Spring Cleaning? Clear clutter with these ideas

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

When it comes to organization, one size does not fit all. Some people need a complete overhaul, while others simply want a better system for problem spots such as closets or repeat offenders like paper. Whatever your situation, we hope you’ll find a process, product or project here that motivates you to clear the clutter.

Life’s a stage

Follow the lead of lifestyle expert and certified home stager from the New York area, Tori Toth. “Start small with one corner of a main living area,” says the best-selling author of Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets For a Quick and Easy Sell (toritoth.com). “It should be small enough so you can clear it and meaningful enough to make an impact.”

Whether you tackle a corner or an entire room, dedicating a few minutes each day makes it a habit, she says. Place items in appropriate piles — keep, toss, move, store, sell and donate.

After Superstorm Sandy destroyed the first floor of her home, Toth vowed to get items off the floor, and her walls offered a great solution. The experience also forced her to rethink her home office space, which has become more functional with an extra desk and added storage.

“Plan it out first and search your home for items to use in new and unique ways,” she says. “Label everything and rethink the pile. Instead of stacks, use vertical racks or sorters so you can see everything quickly.”

Her decorative boxes may look neat, but they’re not always tidy inside. “It doesn’t need to be perfect,” says Toth who shopped the Container Store for her storage and shelving needs.

Contain yourself

According to the Container Store, the closet is at the top of the list for many customers. Here, their organization experts break it down by budget.

For $50, you can maximize your closet space with Huggable Hangers, which have a slim profile. Hanging storage is another affordable solution. For those who want personal items to be visible, clear storage boxes hold everything from garments and shoes to linens, while protecting them from dust and pests.

With $500, they suggest adding fabric storage boxes with labels for items you’d like to hide. A few elfa Start-A-Stacks with solid or mesh drawers can store shirts, undergarments and other accessories. Different drawer sizes accommodate specific needs, and a top can be added for a built-in feel.

For $5,000, you can invest in a new closet system such as their elfa shelving and drawer system, which has been their best-selling product since their debut in 1978. Design experts can create a free elfa closet design in-store, online or by phone.

Their in-home organization service, Contained Home, provides customers with expert advice, organization and innovative products and solutions. For $100, you get an in-home consultation, custom design and comprehensive organization plan. When you purchase five hours or more of organizing services (which cost $75 per hour) your $100 consultation fee will be credited toward that purchase (containerstore.com).

Storage solutions

At the Home Depot, Jim Warrington, merchant, closet organization, says they have a wide range of organizing products for the home. “We have something for everyone, from DIY to top-of-the-line.” They offer instructional videos online or you can have a handyman do the installation.

“From closets to mudrooms, we solve storage problems for every room in the house,” he says. Systems include custom options from Home Decorators Collection to a modular option from Modifi.

Home Decorators Collection features higher-end materials, benefits like soft-close drawers and accessories such as mirrors, ironing boards and lighting packages. Among the less expensive options are the ClosetMaid Closet Maximizer, with tool-free assembly and the soft storage system from neatfreak!.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to paint and spackle after removing your old shelving.

“Every customer has a need that we try to solve. We have everything you can think of to help you get organized in your own way,” says Warrington. “You can get something that’s easy to install or tool-free, soft or hard material for any room, and we have the services to help you get your project done.” (homedepot.com or homedecorators.com)

Helping hand

For those seeking assistance with their projects, Betty Huotari, a professional organizer with Logical Placement in Fenton (logicalplacement.com), says regional rates typically range from $40 to $75 per hour.

“A lot of times people think, ‘When I get organized, I’ll call the organizer’ because they’re so embarrassed,” says Huotari. “We’re not there to judge, we’re there to help get them past whatever is holding them back.”

Huotari suggests interviewing potential organizers by phone for the right fit. For a list of questions, go to napo.net where you can also find local organizers through the Southeast Michigan Chapter of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers).

One of the most common problems is paper. “There are so many unknowns, like how long you should keep your utility bills and where you should keep them,” she says.

If you know what you want to tackle, Huotari suggests setting a date to get the job done and rewarding yourself afterward by going out with friends or enjoying an hour’s worth of guilt-free reading. To stay on task, set an egg timer or a phone alarm. “Every half-hour or so check to make sure you’re still working on the project you thought you were working on,” she says. “Be realistic. If you think it will take an hour, just double it.”

Even organizers have a to-do list because life happens and decisions have to be made day to day. “We’re human,” says Huotari, who mostly works with repeat clients once or twice a month. Many projects take from three to six months to complete; others are ongoing.

Melissa Doris from Ann Arbor values her expertise. “It’s a lifesaver for me. Initially I hired her because I have a lot of objects in my house and I couldn’t really keep track. I needed to divest myself of a lot of what I had.

“The thing I love about Betty is that she pushes enough to get results, but doesn’t push so much that I withdraw. She’s very patient and as far as paperwork, she gets systems in order and has a wonderful way of filing,” Doris says. “She’s practical and she’s very good at turning chaos into a much more tranquil situation. I’ve improved a lot of things. I can’t imagine not having her in my life.”

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.