Set up a system for incoming mail and paper
1. Get five file folders.
2. Find something, such as a cabinet, box or accordion file, to hold the folders that will allow you to see the tabs at the top.
3. Create labels for each folder: Action (papers that need immediate attention, such as a bill or parking ticket or an invitation that requires
a response). To Do (papers that require action, but not immediately, such as getting tickets for a show or reviewing a contractor’s proposal). To Read (for magazine clippings or catalogues you want to save). To File (anything you need to hold on to, such as a tax donation receipt or paid bills). Reserve the final folder for another category you have a lot of papers for, such as your child’s school. Stick to five folders or fewer; it will make your filing more manageable.
4. Pick up a pile of paper and start sorting until your 20 minutes is up.
5. If setting up the system and filing takes less than 20 minutes, use the remaining time to tackle something in your Action file.
TIP: Make it a rule to touch a piece of paper no more than two times. Opening the mail counts as the first time. Next, act on it, file it or throw it away. As difficult as this rule sounds, it’s really worth adhering to.
Reorganize the refrigerator
1. Empty the refrigerator and clean it.
2. Throw away expired items and anything open you aren’t using.
3. Group categories (such as condiments, juices, produce) and place them together inside.
4. If you have a number of small containers, such as yogurts, corral them in a clear bin so they stay together and don’t get lost.
5. Label drawers, shelves and bins to stay organized after your next shopping trip.
If you have children, add a labeled container on a lower shelf filled with snacks or other items they can access themselves.
Arranging books or toys
1. Pick either books or toys, then take all of the chosen items out of bins and off
shelves and place them in the middle of the room. Two great opportunities to do this are around birthdays and holidays when there are more of these items coming in.
2. Sort the items into categories: keep, sentimental, donate, consign and trash.
3. Throw out anything that is beyond repair. Place items to donate or consign in separate bags and make plans for delivery or pickup.
4. Gather the items you are keeping and categorize them by type and/or size.
5. Decide if you have proper storage containers or if you need to buy some. Then, place items back in bins and shelves. For items you’d like your child to have easy access to, use containers without lids and place them on the bottom shelf. Add a label on the container that includes a picture of the items for easy sorting and organizing.
Ask your children their opinion of the storage containers. If they are using things they like, they will be more likely to keep up the new system.
Need a professional organizer? Start here.
Visit the Web site of the National Association of Professional Organizers, www.napo.net, where you can search for a professional in your area who can address your specific needs.
Once you’ve found a few names, call them to set up interviews. (Many organizers offer a free initial consultation.) You’ll want to work with someone you can communicate with easily and someone you feel understands your needs and situation, Strisik advises . Professional organizing is a personal service, so you’ll want an open and trusting relationship with whomever you hire.
Chat Thursday at 11 a.m.: Strisik joins staff writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for our weekly online Q&A.
Pinterest: For decorating and organizing inspiration, follow staff writer Terri Sapienza on Pinterest, a social media site that lets users pin their favorite things to virtual boards: pinterest.com/terrisapienza.