“Stuff” happens to everybody, but what can you do when you find yourself with just too much stuff for your own good? While our possessions can conjure up happy memories, serve as a symbols of success and embellish our homes, offices and cars, seemingly overnight, even once-valued possessions can turn into clutter that can take over our space and our lives.
Even if you weren’t born with the “organization” gene, it’s possible to get it together and conquer clutter, says Reannon Hayes, a professional organizer and blogger who works with individuals and businesses throughout the northern Ohio community.
Often it’s a life change – finding oneself with an “empty nest,” a desire to downsize or a move or relocation that necessitates a desire to de-clutter, Hayes said. Sometimes, people just find that their environments are holding them back, preventing them from having family or friends over or just enjoying their space.
Hayes, who grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, always tended to be on the organized side. “We were a middle class family, and my parents really instilled in us that we needed to take care of the stuff we had,” she said.
As a student at Terra Community College, she enjoyed helping roommates and friends organize their small apartments to maximize the space, however, the idea of a career in professional organization didn’t occur to her.
She earned a degree in design, with the goal of going into advertising. After she married and started a family, she took a job in environmental services at Tiffin Development Center. When she was laid off, she decided to try to turn her passion and knack for organizing into a business, helping family members and friends getting their homes and gardens in order.
Positive feedback and word-of-mouth referrals led to jobs with friends of friends and businesses. “I enjoyed what I was doing for others and they really appreciated the help in not only getting organized, but also learning how to prevent clutter from taking over in the future,” she said.
Typically, Hayes starts out with a consultation where clients discuss goals for her services.“Some people want to get organized, which is really about being able to find what you need when you need it,” she said. “Others are looking to downsize, which is about moving into a simpler life so you can enjoy the now.
“Sometimes people are overwhelmed and apologetic – they tend to think they’re the only ones dealing with too much stuff or disorganization,” she said. “The next thing they ask is, ‘Are you going to make me throw everything away?’”
Hayes works side-by-side with her clients throughout the organizing process. “We usually start with one room – the one that’s really driving them crazy,” she said. “We move left to right and evaluate everything, sorting things into piles of things to keep, donate or trash.
“Some people have trouble letting stuff go, others are just so ready to make a change and free themselves,” Hayes said. “I always advise to keep what you truly use and love, and let the rest go,” she said, adding that some things are harder to let go of than others.
“Parents tend to hold on to the boxes filled with their kids’ childhood mementos, which I completely understand,” Hayes said. “I suggest they take a photo of souvenirs and mementos and put them in a scrapbook and frame one or two treasured pieces of artwork, then let the rest go.
“What value are these things giving your life stored in boxes?” she said. “Also, there’s the hard truth – who is going to take care of this stuff after you’re gone?”
In the end, getting organized is really about a lifestyle change, about developing new habits. “Finding a place for everything and returning things to their designated space can not only reduce clutter, but also save time,” Hayes said. “I read a statistic that said people spend as much as 55 minutes a day looking for things they cannot find.”
Another rule of thumb – to help avoid amassing too much stuff, adopt the habit that when something comes in, something goes out.
Clients are often surprised to discover that it’s not necessary to buy special containers and organizational tools – most people have everything they need in their home to be organized, Hayes said.
“Often, clients become good friends because I take on this challenge with them,” she said. “It’s such a great feeling when they reach that ‘aha’ moment -- when they realize they’re getting control over the clutter.
“Sometimes we can’t help but do a happy dance or high five – it’s a very freeing and satisfying experience,” she said.
Hayes charges by the hour for her services. Currently, her clients range from college students to account executives.
For more information and tips on how to get organized, visit www.theorganizerblog.com or look for Reannon Hayes Professional Organizer on Facebook.
Tips for getting organized
• Walk away from bargains. Just because you can buy a pair of jeans for $10 or three candles for the price of one doesn’t mean you should. First ask yourself, “Do I have something similar?” and “Where will I store this one?” • Never label anything as miscellaneous. Instead, sort items into specific groups.
• Stick with what works. Always buying the latest cell phone or newest line of make-up becomes exhausting. Don't waste time or money on obsessively seeking the newest thing.
• Make peace with imperfection. Efficient people give “A level” effort to the most important projects and for the rest they do just enough to get the job done. Trying to do every task perfectly is the easiest way to get bogged down.
• Schedule regular de-cluttering sessions. Rather than waiting until the day when you become overwhelmed, start by taking 15 minutes each morning to de-clutter. Schedule bigger projects for a weekend.
• Ask for help. Having a birthday party? Instead of doing it all yourself, ask family members to bring side dishes. Delegate to others and ask for help.
• Separate emotion from possessions. It is normal to be attached to certain items. Keep things you love, such as a vase that was owned by your grandmother. Holey concert T-shirts and napkins from your wedding? Just let them go.
• Know where to donate. Set up a box in the garage for example, and throw items that you can donate in there. When it gets filled, get rid of it. Do you know what charities are in your area? Find out.
• Keep ONE to-do list. Use one “To-do” list every day and one family calendar to document appointments and obligations.
A busy mom to Alaina, Dillan and Carson, Reannon Hayes stresses that her home isn’t perfect but simplifying the organization process – like having a designated place for everything – helps her get things back into shape when clutter happens. (Photo by Shannon Nicole Photography, @Shannon Hayes Photography)