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Time to get organized? You may need professional help

So … how are all those New Year’s resolutions you made coming along? You’re probably thinking, “What resolution?!” Or: “Holy Moly, I completely forgot!” Or, “Ummmmm…”
It took me the better part of January to do it, but I’ve accomplished mine. I got my house organized. Since my son went away to school last summer, I started working two jobs, and frankly, not doing much around the house. I have never been what you call a good housekeeper. You have to go to next door to my mother’s house to find one. But even for me, it had gotten to the point where I knew I needed some help to get the house back in shape.
I needed professional help, so I called Debi Lyerly. A design consultant with Fisher Street Interiors, Debi also happens to be a crackerjack organizer. She wasn’t surprised to hear from me.
“I get calls all year,” she told me. “Getting organized is one of the main resolutions for everybody. I spent the last two weeks of the year organizing my house.”
That made me feel a bit better.
“Clutter is a part of everyday life,” Debi said. “You either decide to live with it, or hire out someone to deal with it, or enlist a friend. You have to deal with it the rest of your life. It’s like cleaning the toilet. You can hate it, or you can deal with it.”
In many aspects of life, Debi feels that less is more, and definitely feels that less is more when it comes to getting your home organized.
Debi’s main strategy: you have to touch every single item that you’re organizing. If you’re cleaning out a drawer, dump its contents on the bed.
When it comes to clothing, Debi offered these suggestions:
1. If you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.
2. If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it.
3. If you don’t like it, get rid of it.
4. If it needs repair, get rid of it.
5. If it’s faded, get rid of it.
These all sound like common-sense suggestions, but you’d be surprised how people hang on to stuff.
If you’re sorting clothing in your closets or drawers, group like items together, Debi said. “It’s nicer and easier if everything has a place.”
Boy, did THAT ever sound like my mother.
After you’ve got stuff sorted to keep or give away, then you can send it where it needs to go. It could be to consignment (which Debi said takes too much time and effort), or to Goodwill, Habitat, Rowan Helping Ministries, or another charity.
“Whatever is not being utilized at your home needs to be out of your home,” Debi said.
Debi has four children, two grown and two still at home. She said she realized how quickly time has flown.
“How much of my precious time and life do I want to spend cleaning my house and cleaning out drawers?” she said. “You can cut your cleaning time in half if it’s orderly.”
Well, she had a point there.
She did admit you have to be in the right mindset to organize. “When it comes,” she said, “you’ve got to roll with it.”
OK, so it was time to roll. Debi was kind enough to go through a few “problem areas” in my house. We started in the kitchen. The cabinets and drawers are organized well enough, but then there are the two junk drawers in the bar. Debi suggested dividers, which I promptly went out and purchased. You can’t believe the huge difference it made.
Then we moved to the pantry. To her credit, she did not run screaming from the premises. She suggested using large Tupperware I had stored on the top shelf to hold items such as snacks.
“You always want to think double duty,” she said.
She spied some blue bud vases I had stored on the same shelf but clearly never used.
“They’ve got to go!” she said.
She also encouraged me to cull my cookbooks.
“Why do you have all these cookbooks when you can look everything up online?” she asked.
Again, she had a point.
Another interesting question she asked while we were working: “What brings you joy when you see it?”
If an item brings you joy, Debi said, then by all means, keep it. So the Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook my dear friend Jan Agner gave me when I turned 8 — by God, I’m keeping it!
Debi shared some great advice on handling mail. Flip through it immediately. It either needs to go to the bill file, to the shredder or to the trash.
She also said that I could tear out articles out of magazines instead of keeping the entire issue. I’m not sure about that one, but I’m going to try. To me, that’s a bit like writing in a book. And unfortunately, my magazine stack has increased instead of decreased — Carol gave me a stack of People magazines and Pat gave me a stack of Our States. But I’m reading as fast as I can! Then I will send ’em elsewhere. (I know Debi will ask me about that, so now I have to do it!)
I also thought Debi was going to run screaming from the storage room, but she didn’t. With all the shelving it houses, she called it “a goldmine of space.” She encouraged me to move my reporter’s notebooks — and believe me, they are legion — from the credenza drawers to these shelves. That way, I can place whatever materials I’m working with in the drawers versus out on the lamp table. OK, fine.
(I did take this advice and it’s working fairly well. I just have to get used to this new system. I also got so organized that I lost a reporter’s notebook with an unwritten story in it. But that’s another story for another time.)
Another piece of fantastic advice was to set a timer when you had to work on a drawer or closet. I loved doing that. It made the task seem way less daunting. As a matter of fact, my mother came over one Saturday morning and said she had 30 minutes before she had to go watch a Carolina ballgame. That gave us time to clean out the refrigerator and freezer.
I’m telling you, I was ready to get serious.
Another suggestion she made was to clean out a drawer while watching TV at night. Just set it on your lap and go to it. I don’t watch much TV so this didn’t really work for me, but it’s a good idea, don’t you think?
The one thing Debi did tell me to keep was a box of clippings of stories I’d written in the early 90s. I was shocked.
“That’s sentimental,” she said. “That’s your heart and soul. That absolutely had to be saved.”
I’m not sure it’s all that, but the box is still on the shelf — for the moment at least.
Now, if I could just organize my purse…
For more information about getting organized, contact Debi Lyerly at debi.fisherstreetinteriors@gmail.com.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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