Local organization experts offer ways to get a jumpstart on spring cleaning and take control of the clutter.

By Susan Peck

Photos courtesy of Donna Wise and Andrea Wolf

It seems everyone wants to organize their living space, but most of us don’t know exactly where to begin. If it’s been one of your goals, why not make 2019 the year you look to the experts to help make it happen?

Trending organizing consultant and best-selling author Marie Kondo — from the Netflix series Tidying Up — says it doesn’t have to be a painful process to purge and “keep only things in your home that spark joy in your heart.”

With some fool-proof tips for conscious uncluttering, you can be well on your way to success.

Local organizing consultant Donna Wise, owner of Organize Wisely in West Bloomfield, helps create stylized but highly functional living spaces. “The biggest mistake people make is to confuse cleaning with organizing,” says Wise, a member of Temple Israel.

“Just tidying up a room doesn’t mean you’ve created a sustainable, organized system for your family, so the mess is bound to reappear.

“Our goal is to eliminate daily stress and aggravation by creating organizing solutions you’ll be able to maintain forever.”

Professional organizer Andrea Wolf of Organize Detroit in Huntington Woods has turned around even the most colossal messes for more than 13 years and says one of the main solutions is organizing items so they can be easily accessed by every member of the family.

“I’m a big believer in putting like items in clear storage bins with labels to specify the contents,” Wolf says.

“Actions like these reinforce good habits — like putting the cereal or breakfast bars back into a bin labeled “breakfast” in the pantry rather than leaving a box on the counter.”

Wise agrees. “Children take to these kinds of systems with so much enthusiasm because they thrive on the structure and love to take directions they can easily understand and follow. The whole family will be more efficient because you’re not wasting time looking for things, missing deadlines and creating a chaotic living space. This kind of smart organization creates a sense of calm throughout the home — something we all need more of.”

Four Steps to Organization

The pros weighed in with four steps to help you to sort, edit and discard your way to organizational bliss in any area of your home:

“First, it’s always best to empty the entire space you are trying to re-organize,” Wolf says. “Take all of the items out of the closet or space you want to redo and start with a clean slate.”

Then, Wise, a former automotive supplies executive, suggests a tried-and-true method for going through your items, whether a small kitchen utensil drawer or a full basement.

“You get three boxes for vetting your things and label them either ‘keep,’ ‘donate’ or ‘discard.’ As you sift through each item, you decide which box it will go in; and when you’re done, you need only organize the ‘keep’ items. You remove the other two boxes — giving them to charity or your trash or recycle bin.”

The third step? “Organizing your ‘keep’ items by putting similar items together into piles to see if you have multiples or a surplus of a given item. Then you can further edit your pile, keeping the best in each category. There’s no sense in keeping five potato peelers in your kitchen drawer, even if they are all good, and the same goes for items in every area in your home,” adds Wolf, a member of Aish HaTorah Detroit.

Lastly, the experts say put all your newly organized items back into the space, taking extra time to color-code and label everything if you are using bins or boxes. Remember, prime real estate in your home should be saved for the most often used items, Wolf suggests.

“And you should also make your space work for you, not the other way around. Always adjust shelving heights to what’s workable for you. If your space has high shelves, get a step stool to keep near them. You’ll be more likely to put your belongings away properly and stay organized that way.”

Stores like The Container Store, At Home and Organize-It are popping up all over Metro Detroit with aisles of organizers and closet accessories that inspire us to put stylish structure in every room. The experts say their personal favorite is still Target for the best selection of bins and organizing products.

“And Bed Bath & Beyond is another great go-to because of their selection and coupons,” Wolf says.

Whether it’s a grand scale walk-in closet or a more moderate makeover, one thing that can’t be denied is the difficult feelings that come up when it’s time to de-clutter.

“A professional organizer can help take the emotion out of deciding what to keep and what to part with because they have no attachment to the items.” Wise says. “We help clients make decisions and stay on track. It’s so easy to get sentimental and distracted and not stay focused on your ultimate goal when doing it on your own.”

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