Jennifer Robb, of Simple Organizing Strategies in Iowa City, says there’s no manual for being a professional organizer. “You have to be able to walk in, assess the situation, and figure out what someone needs and what’s not working.”
Robb started her company in 2004 when she was working at a high-end eyeglass store. Her boss at the time suggested she become a professional organizer.
“Every time I had downtime, I was tearing things apart, categorizing, labeling and putting it all back together,” she said.
Robb offers practical tips and strategies for keeping your work life in order. “Use containers within your drawers so you can compartmentalize items like paper clips, pens and pencils. Wrap excess cords with twist ties. Keep only the items you frequently use in your most accessible drawers, and use labeled containers for excess supplies,” she said.
To help sort through a barrage of emails, she recommends creating color-coded email folders for different subjects. “If possible, make the colors correspond to the same physical folders you use in a filing cabinet.”
When you’re feeling truly overwhelmed, Robb recommends making deals with yourself. “Tell yourself that if you answer three emails, you can go get a coffee. Any time a task feels big and overwhelming, break it down.”
To get started on an organization project, Robb recommends four basic steps. Step one is purge. “Look through your space as if you’ve never walked through it before. If you’re undecided or it’s too emotional, skip it,” she said. Step two is sort and categorize, which involves putting like items together to determine how much space they will need. Step three is to find and use containers. “This doesn’t necessarily mean put something in a container but put it where it’s going to live. Try to create a master list of items,” Robb said. Step four is create and evaluate. “Look at the systems you put in place. If they work, keep them. If they don’t work, tweak them.”
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Whether at work or at home, Robb says it’s essential to tailor your organization system to suit your personality. “Sometimes when I go into a house, all of the flat surfaces are covered, but the drawers are empty. These clients need stuff where they can see it. If you can’t find your stuff when it’s in a dresser, don’t use a dresser.”
She also recommends letting go of systems that aren’t working. “It’s okay to tear everything apart and put it back together in a way that works better.” Rather than making uniform spaces, Robb helps people make their space function for them. “Everybody’s success looks different, and nobody’s organized space looks the same,” she said. “Throw out the rules and create a system that works for you.”
Quotes on organization
“A good system shortens the road to the goal.” — Orison Swett Marden
“Organizing is something you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” — A.A. Milne
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” — Benjamin Franklin
Books about organization
“The Clutter Connection: How Your Personality Type Determines Why You Organize the Way You Do” by Cassandra Aarssen
“Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life” by Peter Walsh
“Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff” by Dana K. White
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