Professional organizer Stacey Platt offers tips for minimizing clutter

By Jura Koncius
-- Stacey Platt,
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stacey Platt has come to realize that many people are living in a state of domestic chaos.

As Platt writes in "What's a Disorganized Person to Do?" (Artisan Books, 2010): "If I came to your house and asked you to show me your birth certificate, would you know where to find it? What about a safety pin? Your checkbook? The receipt for your computer? An extension cord? Your 2006 tax returns?"

Not many of us would. Enter Platt, a professional organizer in New York, who helps clients de-clutter closets, maximize space in the dishwasher and get over their addiction to hoarding takeout containers. And she can show them how to set up a time capsule for a child, filling it with special treasures such as her first tooth, a lock of hair, a favorite book and a beloved stuffed animal.

Helping people find order in their lives comes naturally to Platt, who says that as a child she lined up her records and games perfectly. Thirteen years ago, Platt, now 42, found herself dissatisfied with the conventional job she scored after earning her MBA. A trip to India to study yoga gave her a new awareness of the importance of bringing clarity to the mind and the home. She joined what was then a small group of life coaches offering consumers help streamlining domestic life and containerizing stuff. Today, she and a partner run DwellWell, a company with "solutions for an organized urban lifestyle" ($125 for initial consultations, then $85 an hour). Their sales pitch: An organized home can save a family money. Platt is now posting tips for the messy on Twitter (@staceyplatt).

Organizing books are as popular today as diet and fitness guides. But Platt offers concise directions on de-cluttering and doing household tasks most efficiently. She'll tell you the 10 types of documents you should shred and how to decide what to keep on your bedside table. (She condones reading lights, alarm clocks, hand cream and water pitchers, but vetoes vitamins and radiation-emitting cellphones and chargers.)

Should you save or discard that bulky box your computer was shipped in? After the computer's been working for a while, she says, cut out the serial number and store it with the owner's manual. Toss the box.

I spoke with Platt last week by phone about how everyone can reduce clutter and find what they need.

Where do people go wrong?

They don't want to invest time. Organizing takes time and energy, but it's worth it and pays off. Like going to the gym, the more you go, the more you will see results. We aren't taught to organize as kids.

Maybe we should start. Any tricks for teaching kids about organizing?

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company