One Mess At A Time

I was elated to receive my first assignment since being asked to join BNNYC until my editor sent me the topic. I then panicked and felt faint. Arming my nervous self with a bottle of Bordeaux (that I couldn’t afford) and a resolution-busting cigarette (yes, I am a rebel !) I decided what the hell -and jumped in, fear in my heart. I invite you to join me on my journey down the rabbit hole called – organization.

January is GET ORGANIZED MONTH month and our topic is how a professional organizer can change your life. OK, so we’re not talking Extreme Makeover and multi-million dollar lottery winning life-changing but this is useful information just the same. Especially for those of you, who like me are a ‘mess” in the broadest sense of the word! Using the information found on the National Association of Professional Organizers website I searched for an organizer in my area. You can specialize the search based on your needs: I chose “chronically disorganized” which I thought encapsulated a whole host of issues. It seems that the pros can help you with everything from setting up your filing to sorting out the inner workings of your mind. I must admit I am doubtful.

There is hope!
According to Lisa Zaslow, a NAPO member and owner of Gotham Organizers I am not alone in being organizationally challenged. She believes that everyone can learn to put their life in order by following a few simple guidelines. In a most enlightening conversation, Ms. Zaslow spoke about the psychology of organization and how it’s absence can detrimentally affect other areas of our lives. (Like sex when you can’t find the condoms or work when you forgot (again!) to make those reservations your boss requested). Disorganization costs us money, time and energy as well as bleeding over into our work and personal lives. It wreaks havoc – causing us undo stress, lost jobs, bank overdrafts and very often resulting in mind numbing hangovers. It has even been scientifically documented that our brains have a problem with taking in large amounts of cluttered information, contributing to the problem on a physical level. According to Lisa it simply takes looking at the situation with fresh eyes and making things as simple as possible. Confident this would start me on the road to recovery I grew energized and ready to change my life with visions of a (hipper, hotter) Martha Stewart Me dancing in my head. As Ms. Zaslow puts it, “Life is hard enough, it shouldn’t be hard to find our keys”!

One Mess at a Time!
A professional organizer can help you see through the haze of clutter and break it down accordingly. A common problem is that when people are overwhelmed things become “invisible”. They do not know where to start and very often just give up. Her first recommendation is to step back, analyze your area and define your “prime real estate”, (the areas that would provide easy access to your belongings). Why put something far out of reach that you use frequently? Keep it at chest or eye level. Use this concept accordingly – things that only see the light of day once in a while can be out of sight and reach, etc. Next, analyze what you can let go of – do you really need to keep your ConEd bills from 1999? Or your high school boyfriend’s ratty sweatshirt? Toss it girl! Its time to be discerning (perhaps you can carry this exercise into other areas of your life – that inattentive boyfriend perhaps? Or maybe your unstable girlfriend who stood you up once again?). Finally, thinking in terms of systems, the most important tenet, a place for everything and everything in its place. Find homes for your possessions and make sure they return there when you are done with them. The purpose is defeated if you fail to follow up the initial clearing and keep up with it on a regular basis. Words to live by.

A lot to think about and a big commitment – but one whose benefits we should continue to reap throughout our lives. If we’re able to keep it up. As for me, rummaging through closets and drawers stirred up a myriad of memories (I’ll save that for another article!) but after throwing out a few things and labeling a few more I actually did feel…lighter, and more confident. Over the next few days I found it easier to make it through my usual morning mélée by having my makeup and closet in order. Bill paying has now been simplified – I have labeled file folders and an up to date planning calendar to get me through! I have yet to conquer a plethora of boxes in my storage space or my ADD issues, but secure in the knowledge that I could – should I want to – is comfort enough!

Lisa Zaslow has been named one of New York’s top professional organizers and is regularly featured on television and in print extolling the virtues of organization. Her Ebook, “Can’t I just shred it all? 101 tips to file and find your important papers” is available for order on Gotham Organizers website or by calling their office at 212.866.9493.

The National Association of Professional Organizers will help you find or become a professional organizer. There are many helpful tips also included on their website at

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