We’re excited to introduce a new guest blogger, Certified Professional Organizer®, Sharon Lowenheim. She has first hand knowledge and a few tips about staying organized in a small space. Welcome, Sharon!
Staying organized in a New York City apartment is challenging. We have no basements, attics, or garages in which store things we aren’t using daily. Our kitchens tend to be small, with never enough cabinet space and no pantry. Closets are few in number. In some ways, these limitations are a blessing, as they force us to make decisions about what items are truly important to us.
To help my clients make those decisions, we use one of my basic organizing principles: “Use it, love it, or lose it.” There are things that we use every day — toothbrush, coffee cup, and bedroom slippers. We definitely want to keep those. There are also things that we love, that make our lives meaningful — like photographs, music, and art. We definitely want to keep those, too.
What about the stuff that we don’t use very often and we don’t love? We should examine those things very carefully. What are they contributing to our lives? Are we holding on to them just because we’ve always had them? Here is an analogy that my clients have found helpful. Let’s pretend that you are packing for a journey. When you pack for a trip, you don’t take along everything you own, do you? That would be cumbersome. You only pack those items you anticipate needing or using on that trip.
So, let’s pretend that you are packing for a journey that starts today and continues until the end of your life. What do you need to pack to go on that journey? What items will not serve you on that journey and can be left behind? Thinking about your possessions in this way — and their applicability to the life you are living now as well as the one you expect to live in the future — can help you to let go of items that you have been holding on to out of habit.
Once you use the “Use it, love it, or lose it” principle — and the journey analogy — to arrive at the right amount of stuff for you, then it’s time to apply another of my basic organizing principles: “One in, one out.” Every time something new comes in your home, something of equivalent function should be donated, recycled, or thrown away. Otherwise, you just end up with the same problem again: a home full of stuff you don’t use anymore.
Clothes are an interesting case in point. Did you know that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time? We love getting new clothes, and we want to wear them as often as possible. They fit well, they aren’t faded or soiled or stretched out, and they are this year’s styles and colors. Every time our new clothes come out of the laundry, we wear them again. What we don’t think about is are the clothes that we are not wearing because of our new clothes. The tired old clothes from a few seasons ago are regulated to the back of the closet. That’s why it’s prudent to get rid of your least favorite item when something new comes in.
These techniques that I use with my New York City clients in their small spaces will work equally well for those of you who have larger spaces but still feel overwhelmed by the excess.
About The Author
Sharon Lowenheim, Certified Professional Organizer®, helps individuals in their homes or offices to overcome three kinds of clutter: physical clutter, electronic clutter, and mental clutter. Her specialties are: maximizing the space in New York City apartments, and helping high performers to spend their time more productively. Sharon founded Organizing Goddess, Inc., in 2006 after 25 years in Corporate America working for three of the world’s largest companies. She is a native New Yorker, and has spent a lifetime developing techniques for living happily and comfortably in small spaces. Sharon graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. She did her graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a Masters degree in Computer Science as well as an MBA from the Wharton School.