Let’s face it: not everyone is a natural-born organizer. But many of us do not realize how much our lack of organization impedes us from enjoying life. For those who can admit that they need help – those who risk serious blood loss to find the surface of their desk under a pile of paper – fear not! Betty Huotari, President of Logical Placement LLC, is here to whip us into shape for spring by helping us understand and identify clutter, and explaining the benefits of designing an organization system that works.
Think for a moment about the things that cause you stress in your home; perhaps it’s not being able to find your sweater or your keys because they’re never where they should be. What about the piles of you don’t even know what lurking in the laundry room closet, sitting on the steps, and collecting dust in your home office? This is clutter, the meaningless matter that builds up and hinders the pursuit of a meaningful life. Betty put it another way: “Clutter is the extra stuff,” she said, “the things you have but never use, and the things that weigh you down.”
Growing up with a mom who set a great example of organization taught Betty many lessons in discipline, but it was not until she became a mother herself that Betty considered professional organizing as career. “As a mother of two, I needed flexibility in my work schedule,” she recalled, “but I also thought that if I was going to return to the corporate workplace when my kids went to school, I needed a way to keep my business skills fresh.” Something clicked for her one day in 2001 when Betty saw a guest on the Oprah show who made her aware that professional organizers existed. “After a few months of research, I started Logical Placement LLC that same fall,” she remembered.
Betty’s skill for organizational systems has grown her business from a one-day-a-week enterprise to a full-time venture. Now more than ever, she says, people need help managing all of the demands on their time by having a plan that they can stick to. After all, no system, no matter how ideal or pretty, will work if it doesn’t work for you. “An organizational system cannot operate if you don’t invest time in maintenance,” Betty cautioned. “Life happens, and it will never be perfect. Kids bring junk home, mail comes every day, and you have to find a way to deal with it.” Her suggestion is to begin in the kitchen. “In many homes, the kitchen is the command center, and almost everything that becomes clutter has to go through your kitchen first,” said Betty. First, there’s the never-ending mail. “Junk mail should ideally not make it into the house,” stated Betty adamantly, “or at the very least, it should be deposited in the recycling bin on your way in from the mailbox.” Mail that makes it past the danger zone should find a temporary home in a tray, shallow enough that it should not hold more than a week’s worth, that way, you have to go through it every week! “Pay the whole week’s bills at one time,” Betty suggests, “and file receipts in a portable filing box immediately after you finish. When the box fills up, move what you still need to keep into long-term filing cabinets.”
Another place where clutter can threaten your sanity is the home office. Every home office, says Betty, should have zones that work for different purposes and meet different needs. Zone A, where work is done, should contain the supplies that we reach for over and over again: a planner or calendar, home binder, mail essentials, sticky-notes, etc. Zone B, which should be within reach but not so close that it overlaps with the Zone A, is for items that you reference often but not on a daily or weekly basis: the filing cabinet in your desk, perhaps, where you keep records from the current year. Zone C is where long-term or every-once-in-a-while items are stored. “None of the zones should overlap,” Betty advised, adding that everything in the office should be assigned a home in one of the zones, that way it can always be placed where it belongs.
“Organization is all about discipline,” says Betty, who is quick to add that the rewards are worth the work. She says, “by being organized, you live a less stressful life.” Organization and its close relative De-cluttering together often lead to self-revelations and freedom. “After working with me, many of my clients say that they look at material goods differently,” Betty reported proudly. “They take the time to ask themselves, Do I really need this?” That simple question has the potential to be powerful this spring, the season of new beginnings, when the urge to let go of everything holding us back is strongest.
PHOTOS BY JENN HAWK