Productivity expert Eileen Roth knows the importance of having everything in its place. That’s why she named her company just that, Everything in its Place. The author of Organizing for Dummies spoke to Celebrity Parents about controlling clutter and getting yourself and your family organized.
Have you always been an organized person?
Yes, I have. My parents taught me since I was a little girl to put everything back where I found it. That’s why I named my company Everything in its Place. Being organized is not inherited; it is something we learn, which means it’s a skill that can be taught to our children.
How did you become a professional organizer?
I was laid off twice in the same year, just 8 months apart! The second time I was laid off, I was on the staff of the National Association of Professional Organizers! I realized that this is what I do: I organize. At that point, I had organized files, databases and offices, so I decided to try professional organizing.
I think the best thing to do when you are thinking about starting a company is to experiment to see if you actually like it. So I went to a neighbor, and asked her, “Can I organize your kitchen pantry?” After that, I started my company and wrote a press release. From that press release, I appeared on the Today Show and Oprah. In fact I received the book contract because I had been on those shows based solely on my knowledge.
Do you find that helping people to organize themselves is more of an emotional experience for them than just simply battling clutter?
Absolutely. One time, a husband hired me to help his wife organize her kitchen. She had over 50 cheap plastic cups which she didn’t want to get rid of. They took up an entire cabinet! I think people attach their emotions onto things, and it prevents them from being as organized as they could be. I always find it funny when my clients have books on organizing and haven’t read them!
I find that my life runs so much better when I’m organized, and I actually feel better.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize how much time and reduced stress organization can save them. They don’t learn how to be organized. I specialize in helping people organize papers. That tends to be the area people have the hardest time organizing. People save bills for years and I always tell them that they don’t need to. You can get most of that info online, but people are afraid to throw things out.
What’s the #1 reason people hang onto things?
It’s fear. They think they’re going to need it someday. The truth is, some day never comes. People think, “My child made this; it’s so cute!” If you save every paper that your child brings home, you’re going to be overloaded! Most of the time they end up as multiple storage boxes buried in the attic, along with their childhood stuffed animals. By the time your kids get to college, they’re not taking any of that along! So you are postponing the inevitable – recycle now.
What are some of your top tips for parents looking to battle clutter?
First, take photos. I advise people to take pictures of the things they might want to keep, but shouldn’t. If you take a photo, you can save it. And then you have all the memories, which is what you really want. It’s not that you need to save it; you just want to remember it. There’s a big difference there.
Second, create a memory box for each child. You can use a plastic or a cardboard file box. Create one file folder for every grade. Do not keep pictures or report cards in here. The rule is that the box can never overflow, and it cannot contain any projects with paint chips or food– so no macaroni necklaces! [laughs] The box should contain only the best stories, poems, and drawings. Let the child do the choosing so they can be part of the process, too. You should go through papers daily or at least weekly. Whatever is chosen goes into the box. If you don’t make decisions on a frequent basis, the box will be full quickly. Then you have to spend more time to organize it. You can also take a photo or scan your child’s work. This is great for big bulky art projects, and takes minimal space.
Apart from helping their parents choose their best work, when do you recommend children begin learning how to organize?
The day they’re born! If they start learning to organize from day one, that’s what they’ll think they’re supposed to do, because that’s what they’ve been taught. And it will make everything, including you as a parent, more efficient, organized and better.