Organizing pros offer suggestions for controlling clutter

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 18, 2014 - 3:40 PM

Organizing pros help solve your clutter conundrums – for a happier new year.

A pantry to die for from the “Organize Your Home” book.

Photo: Better Homes and Gardens,

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We all get frustrated when we can’t find bills, a favorite shirt or an ingredient hiding in the pantry. And it’s hard to face that office desk covered with paper. So why don’t we get organized to make life a little easier?

“Organizing requires discipline, and is not a fun activity,” said Stephanie Rasley, a professional organizer who calls her Edina business the Duchess of Order. “People are tired when they get home and would rather watch TV or spend time with their family.”

Sheila Dingels of Successful Simplicity in Minneapolis agrees. “Our daily lives affect our ability to get organized because we’re so time-crunched, and what happens at home is the lowest priority.”

Procrastination, feeling overwhelmed and inability to make decisions are some of the hurdles people can’t overcome, say the pros. “My definition of clutter is a delayed decision,” said Shannon McGinnis of Organized4Success in Minneapolis. Her suggestion? “If it takes less than a minute, do it now.”

We gathered other organizing tips and strategies from the three local pros, who agree they would never leave the office without the one tool everyone should have: a label maker.

“You don’t need a fancy one,” said Rasley, who swears by the P-Touch labeler sold at office-supply stores. “Just one that makes big labels so you can glance at them quickly.”



• Set a timer for a short period — a minimum of five minutes. “It’s about breaking the inertia and getting into action,” said Rasley. “After the five minutes is over, challenge yourself to 15 minutes.”

• Begin with one small task — for example, a drawer, a box or a desktop. “Don’t look at the entire house, but one section that’s bothering you,” said Dingels. Sort and place in four piles: trash, recycling, donate/sell and keep.

• If you like lists, write down each step, such as “purge shirts,” using 5-minute increments.

• If possible, invite a buddy to help you stay focused. “Have them block the door so you can’t get a snack,” said Rasley.




• Think in zones. Group and store like items together, such as a cutting board next to knives. Place spatulas and tongs next to the stove. Organize tools and utensils in drawers with dividers.

• Create a kids’ area with bowls, sippy cups and plates in a lower drawer so they can help themselves.

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  • This small-space drop zone includes a bureau with open shelves to hold storage bins, from “Organize Your Home.”

  • AFTER pix from Duchess of Orde, Stephanie Rasley. provided.

  • Professional organizer Stephanie Rasley of Edina brought order to this office desk.

  • AFTER pix from Duchess of Orde, Stephanie Rasley. provided.l.

  • BEFORE pix from Duchess of Orde, Stephanie Rasley. provided.

  • Cover for Better Homes and Gardens "Organize Your Home" Book

  • Hang a clear shoe bag inside a pantry door to store culinary items, from “Organize Your Home.”

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