Start a more organized life in 2012

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By Roxanne Cheney
For many, the New Year is a time to reflect on the changes we want or need to make.  And every year, many of us end up making the same resolutions.  One that shows up on just about every New Year Resolution Top Ten List is to “get organized.”  That’s not surprising when you consider these statistics:
• 23 percent of adults admit to paying bills late (incurring late fees and suffering credit report effects) because they lose bills among the clutter;
• 25 percent of people with two-car garages can’t park even one car because of the other items stored there;
• 1 in 11 American households spends more than $1,000 annually on rented self-storage space;
• The average American spends one year of his/her life looking for lost items.
Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite guests over on the spur of the moment, or simply want your papers organized enough to find addresses or receipts in under a minute, the following tips will get you started on the road to a more organized life.
For most people, trying to organize their space without first sorting and purging their belongings is simply rearranging the clutter.  Use this simple acronym to kick start your efforts:  SORT.
S ort
O bserve Oosouji
R ule of One
T oss with Abandon
Sort. Soon after the New Year arrives, most families take down holiday decorations and store everything for the following year. This year, before repacking the ornaments, lights, and linens, look at each item to determine whether it’s something you really want to keep. With time, have some of the items become tired, tattered, or stained?  Some may have sentimental value despite (or even because of) their age.  But are some decorations there just because, well, they’re there?  If you don’t love each one, donate or discard it before putting away the others. Next December you’ll be glad you did.
Observe Oosouji. In Japan, an integral part of New Year tradition is clearing dirt, clutter, and the disorganization from the old year.  Japanese homes receive a top-to-bottom cleaning; business offices are sorted and organized; and children clean out school desks.  The objective is to drive out any impure influences that may have taken up residence during the previous year.   Whether you want to purify your home, or simply enjoy a clean and uncluttered house, oosouji will help you achieve your objective.
Rule of One. Try this simple idea to keep clutter at bay as you put away holiday gifts: for each item received, donate or discard one.  For example, for every new DVD you add to the shelf, remove one older title. New PJs for the children? Before placing them in the drawer, take out a pair that no longer fit or that your child doesn’t like. If craft supplies filled your stocking, remove as many from your stash before adding the news ones.
If your home is already cluttered, try donating or discarding two items for each one received.  This will immediately reduce clutter — and the pleasure of new possessions will help ease any discomfort about letting go of items you no longer use, need or love.
Toss with Abandon. We all know that when it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts. And that’s true for all the gifts that entered your home this holiday season.  Do not allow your home to be cluttered with items you do not want simply because they were gifts.  Try these strategies to handle any “white elephant” gifts (after writing a thank you note, naturally):
• If a gift receipt was included, return the item or exchange it for one you will use, need or love.
• Consign gifts to one of our fabulous local consignment shops, or donate to one of the myriad charitable resale shops in town.
• If you wish to save a gift for “regifting,” attach a note to yourself with the name of the gift giver and date received; this will help prevent a regifting faux pas.
• Host an after-Christmas “white elephant” exchange (with very good friends).  Remember, one woman’s trash is another’s treasure?  It’s true!
Sorting and de-cluttering before putting things away isn’t about doing without; it’s about surrounding yourself only with things you use, need or love.   And wouldn’t that be a lovely way to live your best life in 2012?
Roxanne Cheney is a Professional Organizer and Daily Money Manager. For more information, visit www.RoxanneOrganizes.com, 843-252-1118 or Roxanne@RoxanneOrganizes.com.