On Jan. 19, I was in "almost-heaven." I had a microphone in my hand and over 200 people who were eager to learn about getting organized and controlling clutter, despite the economy and the cold weather. It is clear that more and more people understand the need to address this important topic.
Designers know that no decorating can be accomplished until a home has a place for everything and everything is in its place. But designers are only a small portion of the population and the problem of "too much stuff" and the lack of ability to control or organize it has grown to epic proportions. There is now a huge national organization of professional organizers to help people solve this problem, as well as countless closet and garage organizers.
What is it that makes us hold on to our things or buy more than we need? How can we change the way we view our things and for that matter, can we actually change? Clearly the problem lies beyond our stuff and with ourselves. Why do we keep things? What is our emotional attachment? Lots of questions — some hard to answer.
It seems to me there are two categories of people who need help in this area. The first can be taught by example and a plan. Those are the ones designers and organizers can help in very little time. They are busy, overwhelmed, or just never got the organizing gene in their DNA. In other words, it doesn't come naturally. No worries, though. In a few short sessions, the plan is in place, the system starts to work and people learn to sort, purge and give away. If they stick with the program and don't go on unnecessary shopping sprees, they will conquer their problem and set a good example for other family members, especially children. If they occasionally fall off the wagon, they don’t need too much time to get back on.
The second group of people have a tougher time changing. For whatever their reasons — usually deep-seated — they can't part with anything, saving everything from clothing to furniture to papers. They become defensive and generally inspire ill feelings in those around them. Oftentimes this problem spills over into every aspect of life and relationships. In its worst scenario, it creates homes such as those as seen on the TV show "The Hoarder."
According to experts, this is a serious condition needing counseling, patience and understanding and not successfully accomplished by family members. Professional organizers have a better shot, but often professional counseling is needed where the person is guided and encouraged to change while respecting their dignity. Medication such as anti-depressants might be required or cognitive behavior therapy or group therapy may be suggested.
It's clear by now that cluttering from its most extreme to various lower levels of disorganization is not healthy, causes time to be wasted finding things, and can promote safety issues. It's early in 2014 and if you've dropped the ball, reconsider trying again, as hard as it may seem. Start with one small task — a drawer, one closet or a pantry shelf. Order is contagious. I know you'll keep going and the rewards will impel you to continue. Remember — one — just one.