Articles & Advice

Myth #2 About Clutter and Getting Organized


Myth #2

I don’t have time to get organized.

Not true. We all have the same amount of hours in the day. It is all about priorities and realizing that the more time you spend getting organized, the more time you will have for fun and relaxation later.

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Busting Ten Myths About Clutter and Getting Organized

What does it really take to live efficiently? We have many misperceptions about what it takes to become organized as well as a few common stumbling blocks to finishing the job once you begin. Kathi Burns of addSpace to Your Life will debunk the misconceptions about home organization so that you can get your life in order and gain new found peace of mind!

Myth #1

Once I get organized, I will be organized forever!

Organizing is always an ongoing process. It is true that the more systems that you have in place, the easier it is to get back to the place I affectionately call ‘zero’. Zero is the state where everything that you own has a home with room around it to grow a little. This way the system will not fall apart too quickly. BUT, in order to keep order, you must be diligent about maintaining the order that you have created.

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Letting go after a loved one has passed away

Often I’ve been called in to help people with what I consider very sacred organizing work which is to help a client move on after the death of a loved one. This often involves releasing the things that are no longer relevant to them that might have been relevant to their loved one. The client does not need to keep these things in their life because it makes them sad. When organizing a loved one’s belongings after their transition, it’s all about energetics; getting rid of the things that make them feel sad and keeping only the things that have good memories attached to them. It’s very precious sacred work and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help my clients move on and get back into life full tilt as single individuals with joy. You can’t really move on into a new single life if you don’t release a lot of the old stuff from your loved one. I do this work often and I consider it a privilege and an honor to help my clients do this.

Here is an example of an area that needed to be purged of a loved one’s belongings so my client could use the space productively:

Here is the space after the organization process:

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Even the most organized executive assistants could use a little help

Executive Assistant

I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to work with an executive assistant at a local corporation. She handled 8 legal attorneys and all of their work and demands. When I was called in, she was getting prepared to handle 15 more, so her workload was essentially tripling. Although she was already very organized, taking on this increased caseload meant she needed to be impeccably organized and efficient. I came up with a few solutions for her that should help.

We went through the papers on her desk, which she had been leaving in piles, and when something was needed she would sort through the piles. Even though she didn’t have that many papers, it was still challenging for her to retrieve them at a moment’s notice as attorneys needed them. The first solution I created for her was a vertical action file system with space for 8 bins, one for each attorney. When she completed paperwork, she would keep them loose in these vertical bins. We also made a manila folder within each bin for travel expenses and another one for upcoming events. When she receives expense receipts or information for an upcoming trip, she can just put them in those designated folders within that attorney’s vertical bin.

We also focused on bundling her tasks. Our plan was for her to submit all expense reports on Thursday afternoons so they would be ready before their Friday deadlines. She is able to create a strict cut off time for the attorneys to submit expense receipts to her so she will always have everything she needs to get this job done on Thursday afternoons.

This executive assistant likes writing physical to do lists as new tasks come in, but she was using a small notebook which caused her lists to take up many pages that she was constantly flipping through. I suggested she use a legal pad and divide it up into sections by either attorney or type of task so as new tasks came in she could easily list them all on one or two pages. Once she gets this new to do list organized in a way that works best for her, she will create a template on the computer so she can print out blank to do lists at the beginning of each week.

Because she will be adding 15 more attorneys to her caseload, we have allocated space in the file drawer in her desk by using a hanging file folder for each attorney with manila folders for expenses and upcoming events within each one. Office supplies that were taking up space in this drawer have been moved behind her, with only a couple often used forms and labels remaining in the drawer for quick access.

Current projects are now held in a vertical paper holder on her desk as a daily task list. Once she completes her most urgent projects, she can refill the paper holder with new tasks. She has also committed to spending the first 15 minutes of each work day going through her current task list before reading new emails and getting work done. This helps her prioritize and organize her day before dealing with any new tasks. This 15 minute period will allow her to approach her day proactively instead of reacting to each new request as it comes in.

It was a pleasure to work with this organized and competent woman and I am sure that once she gets into this new work flow, she will be even more productive and able to handle her increased workload. I can’t wait to see her progress and I’m sure a promotion is soon to come.

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Keeping Your Jewelry Collection Organized

Keeping your jewelry organized and easily accessible is the key to having fun with your accessories while getting dressed. For many of us, out of sight is truly out of mind. We need to see the choices available as we get dressed and a jumble of necklaces in the bottom of a drawer rarely serves that purpose.

Jewelry armoires provide a simple solution to storing your entire jewelry collection under one roof. As a stand-alone storage device, they have large, but limited storage space and create parameters on how large your jewelry collection can grow. Because they take up a small amount of floor space, they often fit perfectly in small closets or bathrooms. You can also keep the drawers open as you choose your accessories so you can see all of your options at once. If you don’t have the money or space for a jewelry armoire, here are a few other tried and true methods to keep your jewelry organized and quickly accessible:

Get Your Necklace Collection in Order

Buy an attractive wall rack, one-armed paper towel rack or bathroom towel rack. Hang this at eye level above your dresser or inside the door of your closet. Chain your necklaces on this rod spread them out so you can see each individual piece.

If your collection is small, you can also use a shaker-style peg rack. The key to keeping order is to hang no more than 2-3 necklaces on each peg.

For exceptional jewelry items, buy a shadow box frame with a door and install a cup hook or t-tack to hang your item on the back panel.

T-shaped craft pins can also be into your wall in a row just below a mirror. Hanging no more than two necklaces on each hook will keep them untangled.

Use straws to keep dainty chain necklaces from kinking. Simply run one end through the straw and attach the clasp at the other end. Trim your straw to fit the necklace length.

If you prefer to keep your jewelry in a drawer, line your drawer with the original boxes. Use the lids as dividers as well. Line them all snug in a row and everything will be in order when you open the drawer.

Egg crates can also serve as nifty little nesting pouches within your drawer.

For the artistic creative types, find a tree branch and coat it in iridescent paint. Anchor it into a pretty vase with rocks and hang your necklaces from the branches

Remove the crystals from an antique chandelier and hang your necklaces on each arm. You can do the same with old table lamps that have many arms below the bulb.

Space at a premium? Use a clear plastic pocket that mounts on the back of your door to keep your jewelry organized and visible.

Earrings Losing Their Mates?

String a sturdy ribbon between two decorative nails on the wall above your dresser to hang your dangly earrings.

Disassemble the back of a pretty picture frame and install a screen with large holes as the new backing. Hang the frame on your wall and your earrings in the frame.

Egg crates also make cozy little nesting pouches for post earrings.

Keep your Bracelets Ready to Go

Install pushpin t-hooks in a line on your wall and hang a bracelet from each hook.

Have a huge bracelet collection? Line your shallow dresser drawer with small boxes and lids. Use as many as you need to fill the drawer completely so they will remain in order. Store one set of bangles or individual bracelets within each area.

Whatever storage method you choose, make sure to hang a mirror in the jewelry area so you can try on your accessories and quickly put them back if they don’t coordinate perfectly with your outfit. Creating an accessory zone will provide quick-change options and make accessorizing and looking fantastic a snap!


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Six Benefits of Getting Organized

Want to lose weight?                                                                                                               Studies show that weight is directly proportional to amount of clutter in your environment. When your life is cluttered, your movement is hampered. The simple act of trying to find a healthy snack becomes nearly impossible when your fridge or pantry is in shambles and that is just the beginning  . . .

Want to make more money?
Get organized means you will spend less time trying to find the tools you need to do your work. Having all tools at your fingertips lets you spend more time focusing on your business at hand. You will also save money because you will no longer buy items that you already own but cannot find!

Want more time for fun and relaxation this year?
This is a fact ~ when your home is clear from clutter you have more time because you don’t waste precious minutes or even hours trying to find what you need. Instead, you spend more time enjoying the day. As opportunities arise, you can jump right in!

Want to make big changes in your life this year?
Get rid of your clutter! Thinking clearly helps you make better decisions. Clearing your mind is much easier when you have a clear and organized environment without distractions.

Want extra free time each week?
We all have the same number of hours in a week but, looking around, you might have noticed that some people get a lot more done than others. Work with a Professional Organizer to set up a comprehensive time management game plan to help you grab control of your schedule and create more time for fun!

Want to stop feeling overwhelmed and tired?
Clear some of the clutter in your home. Empty space is invigorating and always gives you more energy. The less stuff you own, the more life presents new opportunities. Most importantly, the less clutter you have surrounding your life and your mind, the easier it will be to grab each opportunity with gusto!

Get started today! Even doing one of these steps will jetapult you  into a better life!



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7 Steps For Creating an Efficient Toy or Sports Closet

Use this 7 step process to organize and create a toy closet within your hall closet. Even if you don’t have kids, you can use the same process for whatever you decide to do with your spare closet.

1. Gather It All Together

Gather all of the toys or sports equipment that you wish to store in this area. Sort these items into categories. Pile like items with like, give or throw away all of items that your children no longer play with and then take stock of what you need to store.

2. Determine What Storage to Use

For toys with multiple parts like Lego bricks, consider buying plastic bins with lids that children can easily remove and put back on. Place all Lego items into one bin, with a little room to spare to serve as a guide for when your children request more Lego parts.

3. Sort Like with Like

Make sure that board games are intact and stack these boxes together. A large rubber band around each box will save you hours of frustration sorting spilled boxes. Stuffed animals are best stored together in their own bin or deep basket. Once all toys are gathered, you will have a better idea of what type of storage containers you need. For instance, if the collection is mainly board games and stuffed animals, then you will need a small shelf unit and a large basket to hold the toys. If you discover that you have multiple loose items, you might want to incorporate a drawer unit into the closet.

 4. Choose the Proper Containers

There are many cost effective and efficient plastic storage units on the market. These plastic solutions will help organize your closet without requiring a construction worker. One of the most versatile units is the rolling drawer bin. These white and clear plastic units feature three to four drawers and they can be stacked if you need more room. You should be able to fit one of these into the closet with room to spare on one side for other containers. For instance, you can stack two to three bins on top of each other on the floor beside this unit.

If you need to store many sports related items, tall kitchen trashcans make super containers for bats, gloves, balls, etc.

5. Make Use of the Side Walls

On the side walls you can install hooks at “kid height” to hold bags for separate projects. These hooks could also be a landing zone for backpacks when your children return from school. Keep things at their level so small children can hang up their coats and grab their backpacks. Install these hanging rods and hooks about 2 1/2 to 3 feet high.

6. Consider Adding a Shelf

Another option is to buy a small shelf unit that will fit inside your closet. There are numerous shapes and sizes available to accommodate almost any size closet. Most are kits that you can easily assemble yourself. Buy the tallest one available to optimize the vertical space within your closet. Stack plastic bins on the shelves to organize loose items. Usually the shelves are only 12 inches deep. This means you will have floor space in front and off to the sides for small trashcans to hold larger loose toys.

 7. Develop Good Habits

Once this closet is reconfigured, teach your children that this is their own special closet, built just for them. Because it is their special place, they are the ones responsible for returning toys there at the end of playtime.

Even if a kid’s toy closet is not your final outcome, it pays to get everyone in the house on board with what ever the new improved closet is designed for. This way, you will hopefully never again find strange unrelated items stuffed into this space.

There is no one perfect closet design. If you are designing a toy closet, your storage needs depend on the age of your children and their interests. If you are simply designing a sports closet for the entire family, you will need flexibility because interests like sports come and go like the wind! Keep in mind that as your interests change, you can easily redesign the space with different plastic storage configurations. With plastic containers and a little creativity, you can create effective holding zones for almost any item.




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Tips to Help You Get Your Garage Organized

As with any other space within your home, a well-organized garage always has a premeditated layout and design. Unfortunately, most people don’t give much thought about what goes into their garage and it frequently ends up becoming a dumping zone for all things unwanted, unused or loved.

In order to begin getting your garage in order, you need to determine what activities will take place in your garage. As with every other area in your home, you have to know what your end goals are before you begin to plan the layout. Perhaps you, like many others will have a laundry area, but will it also store sports equipment, garden supplies and holiday décor? Will it feature a workout or workshop area?

Take a walk through your garage. Check out what goodies have ended up there and then begin to visualize what items truly are goodies instead of things that are simply old, unloved and abandoned.


Once you have decided what items you will keep in your garage, you can create a practical plan for each zone you need to create within your space. For instance, if your washer and dryer are located in your garage. it makes sense to position the laundry area closest to the interior door. Gardening supplies and the lawnmower should be towards the front and side of the garage to keep the dirt toward the outer perimeter and away from the laundry zone. I will talk more about your laundry zone in a bit.

Every well- designed garage will include some type of storage. Does your garage have pre-existing shelving or cabinets? The ideal strategy is to use one entire wall for storage. The wall on the left side of the garage is typically good for shelves because you can set the perimeter to allow for your car door to open. Cabinets/shelves are typically 20-24 inches deep and should fit easily along the wall where you will park the car. Using this wall for storage will keep lawnmowers etc from banging into your car door. And yes – I am suggesting that you put your car back into the garage even if it hasn’t ever seen the inside of your garage! Your car is one of your largest investments, so it makes sense to give it a home within your home.

Open shelves on the wall closest to your home entrance will conveniently store household supplies bought in bulk.

Make sure to use every inch of vertical space, floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Buy the tallest available cabinets or shelves to totally optimize the space along your wall. If you still have overhead space after installing these cabinets, consider running another shelf above to hold holiday boxes or tax archives.

When you think your plan is complete, look again at the space above each zone. You can never have too much storage. Consider adding more shelving in the areas that have empty wall space or above the garage door. Holiday decorations should be grouped together and stored high and out of the way. There are companies that specialize in overhead garage door storage units. This storage area works well for large items like skis, extra lumber and building supplies. If you are a ‘do-it-yourselfer’, most home improvement stores sell kits for overhead storage shelving.

Garden supplies can be stacked neatly in two rows of large plastic bins with lids. Extra potting soil, mixes and pots can be stored in the two bottom bins. Tools, seeds and bulbs can be stored neatly within the top bins. Sectionalize your smaller items within the larger bins with ziplock baggies and smaller shoebox size bins. If you don’t have an existing potting station, keep an empty plastic bin on top of this stack to use for potting plants. By the time you have stacked three of these bins on top of each other, you have a convenient waist-high workstation.

Almost every garage needs a tool zone. Even if we are not that handy, we all need the occasional hammer and nail. Being a fan of organized spaces, even as a child, one of my favorite organizing solutions was when my Dad nailed the lids of old baby food jars to the underside of his tool cabinet. He used these jars to store his nails, screws and small parts within. When he needed a nail, he simply unscrewed the lid and removed the jar from it’s hanging space. I thought he was brilliant and I loved that solution so much that I always offered to help him screw the bottles back onto their lids.

So, think about what you want to accomplish within your garage and get going!

If you get stuck and want a jump start for getting your entire home organized, check out my online do-it-yourself course ~ Home Organizing Made Simple


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Tired of Being Buried Under Paperwork?

Hi Kathi,

I enjoyed your presentation at the Women’s SCORE breakfast at Morgan Run about two years ago. I was fascinated with your ideas and have read your book.

I like your advice to skip over the chapters that don’t apply. The clothes closet one didn’t apply to me, but I read the chapter anyway. My closet is organized by color first, and by season second. (My best organization starts upstream at the store.)

Where I struggle is with the pieces of paper. The action pile is the problem. All of the other categories are organized very well. My manuals are on the bottom left of my lateral filing cabinet. When an iron breaks and I buy a new one, I pull out the old directions and put the new directions in the file folder. All the retirement information is in one place. My file cabinets are very organized. Just like my spices turntables – all in alphabetical order.

So, I think there’s hope for me. Four of the five categories of paper are organized well. And have been for 40 years.

But the action papers. I don’t know what to keep and what to throw away. I’ve learned to throw more away sooner because, as you point out, the history is available on the Internet. I do purge my statements folders once each year. And thanks to your presentation, I toss some receipts or statements immediately.

Have you written a new chapter, or are there websites you can recommend, to help me with this final bit of mastering my muck? Here are examples: Do I need to keep paystub statements? How much medical paperwork should I keep? The dental office has my records. The medical clinic has my records. I use Quicken, so as soon as I’ve downloaded the transactions, I verify things and toss the receipt (unless it’s a big purchase and I need to keep the receipt).

I’ve told many friends and colleagues about your presentation and your book. I look forward to hearing back from you about new ways to think.


Hope Campbell
MA in Educational Technology
Instructional Designer
Technical Writer
and tired of being buried under paper

Hi Hope,

Thanks so much for reaching out with your questions. You are not alone and I commend you for the great work you have done so far. Here are a few tips for each of your specific questions:

Do I need to keep paystub statements?

You do not need to keep your pay stubs if you trust that your employer is deducting the right amount and that you will receive an accurate year end document, ie W2 or 1099. If you are on commission, you might want to save each pay stub until you have been fully compensated for your wrok. After this is verfied, you can shred them.

If you receive a regular salary from a reputable company, you can toss or shred your stubs as soon as they arrive. If your pay is automatically deposited, you can also request that you no longer receive a pay stub.

How much medical paperwork should I keep? The dental office has my records. The medical clinic has my records.

You need to keep your medical bills until they are reimbursed or paid.

If you are on an HSA plan, you can use your HSA funds for many expenses not covered by your health insurance plan. Dental and vision care expenditures are common examples. Keep these receipts for these items and then organize and total them each year and file with your tax return receipts. Keeping 2 files will serve you well and keep your expenses separated for tax time, one for odd year, another for even.

There are many points of view about which medical records you should personally keep such as test results and x-rays. Many people feel that they want to keep and track their complete medical history. If this is your case, create a permanent file folder and save only your test results etc. Do not keep bills or other papers here, only test results. If you get an x ray, ask for it to be given to you on a disc so that it will also fit within this file. I personally keep my annual wellness results and also any blood work results and let my doctor save the other documents and x rays. Do whatever falls within your comfort zone.

I use Quicken, so as soon as I’ve downloaded the transactions, I verify things and toss the receipt (unless it’s a big purchase and I need to keep the receipt). 

Keep receipts for every expenditure over $75 that appears on your tax return. If you are an employee as opposed to an home-based business. you dont need to keep many receipts as your tax return is simple: medical (as of this date, you can deduct eligible medical expenses to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income), tax docs such as W2 and earned interest and charitable donations are typically the only items that you record to the IRS.  These will be the only receipts that you need to keep and archive with your tax return.

All other receipts can be tossed as soon as they are input into Quicken. As an aside, I keep an envelope in my purse for purchases that I might possibly need to return. I toss the grocery receipts into the grocery trashcan as I leave the store or sometimes even tell the check out person to toss them for me! Once a month or so, I go through that envelope and get rid of the receipts for the merchandise that I am satisfied with. This way, I dont bring receipts and extra papers into my house or office that are not relevant to my tax return.

You might also want to watch this quick news braodcast where I provided more tips for managing and eliminating your paperwork.

I hope that this helps you finish your organizing process. Keep up the good work and feel free to connect again if you have more questions!

PS, I love the use of turntables and organizing your spices in alphabetical order, Yay!



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10 Lifestyle Guidelines for Trimming Down Your Clutter

1. If you are looking for something and you are unable to find it immediately, unclutter the area surrounding that object as soon as possible.

2. Ask your family or housemates to help you declutter and rearrange your home in a more organized fashion. The more buy-ins you have from others using your space, the easier it will be to maintain your new systems!

3. If you can no longer see the surface on your counters or tabletop, it’s time to clean up your act and ditch the muck!

4. Set up a particular area for the items that you use daily – install hooks to serve as key holders, a bin for magazines, etc.

5. Make it a habit to clean up and stow random objects from your living room before you go bed each night.

6. Be uncompromising.  Throw out papers, such as newspapers, magazines and useless mail every week.

7. Create a list of household essentials and hang it on the inside of your pantry door. Checkmark the items when you run out. This will let you see at a glance what you have on hand and what you need to restock during the next shopping expedition.

8. Set a regular schedule to rid the house of unnecessary objects such as dead batteries, dried-up pens, burnt out lightbulbs and other garbage. Make it a point to find the locations nearby your home that recycle those items.

9. Do not be sentimental on things! Donate or trash items if you are no longer using them.

10. Set up a donation box somewhere in your home where it can  live permanently. Place it in an easily accesible location and add  to it every time you run across something that you no longer need, love or use.

Find your closest donation facility and go there every month to empty your box. Getting rid of at least one box per month will make a big difference in your lifestyle!

According the the US Soap and Laundry Association, clearing your clutter will save you 42% more time cleaning your house. How’s that for a bit of motivation?

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