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Where to Begin

NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, calls January “Get Organized” month. The beginning of a new calendar year is the traditional time to clear clutter, but where to start?

Since we’re often overwhelmed when confronted by a task as big as “Get Organized,” the very first thing you might do is call someone for some assistance. This person could be a professional organizer, a certified life coach, a family member or a friend who can give you some direction and perspective.

When you’re ready to get going, break the task into manageable chunks. Starting with your physical environment — clearing the clutter and creating a filing system, for example — is often easier than beginning with something more amorphous, such as time management or organizing your finances. If your physical environment is orderly, you have a foundation to organize the more discreet areas of your life.

One of the obvious ways to break up a home organization project is by rooms. Tackle one room at a time, starting with the most problematic, so that you won’t run out of steam before you really feel some benefits of your hard work.

If you have a store room or “junk” room, I often suggest starting there, so that by clearing that space you have room to shift items in the rest of the house. Just like a pipe, you have to remove the clogs in order to get a flow going.

In any individual room, I always start organizing with what’s on the floor. Any piles on the floor need to come up and get looked at and handled before you start pulling things off shelves and out of drawers. Even if all you do in every room is pick up what’s on the floor, I’ll bet the overwhelm factor will dissipate quickly. Clear floor space is a huge energy lifter.

Once the floor is picked up and those items put away, work your way around the room, left to right. Always handle items that are out in view, piled on the horizontal surfaces, before going hog wild emptying drawers, boxes and shelves. If you’re lucky enough to have things put away in drawers and on shelves, leave them there a little longer while you tackle the homeless stuff. What you don’t want is to run out of time or energy and leave yourself with a bigger mess than you started with.

Take it a chunk at a time, go from the ground up, and come Feb. 2 your clutter won’t be casting any shadows over your new year.