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8 Tips to get tidy

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Make a clean sweep

Have you watched the new reality TV series Hoarders and feel a twinge of guilt over your own overflowing laundry basket and untidy behavior? This eye-opening series showcases homes one step away from being declared a biohazard while their compulsive residents require therapy and a team of professionals to sort, clean and fight the disorder. Even if you aren’t a candidate for the show, spring is shedding light on the messes you’ve been ignoring all winter and beckoning you to get cleaning. Before you crawl back onto the couch feeling overwhelmed, we’re sharing our top tips for getting – and staying – tidy.

Woman organizing closetDisorganization is a common problem

While Hoarders represents worst-case scenarios, an overwhelming 80 percent of Canadians feel disorganized, with most saying they have a hard time keeping order in their home, at their workplace, and with time management, says a December 2009 Leger Marketing survey conducted by Professional Organizers in Canada (POC).

Thirty-four percent of Canadians polled said they lacked the necessary skills to effectively manage their time, and that their personal and work schedule was the most disorganized area of their lives. Twenty-nine percent of Canadians said their home is the most disorganized part of their lives with 34 percent of women reporting that their home was disordered.

Disorganization creates stress and anger

Even more concerning than the large number of disorganized Canadians, is how being disorganized affects their mental health. Ninety percent of disorganized Canadians reported that being disorganized negatively impacted their lives. Forty-three percent said they felt stressed, 39 percent felt frustrated, 14 percent reported being upset, and 11 percent said that their disorganization made them feel like failures. Those who reported the most significant negative impact of disorganization were women, Canadians under the age of 45, working Canadians, and those with children in the household.

Action plan: Tips to get tidy

Frustration alone certainly won't get you organized, but the following home organization tips from the POC will prevent your house from being featured as a hazard area on TV. First off, don't panic and don't let a messy home defeat you mentally before you even begin! Take a deep breath and read on.

1. Make a priority list every day

Set daily priorities so things don't pile up and get out of control. Make sure the most important tasks are at the top of your list so you'll get them done.

2. Know how you like to work

Take advantage of your "power hours" – if you are an early riser, schedule the most important tasks for your most productive time of day. If you work best with a clean desk, spend a few minutes getting your desk cleared before you start work.

3. Put it in your schedule

Determine which rooms or areas you want to organize, and schedule one per week until the list is complete. Start with something easy, like a linen closet, decide how much time you can devote to the project, and put it in your calendar – or you will never get around to it.

4. Consolidate tasks for efficiency

Return calls or respond to emails at one time, pay all your bills, even group your errands together by geographic location. You'll get more done in less time when you don't have to switch from one activity to another.

5. Everyone should pitch in

Make sure that all members of the household know where items are kept, whether it is sporting equipment, photographs, or even incoming mail and newspapers. Create a simple map of such zones, if you like, and make sure that storage areas are kid-friendly so that even the younger members of the household will be able to help return items to the proper home.

6. Put your house on a diet

Most of us have too much stuff that we don't use or need. Go through one room at a time and decide what stays and what goes.

7. Edit your wardrobe

Does everything fit, look good, and make you feel good when you wear it? We wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time. Think about that as you weed out the unwearables.

8. Recycle!

Feel bad about throwing out that jacket or box of CDs? Donate items to charity, sell them online or swap them for something else on a website like the new Canadian "bartering community" at SwapSity.ca or Freecycle.com in the US. You can also list your items on Craigslist.com for your area.

More on organizing and spring cleaning

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