Time to Declutter: Tips from Professional Organizer Deb Lee

April 28, 2015 ~ admin


Have a big mess in your office or your house? Want to declutter, but aren’t sure where to start or how to stay committed? The process may be a little easier than you’d think. Professional organizer (and Neatologist) Deb Lee shared some thoughts and actionable tips on how to deal with the paper that may be cluttering your world. Get inside the head Deb’s head and read more and learn from a real pro.

  1. Are there ways to minimize the volume that comes in?

Yes! Use apps like PaperKarma and CatalogChoice to reduce the volume of paper that comes into your home or office. And, as you retrieve mail from the mailbox, drop flyers, coupons and other papers you don’t want in the recycling bin. That way, you only handle important papers (instead of wasting time handling junk mail).

  1. And how to do you keep spots where it doesn’t belong paper-free?

Pick one spot for collecting and processing mail (like a home office or section of an often-used room). At the end of each day, be sure that all papers are gathered and placed in the designated area. Ideally, you should set a schedule to sort through and process those papers (e.g., weekly) so that the pile doesn’t get mountainous.

  1. How can you better organize the stuff you do need?

Organizing is not a cookie cutter process for everyone. A system that works for one person may not work well for another. That said, think about specific routines that would help you easily accomplish daily tasks and reasonably maintain your space. And, whatever system you choose, keep it simple. If it’s too complicated to remember or keep up with (e.g., too many steps), it will likely fall apart before you even begin using it.

Then, start thinking about the categories of papers you tend to handle often and create a filing system (paper or digitized) for easy storage and retrieval.

For example, if you need to work with specific documents on a regular basis (several times a day or week), keep them in one location that is easily accessible. Whether you prefer closed file cabinets, open file carts, or a desktop filing system, be sure to label your documents.

Of course, if those documents (or receipts) are digitized, retrieval will be as easy as recalling a keyword. So, be sure to use words that make sense to you and help you find what you want when you want it.

  1. What home designs solutions can you implement?

See #3. Also, wherever the paper processing center ends up being, there must be good lighting and enough storage for the supplies you need to process mail.

  1. How do we solve the root of the problem?

Solving the problem will depend on each person’s unique situation and the issues that the overabundance of paper is causing them. The causes could be numerous.

Perhaps there are too many magazine subscriptions. Or, maybe no specified location for keeping the magazines when they arrive. Maybe there isn’t a system in place to manage and process mail. Maybe there is uncertainty about what papers to keep and how long to keep them.

Potential solutions will need to be tested and sometimes there will need to be a mashup of solutions to find a system that works well. Sometimes, it really is about trial and error. And, other times, it might be a bit more straightforward.


  • Problem: “I know I want to digitize my papers and I already know what categories of papers I need to keep. The problem is that I don’t have the proper equipment.”
  • Solution: 1) Research scanners. 2) Select and buy a scanner within _______ days/weeks. (Always add a deadline!)
  • Problem: “There are too many magazines and I can never find the one I want when I want it.”
  • Solution: 1) Determine which magazines you actually read and which ones you never get to. 2) Only keep magazine that are current (or no more than 2 months old). 3) Keep the ones you will read in the spot that you read. If you tend to read on the sofa in the living room, perhaps a basket or magazine holder in that room would help solve the problem.

Of course, another solution can be to get help (either hands-on or vritual). The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO | http://napo.net) is a great place to start when you need help getting things in order.


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