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The Key to Organizing
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Getting Organized

Spring Cleaning Versus Organizing

By Vicki Norris
Contributing Writer With the glorious sunshine we've been having, I've begun to notice that my windows are streaked and dusty from weathering the winter, and are now in desperate need of cleaning.

Spring is the time that we all begin thinking about cleaning and organizing our homes. But is there a difference between cleaning and organizing?

Yes! One of the most common mistakes we make in the pursuit of organization is to substitute cleaning for organizing.

Cleaning de-grimes your living space. The smell of bleach or lemony dust spray means that someone has been cleaning! It feels great to enjoy disinfected surfaces, dirt-free floors, and sparkling sinks.

However, cleaning can actually create clutter. Many of us stash as we clean, tossing bags of items into hall closets and stuffing loose ends into drawers to give the appearance of tidiness. We do the "step and toss" ... we open the door to the garage, step in, and toss the items that we're trying to put out of sight. This stashing leads to junk drawers and "time capsules" (bags and boxes filled with countertop clutter or long-forgotten projects).

Instead of stashing, organizing asks you to stop and think and make decisions about where items really belong. Organizing requires planning and space allocation to activities and items. Because decisions are involved, organizing takes a little longer than cleaning, but it's worth it.

By choosing not to just hide clutter that you don't want to deal with, you're making smart choices to create and maintain order, which will prevent clutter from accumulating in the future. Organizing also prevents loss of items, which costs you enormous time, stress, and frustration.

Once simple, intuitive systems are established, staying organized is an ongoing daily practice of sustaining that order.

Most of us know deep down that organizing is going to take longer than cleaning, so we procrastinate. It might help you to know from a professional organizer's perspective that most projects within the home (like organizing the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, or garage) are going to take anywhere from 12-24 hours. Deeply layered or very large rooms (like a three bay garage or sprawling basement or buried kitchen) may take longer. Yet, even 24 hours of your life is a tiny investment in a 365 day year, and it is an investment of your time and energy that will pay you back every single day. You'll experience more satisfaction using your space, knowing where items should live. Finally, or maybe for the first time, you'll enjoy opening up those formerly embarrassing spaces to hospitality and greater family enjoyment.

Many people substitute cleaning for organizing, yet each has its own distinct purpose. Cleaning will produce a hygienic, unsoiled environment and it will produce a temporary sense of relief. Engaging in the organizing process will produce sensible use of space and resources and yield more freedom and peace of mind.

The good news is that you can have both an organized and a clean home! When a space is organized, it is easier to clean, because nomadic items can be confidently returned to their appropriate location, and surfaces aren't clogged with clutter.

I invite you to begin your own process of organizing; it is an investment in your quality of life!

Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business owner, speaker, TV personality, and author who inspires people to live out their priorities. She is author of Reclaim Your Life and Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household organizing guide. Norris is a contributor to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. For more information, go to:

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