Angie's List: A Professional Organizer can help get you on track to a clutter-free life

Let Angie's List and a pro show you how

TAMPA - How are those New Year's resolutions going? Have you lost weight, saved some money, or gotten organized? Weight loss and money management are difficult. But getting organized is surprisingly easy, once you make the commitment. Angie Hicks, founder of the consumer group Angie's List, said it's all about knowing yourself. "I think all of us can admit to having some area of their house that is a little more cluttered then it should be. But the key here is finding out whether you can fix it yourself or whether you need to hire someone - and what are the steps to get it resolved."

Getting organized is one of those things that takes a bit of work but can pay off instantly in peace of mind and satisfaction. You won't have to scramble to find your keys in the morning or track down that tool you used months ago but can't find now. Hicks said highly rated service providers tell her the most disorganized areas of the home are bedrooms, closets, and garages. The biggest contributor to clutter and disorganization? Anything on paper.

Professional Organizer Carrie Bell agrees, and offer these tips to get paper under control:

  • Junk Mail: Get rid of the junk mail right away. Don't let it pile up.
  • Bills, Bills, Bills: Sort your bills by order they are due and keep them all in the same spot.
  • Store the important: Establish one place for important papers like tax returns, receipts or insurance documents. Organize them by type and date so you can find them right away.

"A lot of what I hear over time," said Bell, "has been (clients) are very stressed, worried that with all the other things that keep them busy in life that they are getting chronically disorganized. And when they are at home then don't feel comfortable anymore. They don't like being in their space." No task is too small or large for a professional organizer, so ask for help if you're uncertain about how to begin or what to do to best use your space within your budget and capabilities. An organizer can do as little as pointing you in the right direction to helping you sort and re-store your belongings. "I think that one of the most common questions we get is what do they need to do or what do they need to buy before they meet with us. My answer to that is nothing. I want to see exactly what is working for them and not working for them. I try to reutilize the things that are already in the space before we go out and start making purchases," Bell said.

Hicks added, "The key to a good organizer is someone who sits down and consults with you first, someone that understands what your objective is and listens to you. The goal is not to just have someone come in and throughout your stuff without you even having any input. This is really them helping you get your life more organized not just them cleaning out your house."

Here are Angie's List suggestions for getting started organizing various rooms of your house.

Organize your bedroom:

  • Clear it off: Clear off and dresser tops and make a designated, exclusive spot for things like cell phone, change and keys. And then store those items there and only there.
  • Extra space: Under the bed storage is great for off-season clothing or shoes. Use specially designed containers or boxes and don't forget they're there!
  • Create extra space: Shoes can quickly take over your bedroom. Expand storage space in your closet with shelves on the floor or over-the-door, or store shoes in their original boxes on the shelves above your hanging area. 

Organize your closet:

  • Start fresh: Empty everything out of the closet to get a good look at what you have and what belongs in the space.
  • New Shelving: Consider new shelf configurations or even additional shelves if you have the space.
  • Purge: Donate or dispose of things you know you don't use anymore.
  • Color code: Keep your clothes together by color so you can find things easier. You can also do this with your accessories such as; scarves, jewelry and belts.

TIP: Can't decide what to purge and what to keep? At the beginning of the year face all your hangers in the same direction. Once you wear an item and return it to your closet, turn the hanger in the opposite direction. At the end of the season or year get rid of any clothing where the hanger is still facing the original way.

Organize your kitchen/pantry:

  • Is it expired? Throw away expired foods, including herbs and seasonings.
  • Sort: Store like items together – soups, vegetables, pasta, cereal etc… so you can quickly see what you have available and what you may need more of.
  • Condiments: Ketchup and mustard go together, right? Store them – and other like items – together, too.

 Organize your Garage:

  • Start simple: If you haven't used it in two years, consider disposal or donation.
  • Group Items: Create zones by putting all garden tools together and all auto products in their own zones.
  • Go vertical: If you can hang it up, do it – tools, toys and bikes are great candidates for vertical storage.

 "When hiring a professional organizer the first thing you want to do is make sure you've got a good reputable one with experience and a history of organizing," Hicks said. "Checking with friends and family, checking Angie's List can be a great way to find good resources. Then you need to know exactly what you are going to be getting and how much you are going to be paying. Are they just giving advice? Are they actually going to be doing the organizing? Do they bring the supplies? Do you have to take away the stuff that is getting thrown out or do they take care of it?"

Angie's List tips to find the right professional organizer for you:

  • Do your research: Typically a license is not required for a professional organizer so essentially anyone can say they can organize your home. Do your research to be sure you're hiring someone with experience and a good local reputation. Angie's List and professional organizations like the National Association of Professional Organizers can help guide you to the right local person.
  • Meet up: Many professional organizers offer a no-charge, no-obligations consultation, which allows you to meet the person who will be in your home going through your space. Ask questions about their experience and their ideas for how best to organize your home. If you don't feel comfortable with them, hire someone else.
  • Payment: Find out how they charge if it's by the hour or by the project and if there are additional charges for things like storage products or disposal/donation fees. Is there anything you should buy before the job begins?
  • What happens to your stuff? If your organizer will dispose of your unwanted items and it's important to you that they're donated or recycled rather than trashed, make sure your organizer knows that and will do what you want. Also ask about any hazardous waste, which much be disposed of properly.
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