Smart Solutions: Even a half-hour of organizing can make a big dent

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Though my organizing efforts had a bit of a head start shortly before the arrival of the new year, I’m still learning which approach works best in my never-ending quest to edit the contents of my home.

The good news is that I’ve made some major progress in key areas like my master bedroom closet. Still, it has yet to reach the level of organization I envision in my head.

This project has already taught me a few lessons along the way. For instance, the concept of shoebox storage came into my life way before Marie Kondo recommended it. I’ve learned that in my hands these little helpers can lead to more clutter. So I’ve been sorting through them and tossing many in the recycle bin.

An organizing system like this ShelfTrack from ClosetMaid can help you stay on track when editing your possessions.

Being more selective about what I buy has become an important part of the organizing process. Not only do I try to purge when I make a new purchase, but I am also more aware of what I should and should not acquire. With home decor as my biggest weakness, I mostly focus on functional pieces and replacement items that add value to my surroundings.

While touring San Juan, Puerto Rico, during our recent vacation, I was the only person who chose to remain on the bus when it stopped for some souvenir shopping and refreshments. When someone said: “You don’t like shopping?” I explained that I do, but I really don’t need anything.” I went on to say that at this stage in my life, I’m trying to get rid of stuff. “If you saw my house, you’d understand,” I explained.

Since our storage room always overwhelms me, I decided to try a different tactic this time around. My goal is to spend a half-hour or less at least once a week grabbing items to donate, give to friends, recycle or throw away. During the first attempt, I had my daughter help me and it was amazing how much we accomplished in such a short period of time. When we were finished, I could already see empty spaces that marked our progress.

Sometimes you just have to start somewhere with the sorting and purging process to see where it takes you, even if you need to tweak your methods along the way. For me, the amount of time and effort required doesn’t compare to the positive impact of the results.

Family members can also inspire each other to keep going. After having some time to work on her room during the holiday break, my daughter did her own editing that led to a more peaceful environment. Even I feel better when I enter her personal space.

My latest efforts led me to find some Christmas decorations I forgot I had along with some other seasonal pieces I had been searching for before the holidays. I also found the earbuds I wish I had during our recent plane trips. Since they were one of my first discoveries, they motivated me to keep going as did other items of value like store returns. That’s the beauty of organizing. The benefits are endless.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at