked Townsend and Espinoza to share 10 tips for tackling clutter and getting organized.
1. Pick a starting point. Townsend suggested starting with an area that most stresses you out. Is it that closet where you can’t find a thing to wear? Start there. In her class handouts, Espinoza suggests the best places to start are the rooms or areas you use the most.
2. Start small. Both organizers have seen clients get frustrated when tackling a larger-scale problem. “Break the project down by doing 15-minute power surges,” Townsend recommended. Espinoza agreed, suggesting doing as much as 20 to 30 minutes. Those short amounts of time will add up to progress, they said.
3. Set a schedule. Just like you make time for other healthy lifestyle behaviors such as going to the gym, carve out time in your schedule for organizing and decluttering. Set specific times at regular intervals, such as daily or weekly appointments, to get the task done. Keep up a schedule, even after your decluttering or organizing project is finished.
4. Think progress over perfection. “It’s a process, so give yourself some grace,” Townsend said, noting that for most of her clients, the first purge often took the longest. Espinoza encourages taking before and after snapshots. “You don’t have to show them to anybody else,” she said. “When you feel like you’re not making a dent, those pictures will show you there’s been progress.”
5. Ask questions. For every item, ask yourself if it adds value, is useful or brings joy, Townsend said. If the answers are no, get rid of it. Do you really need duplicate items? Chances are you probably bought the second item because you couldn’t find the first. Another question to ask: Does this belong here? Find a home for each item, with the best place being the room where the item is used the most.
6. Nip nostalgia. As you clean out the homes of grandparents or parents, do their belongings now become your belongings for sentimental reasons? Are you hanging on to all of your child’s artwork? Nostalgia and sentiment can give way to clutter, Espinoza noted. Find other ways to hang onto memories, such as taking photos. “It’s the memory that’s important, not the actual item,” Townsend said. In one of Espinoza’s classes, a student shared the tip that she photographs her children’s creations and compiles them into inexpensive memory books.
7. Curb container buying. Hold off on buying container bins or organizing systems, Townsend said, until after you’ve done some decluttering and have a better idea of what you need to store or organize items.
8. Involve the kids. Kids as young as 2 can help declutter their spaces, said Townsend, the mother of three children under the age of 5. “Talk up the need that is there to help others” and that they can do so by donating outgrown or little-used items, she said.
9. Donate as much as you can. From thrift stores to shelters to churches, many organizations will accept – and even pick up – items in good, used condition. Once you fill a box, put it immediately in your vehicle so it’s ready for drop-off and not taking up space in your home, Espinoza said. An added benefit: Many places accepting donations provide a tax receipt for your charitable donation.
10. Call for reinforcements, if necessary. If you really are too overwhelmed or need some help to get started, consider hiring an organizer. “Often the professional organizer comes in handy, and sometimes you need a third party that doesn’t have the same attachment” to items, Townsend said.
Get started with a class
“Creating Organized and Functional Space”
What: Noncredit class offered by Wichita State’s Community Education and taught by professional organizer Kristen Townsend
When: 7-9 p.m. Feb. 21
Where: Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. North
Cost and registration: $39; wichita.edu/communityeducation
“Cutting the Clutter”
What: Class offered by Finishing School for Modern Women and co-taught by former organizer Jennifer Espinoza and Finishing School owner Jill D. Miller
When: 2-4:30 p.m. March 12
Where: Finishing School for Modern Women, 340 S. Main