Nicole Anzia, the owner of professional organizing business Neatnik, answers questions about storage and organization.
Q: I buy baskets and boxes but end up hiding stuff in them and not really organizing. What is the point?
A: There is no point. I always tell my clients that there is no need to run out and buy a bunch of fancy baskets and bins that you may or may not need. The real question is: Do you need what is inside? In Marie Kondo's new book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," she says, "A booby trap lies within the term 'storage'," and she's right.
Hiding your stuff to make a space look neat is not organizing. Getting rid of things you don't need and storing only the things you want is the way to go, and this rarely requires fancy bins and boxes.
Q: I have heard more than once that the key to getting organized is to discard 70 percent of your stuff because you really only need and/or love the remaining 30 percent. In your opinion, how valid is this 70 percent rule?
A: I wouldn't get too caught up in the percentages, but the theory is valid. We all have too much stuff, and there is a definite trend toward minimizing belongings. I think that most people keep and buy way too much stuff, and there is a price to pay for the anxiety and work that is required to keep it all organized. Less is more.
Q: How do we store tools and bulky outdoor gear we use approximately twice a month? Garage, I assume, but in what?
A: In clear, labeled bins on shelves. The tools should not be in a huge container, something easy to pick up and bring inside. Most people reach for a hammer, nails, tape measure and screwdriver most frequently, so keep those things handy. For the outdoor gear, it depends on what it is, but if you can put similar things together or categorize the bin by person, that should make it easy to find what you're looking for.
Q: Several years ago my parents died within a couple of months of each other, and I had to clean out their house. I boxed up all their tchotchkes and files and brought it all to my new house. There's a ton of stuff that I recognize from my childhood, and a lot of stuff that I don't. I'm having a very hard time letting go of the first category. Can you suggest some ways to make this easier?
A: First, I'm so sorry for your loss. Situations like yours are very difficult and fraught with emotion. A massive organizing project like that is also physically exhausting. I would give yourself permission to keep some things. You definitely don't need to get rid of everything, but maybe you can set a limit that you will keep five boxes of important memorabilia?
Whittle the load down a bit, and if you end up with six or eight boxes, that's fine for now. The key is to make the job less daunting. You can always go back and get rid of more later. Also, is there someone who can help you with this? It might be helpful to have someone with you who can help you make decisions and laugh a little bit. Best of luck.
Q: I enjoy a well-organized home and have no problem getting rid of things I am no longer using or wearing, but my husband is another story. His first line of defense is, "What if I need it down the road?" Any suggestions on how to get him on board?
A: This is the case in many marriages, and it does cause a lot of tension. Sometimes he needs to hear that it's OK to get rid of something from someone other than you — one scenario where a professional organizer can help. Is there a specific category of things he feels the need to keep? Maybe you could suggest he start with one category of items and maybe let go. Usually once someone starts, the process will get a little easier. Also, tell him I have never once in eight years had a client tell me that they had regrets about giving something away.
Q: Do you have advice on when to keep/toss certain things? I always seem to keep makeup past when I assume I should throw it out. But who can remember when they bought a tube of lip gloss?
A: If you think you've kept something too long, you probably have and you should toss it. But the more important questions are, do you use it and do you need it?