Getting Organized

Ranked #1,106 in Culture & Society, #26,987 overall | Donates to Squidoo Charity Fund

You want to clear your clutter and get organized - or you know someone who wants to get organized. You know it will save you time and money, and generally improve the quality of your life. Let me help you get started, or (if you have already started) point you to some resources to get more ideas and inspiration.

Books: Organizing Basics

These books explain the steps that most people follow to successfully get organized. They include lots of stories along with the theory, and are easy to read.
It's All Too Much, by Peter Walsh
Peter Walsh got famous for his work on the TV show Clean Sweep. I got to hear him speak in person at the NAPO-SFBA (National Association of Professional Organizers - San Francisco Bay Area chapter) regional conference in 2005, and he was insightful and delightful.

So I'm very pleased to report that this book is terrific. Peter has a few main themes; one of them is that you must first "imagine the life you want to live", so you can then ensure that everything in your home will help move your life vision forward. A second is that "you only have the space you have" - so either move, or learn to make choices and live within the limits of your space. A third is that if you value an item, it should get honor and respect - not be buried in dust or shoved in a plastic bag somewhere.

Beyond the main themes, the book is filled with advice for every part of the home and all the challenges found there - books, collections, children's school and art work, etc.
Organizing from the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern
Julie is one of the best known organizers around, and she has written a number of books. This one teaches you the basic steps of sort, purge, assign a home, containerize, and equalize (do the maintenance). There's plenty of other good information, too.
The Organizing Sourcebook, by Kathy Waddill
Kathy presents nine basic strategies, including:
- Sort everything by how you use it.
- Weed constantly.
- Use the right containers and tools.
- Label everything.
The Spiritual Art of Being Organized, by Claire Josefine
Claire brings a different sensibility and style to her writing; her warmth and caring just radiate off the page. This is also a very personal book, with stories from her own life.

If you'd like someone to gently lead you by the hand as she teaches you to put like with like (and eleven other principles), this is your book. But if you think the simplicity movement is a bunch of hogwash, this is not the book for you.
Organize Your Home ... In No Time, by Debbie Stanley
Debbie DOESN'T go room by room, as you might expect; rather, she teaches you general principals and strategies that help in all parts of the home. She also deals with issues just as getting cooperation from other members of your family.

Books to Inspire You to Get Organized

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston
This book is on many organizers' lists, and with good reason.
Clutter's Last Stand, by Don Aslett
If the Karen Kingston book sounds too new-agey for you, here's a good book that's got a totally different tone.

Books on Time Management

Getting Things Done, by David Allen
This is by far my favorite time management book. (Note: His second book didn't do much for me.) There's a lot of emphasis on getting to-do items out of your head and onto paper (or computer), identifying the "next action" for each project (so you can actually get started), and having the types of to-do lists that help you be productive in a world with constantly shifting priorities.
How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein
This book was written in 1973, but it doesn't feel dated. The focus is very different from that of David Allen, with the emphasis on defining your life goals and making sure you are spending your time moving toward those goals. I've found I use concepts from both books for my own time management. I just wish there was a nicer version available in the USA; this is a poor-quality paperback.
Do It Tomorrow, by Mark Forster
This book starts out slowly, but hang in - it's worth the read. Mark has some very different ideas from David Allen, and his "closed list" (a list of things you WILL do today - that doesn't get new things added to it during the day ) and his "current initiative" (something needing your focus, which you work on first thing every day) are both concepts I found appealing.

Other Great Organizing Books

Messie No More, by Sandra Felton
The subtitle on this book is "Understanding and Overcoming the Roadblocks to Being Organized" - which summarizes the book quite nicely.
One Thing at a Time, by Cindy Glovinsky
The subtitle of this book is "100 Simple Ways to Live Clutter-Free Every Day" - and while I find many such lists to be silly, this one is very worthwhile. I also like her other book, entitled Making Peace with the Things in Your Life.
It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys, by Marilyn Paul
One favorite quote from this book: You may be saying to yourself, "Systems? Routines? Forget it! Boring!" If you're worried that routines will make your life boring, ask yourself whether frantically looking for the keys or last year's tax returns is really that interesting. Trying to figure out which clothes are clean and which are dirty is not a fulfilling task.
The Organized Student, by Donna Goldberg
This book has it all: strategies for organizing lockers, backpacks, desktop files for the home, desks and portable offices, and time. The reasoning for all the strategies is explained and implementation guidance is provided. Assessment questionnaires help you determine which of multiple possible approaches might work best for any specific student. And there's a nice list of further reading for those wanting to learn even more. The book is extremely well written and easy to read.

Books (and more) for those with ADD or Compulsive Hoarding Issues

Conquering Chronic Disorganization, by Judith Kolberg
Both the book and Judith are quite well known in organizing circles, and with good reason. This is a slim book packed with good ideas. Some seemed odd to me - but I've found they work!
ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, by Judith Kolberg & Kathleen Nadeau
Much larger than the prior book - and also packed with good ideas (some of which will be familiar to readers of the prior book). Both books are excellent.
Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder, by Susan Pinsky
This book is packed with terrific ideas, in an easy-to-read format. Those without ADD will also find some good advice here! The focus is on efficient solutions, not beautiful ones.
More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD
Books on ADHD abound - but this is one of the best I've seen for adults (rather than children) with ADHD, and the other people in their lives. It covers everything from getting diagnosed to deciding about meds - and it has tons of practical suggestions for handling all the various challenges that face a person with ADHD: organizing, time management, and much more.
Digging Out, by Michael Tompkins and Tamara Hartl
A couple other books deal with overcoming compulsive hoarding. This book focuses on how to help a hoarder who isn't open to getting therapy - and perhaps doesn't even see that there's a problem. The book focuses on harm reduction - because often that's all that can be done, unless outside authorities are called in. This book is filled with wisdom and compassion, and it addresses things that no other book I've seen does.
Institute for Challenging Disorganization
The fact sheets produced by this group, previously known as the National Study Group for Chronic Disorganization, contain good information. The Clutter Hoarding Scale is useful for calibrating the severity of a situation.

When Books Aren't Enough: Getting Help

If tackling your de-cluttering/organization project is too overwhelming, consider hiring a professional organizer to help. Many of us hire other people to help with things we could technically do ourselves: a mechanic to change the oil in our car, a gardener, a housekeeper, a personal trainer, etc. Hiring an organizer is very similar. And your information will be kept entirely confidential.
National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)
Look here to find an organizer anywhere in the United States and Canada.
NAPO - San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
Look here to find an organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area. We actually have members from Mendocino to Monterey. (And of course, if you would like to work with me, just look over at the LensMaster information.)

Finding New Homes for Your Things

It's often much easier to let something go when you know it's going to a good home. Here are a few organizations that can be found throughout much of the United States; of course, there will be local organizations well worth contacting, too.
This is an obvious one, but I wouldn't want to overlook them.
Join your local freecycle group and offer up your stuff to its members - and maybe pick up some things you need for yourself. People will pick things up at your home/office, which makes life easy. And you know you're giving something to someone who really wants it. I find this very useful for the oddities that don't make sense to give to Goodwill. Just one success story: I gave an airplane-shaped alarm clock (that ticked way too loudly for the guest bedroom it was in) to someone who has an airplane-themed bathroom.

Eliminating Junk Mail

Stop the clutter up front - don't let it into your home or office.

Residential Junk Mail Elimination Kit
This information comes from San Mateo County, California - but the information is valid for the entire United States.
Bay Area Junk Mail Elimination Campaign
This is another San Francisco Bay Area resource - where, once again, the information is valid for the entire United States.

Organizing Products

Many people won't need to buy many organizing products - they can use what they already own. And organizing products don't need to be purchased at specialty stores - you can find them inexpensively at other places. But when you do need something special, here are some of my favorite products and places to get them.
The Container Store
One of the best places for basic organizing supplies. I've bought products both at my local store and on-line. I like to support them because they have a reputation for treating their employees well. And I've found some very helpful sales people at the stores. And returns are a snap!
This is a great place to indulge yourself. Not cheap, but lovely stuff.
Now & Zen
Want to reduce the noise clutter in your space - the unpleasant sounds that surround you? I'm a big fan of the products sold by Now & Zen, including the Zen alarm clock and the Tibetan phone bell.