Professional organiser Jackie Kelley of Clearing House — a company in suburban Bethesda, Maryland, USA, which provides professional organising services for home or business — shares her expert tricks to organise your life and work.
Q How can one learn to organise without enlisting the help of a professional organiser like yourself?
AThere are many quality self-help organising books that you can read to help set yourself in the right direction. A few recommendations are Julie Morgenstern’s Organising From the Inside Out and Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau’s ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.
Q When we purchase a new big-ticket item (say, a leaf blower, television or cell phone), we feel compelled to save the box and accompanying paperwork. This ultimately ends up as clutter. Any tips on what is worth retaining and for how long?
A I love to give clients the “okay” to get rid of that equipment box! The paperwork is best saved in a household file for future reference. I use clear string envelopes by category of household items: appliances, sports gear and large electronics, etc. These clear files can be stored in a bankers box in the basement or hall closet, or in a file drawer for handy reference.
Q Do you have any organisation tips to promote successful studying for college students living in a dorm? My son has organisational “issues,” and I’d like to pass on a couple of helpful hints.
A Based on personal experience, I think the library is the best place for studying as opposed to the dorm. I would recommend scheduling time (30-60 minutes) for focused work, prioritising needs and deadlines, and using a calendar to help reduce (the feeling of being overwhelmed) when many projects are due at once. Reducing distractions is key.
Q What suggestions do you have for organising elementary-school age kids?
A Elementary school kids will benefit as well from resources like a desktop file for subject papers and expandable file binder. For parents, be sure to have an incoming paper landing zone where you can stash directories, papers to be signed and other reference information. I like using magazine files to collect papers for each child and school.
Q My 6-year-old daughter has more toys in our house than I had in my entire childhood. Her style of play is to get everything out and make up a game with all of the toys. Our issue is putting everything away. Do you have any organisation tips for a kid who doesn’t feel like she’s playing unless everything is out?
A This may not be a popular answer, but I’m a big supporter of minimising active toys in any play room or common space. Also, this is a great time to talk to your child about responsible play, such as always putting things back after she’s done. You can make it more fun by working side-by-side with her for a short burst of time at designated intervals. This routine will establish good patterns for the future.
Q I’m moving into a new house with three male roommates, and their hall closet is giving me anxiety. How can I organise it without offending them?
A Get everyone’s input before you roll forward. Set expectations and goals for the space. If you make the effort, they will follow.