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With Marie Kondo's decluttering methods taking Netflix and social media by storm, it's no wonder that getting organized is at the top of many people's to-do lists, especially as the spring cleaning bug begins to bite. Sheri Bertolini of Old Saybrook has seen the benefits to living an organized life. While she has always been organized, she didn't start making her living that way until 2005.
Working a data entry job, she realized she didn't love what she was doing. Drawing on her passion for organizing, she started by working on friends' projects and finding success. She expanded, now working with clients, hosting workshops, and even writing two books.
"Life is short; your energy, finances, time, and living space are limited—why spend life serving stuff? Stuff is supposed to serve you," says Bertolini. "If anything is just taking up space and not serving a vital role in your home, you need to seriously question its right to stay."
When organizing a space, she notes that you must ask yourself what's important to you and identify driving forces in your life.
"Surround yourself with your best—the items you use consistently, the belongings that support you, represent you well, delight you, and help you succeed, rest, rejuvenate, and move forward," says Bertolini. "Organizing isn't about containers and straight rows or magazine closets; it's about connecting with what you value most about life and using that as a standard for what earns the right to stay in your house."
• Kitchens are loaded with gadgets that didn't really work well but seem to end up hanging around. Get rid of what you don't use consistently!
• Assess where you work most often and position your frequently used tools around you in drawers and cabinets.
• Categorize your utensils into groups—things that cut, things that serve, things that peel, things that poke. Temporarily store the versions that don't get used often. See if you miss them or not.
• Pantries need a lot of containment. Use bins for categories of sauce packets, cookie decorating supplies, a big open basket for the chips, etc. Bins help you quickly identify categories and keep supplies from avalanching or falling over.
• This is the heart of your home—does it truly reflect you and provide you a place of inspiration and refuge?
• Get rid of the five different sizes of clothing lurking in your closet like a museum. Be honest with yourself. Will you get back into the smaller sizes while they're still in style? My recommendation: save a size up and a size down.
• Pay attention to what you actually wear consistently. What are the other garments doing, waiting in the drawers and closet? There's a reason you're not wearing them. Figure out why and decide if it's a good enough reason for it to be repaired, altered, or donated.
• Choose three words for what you want your clothing to do for you. "I want my clothes to make me feel comfortable, stylish, and unique." Create that standard and start measuring your wardrobe against that measuring stick. If it doesn't measure up, put it in a "we'll see" box or donate it.
• Use a consistent clothes hanger. Find a hanger you like and get rid of the others.
• This is a room that you need to be able to clean deeply and easily—often—so containment is paramount. When items are contained, it's easy to move the container, wipe down the surface, and put the container back.
• Categorize your toiletries and beauty products and store them in containers with lids—this allows you to stack items to maximize whatever storage space you have.
• Minimize what you keep out on the countertop. Use a caddy or a top drawer for the frequently used items. The only thing on our bathroom counter is a pump bottle of hand soap!
• Your living area needs to serve you and/or the people you host. Let it reflect your personality! If you need it to be a place of refuge and rest, shape it that way. If you need inspiration and lively hosting space, sculpt it that way.
• Every end table, coffee table, or ottoman can be used as storage. If you have a lot of stuff you like to keep in your living space, your furniture needs to provide you with homes to keep it in.
• "Organizing naked" is a method I love using in living rooms. Take everything off the walls, shelves, mantle, table tops, and set it in another room. Sit in the "emptied" room for a bit and think about what gets to reside in your living area. It helps to clear the palette and decide what you love best and want to see most. Those items earn the right to return to your living room. The others need new homes—maybe someone else's home!
• Keep. It. Simple. Less is definitely more in the entrance of your home. Think function first, then beauty. Shoes, coats, purse, and other stuff need a place to land as soon as you walk in.
• If you'd like to splash a message about who you are and the personality of your home in the entry, choose something striking that catches the eye and says, "This is us," but let the rest of the space serve those entering your home with a place to sit to take off boots, a mat or tray for wet shoes, a place for a coat to hang.
• Storage in garages or sheds is key to keep your yard uncluttered.
• Good lighting, safe walkways, and entrances create a welcoming atmosphere.
• Every time you purchase another string of lights or yard décor, always think "Where am I going to store this when it's not in use?" before you even buy it.
• If you like spending time hosting events outside, try to use less seasonal décor and focus on items that are more multi-purpose or cross-seasonal, like pennant flags, Edison lights, lanterns for candles, etc. This will cut down on the amount of outdoor equipment you'll need to store and care for.
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