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Sorting It Out : Order: People waste time searching for misplaced items yet resist cleaning up, expert says, claiming that they don't have time.


For many people, a walk through their disorganized home is usually accompanied by an irritating voice inside their head that screams "slob, slob, slob!"

For such unfortunates, life is chaotic at best, full of misplaced papers, forgotten dates, frantic searches for that certain something and despair over pulling out their favorite suit for an important business meeting--only to find that the moths got there first.

It all adds up to more aggravation, more stress.

So each year, promises are made to clean up. "This year, I'll get organized," people say. But it often never happens.

"It's just like any New Year's resolution," said Debra Weise of El Toro, a personal wardrobe specialist and organizer. "People resist and procrastinate, saying they don't have time."

The point, professionals say, is that you're the one who suffers the consequences. You're the one who wastes time and effort searching for misplaced items.

"It's amazing the new perspective you gain when you get organized," Weise said. "It's a relief to open a drawer. It reduces stress and increases productivity. It returns control of your life in space, time and money."

For Flora Brumley of El Toro, January was the month to start getting organized.

"It was time," she said. "Nothing had a home, and we were always hunting. We were very disorganized and had no sense of how to get organized."

For example, one coat closet was stuffed with extra carpeting, bolts of fabric, a tripod, rolled-up posters, coats, gift wrap and tablecloths.

Brumley called Weise to come in and establish rhyme and reason.

After Weise's labors, Brumley has enjoyed the "radical difference. It's beautiful to look into a drawer and, most importantly, I can find things. It just makes life 100% easier."

Just think about it: In an organized home, you'll have enough space to navigate around your garage and enjoy relaxing moments in clutter-free living areas.

In terms of time, just 15 minutes saved a day adds up to eight full days a year. And in money, you can save enough for a trip to Club Med for those eight days if you're organized because you'll be more productive at work, won't be throwing away moth-eaten clothes and won't be buying items you forgot you already have, stashed away in some forgotten corner.

Sound good? Read on.

Once you make the decision to clean up that mess and organize your household, there are many ways to proceed. The least expensive but generally most painful way is to do it yourself. But maybe that thought is just too overwhelming. Maybe you have anxiety about throwing items away and have no idea how to organize what's left.

To guard against potential nervous breakdowns, you can call in a friend who is more objective. But, professionals say, that could be like the blind leading the blind.

In some cases, the most efficient way to change your life may be to get professional help. Such help includes organizers who charge about $25 an hour, closet companies that give free consultations to sell their storage systems and, finally, interior decorators and designers who charge $45 to more than $100 an hour, depending on their expertise in design and architecture.

The difference, designer Lydia Wang Himes said, is similar to whom you choose to do your taxes. You can work out your own or hire a bookkeeper or a higher-priced accountant.

"All designers are really organizers, if you think about it," said Lana Barth, owner of Lana Barth Design in Huntington Beach. "We take a space and plan it to make it functional with style."

No matter what route you select, professionals agree that the first step is to discard, discard, discard.

Take large trash bags or boxes and be ruthless, chanting the following maxims:

"When it doubt, throw it out."

"If you haven't used it in a year, you never will."

"Less is more."

"Would I pack it and move it if I ever left this place?"

Toss away scentless spices, dated medicines and old cosmetics teeming with bacteria. Rip out interesting magazine articles, file them and throw the rest of the publication away. Burn the piles of clipped recipes clogging your drawers. Get rid of broken and trendy appliances. Push out the paperbacks.

If an item still has life in it, Weise said, pass it on to someone outside your household. Sell things at a garage sale, consignment store or through advertising; swap with friends, recycle or donate to worthwhile charities.

When the extra is gone, then it's time to think about how to organize what's left.

"It's important to think about your own lifestyle," Weise said. "How do you do your laundry? Where do you play games? How do you cook? All of these things will determine how you organize your space. Sit down and really think about it."

For Himes, owner of Lydia Wang & Associates in Costa Mesa, a home should be "time and motion studied." When she and her architect husband designed their cliff-side trilevel home in Laguna Beach, it was with organization in mind.

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