MODESTO, CALIF. For professional organizer Sharon Testo, the start of a new year is her business' busiest time.
"People have made new year's resolutions to get organized and they want to get things done," said Testo, owner of Organizing with Aloha in Stockton, Calif. "They are finished with the holidays and want a new start."
Getting organized is one of the top new year's resolutions people make, according to the National Association of Professional Organizers.
The group has designated January as Get Organized month for the past three years.
Testo's definition of organized is being able to find what you want, when you want it.
"People don't realize that having so much clutter around is depressing. People don't acknowledge this and it holds us down from achieving."
A common reason people are so disorganized, said Testo, is they hold on to too much stuff.
The first step of getting organized is to figure out what is and isn't working about your current "system." Then ask yourself what it is you want to accomplish.
One of the cardinal rules of organizing is that when a new item comes into the house, one must leave.
Also, it's a good idea to identify what problems exist that contribute to the disorganization. For example, if coats, purses and book bags are always scattered about, putting a coat rack or hall tree in the entry creates a permanent place for them.
Finally, invest in some tools, such as a label maker, color-coded binders, file folders with easy-to-read labels, clear boxes and containers and wall hooks.
Testo and the National Association of Professional Organizers offer the following room-by-room strategies:
Place storage bins and boxes on lower shelves so children can put away their own toys.
Position hooks low so children can hang up their sweaters, jackets and book bags.
First, figure out how the space will be used: Will it serve as a workshop? Storage area for a car as well as other stuff?
Get rid of items that don't work.
Sort and purge remaining items, then decide what kinds of storage containers or fixtures will best house what remains. When using containers or boxes, place labels on the top and sides to easily identify the contents.
Go through the closet and remove everything that hasn't been worn in the past year.
Decide what items are used the most and least. Frequently used items should be within easy reach. Seasonal clothing can be hidden away or placed on higher shelves or in drawers.
Group like items together - shirts, pants, dresses, coats, etc.
If you're in an older home with closets that have one hanging rod, reconfigure the space with low and high hanging rods and shelves to take advantage of unused high space.
Items that work together should be stored together, such as baking pans, electrical appliances, plastic containers with lids, pots and pans, and large platters and bowls.
Use drawer dividers to keep utensils in order.
Rotate food staples out of your pantry and create menus to use up dated canned goods.
Organize the kitchen so that it works with the flow of activity. Examples: place drinking glasses in cupboards near the sink or the refrigerator and bakeware and roasters near the oven.
Tame your desktop by keeping on it only supplies used on a daily basis.
Create a paper flow system for incoming documents.
Use the in box only for items not yet reviewed.
Follow the "handle once" rule: Do not handle a document then put it back on top of the desk. Take action, then file it or toss it when done.