December 20, 2018

All Set: Q&A With Organizing Guru Jane Stoller

Is there anything more satisfying than a perfectly organized closet? Every shoe lined up, garments neatly hung and cute baskets arranged according to accessory. Alternatively, a disastrous room can bring about anxiety and unhappiness galore, cluttering up our minds to match the space. With the holidays in full swing (and chaos much more likely) we’re looking to life-biz organizer, speaker, university instructor and author of Organizing for Your Lifestyle Jane Stoller for tips on decluttering our homes and organizing processes. —Rachel Johnston

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Hi Jane! Tell us a little about yourself and how you became an organizing guru.

I am what I call a self-described life-biz organizer. Ever since I can remember, my friends and family have always been amazed at how organized my home and especially my closet was … and still is! Throughout my life, I’ve fielded a steady stream of requests to help friends organize everything from closets to business processes and everything in between. Over time, my passion had transformed from mere hobby into a well-honed and researched skill and without really realizing it, I have become an organizing expert. And this is why I wrote my first book, Organizing for Your Lifestyle in 2016 to help friends get more organized. And it ultimately gained international attention, and this allowed me to turn my passion into a profitable business, Organized Jane.

What are your top organizing tips?

My organizing tips may be a bit unconventional as they revolve more around systems and processes rather than things. Firstly, I strongly believe any organizational plan must begin with the closet, as it’s the first thing most people see after they wake up. The closet sets the mood for the entire day. It’s also an ideal place to practice and hone organizing skills that can transfer over to the rest of your organizing goals. I know that if you start your day choosing clothes from a laser-focused closet, you’re well on your way to a structured, system-driven office space. No one’s home or office needs to be perfect but these spaces should reflect your priorities—the life you want, and the things you want to accomplish. Next, make organizing a routine, not a chore- set aside time daily to organize, even if it’s just ten minutes at the beginning or end of your day. And being organized means that you don’t have to think about organizing all the time – because you do it automatically, as an organic part of your everyday routine. Organizing is a lifestyle, but it needs to fit your lifestyle. Don’t forget about digital organization. Make it a habit to at least quarterly go through your digital filing systems (or implement systems) as the longer you leave digital organization the more impossible it is to organize. Time is your most important asset and we often forget to organize this! Using a time cube or time tracker can drastically help keep you on track when working most tasks, digital or not. And finally, assess. Always be ready and willing to assess your newly organized spaces, and decide if they’re truly functional, or if they’re too complicated; if they’re too complicated, re-evaluate and re-organize so that things make the most sense for your daily life. It is sometimes necessary to choose the practical solution over the prettiest one; otherwise, you might be inclined to create an even larger disorganized mess.

Besides being more visually appealing, what are some of the other benefits of a systematic home?

Actually, my goal is not to turn someone’s home into a magazine-perfect image—it is not sustainable. I work around a client’s specific lifestyle, or an aspect of their life they want to focus on and develop a custom organization system from there.A benefit of a systematic home that integrates your lifestyle goals is that it will be easier to sustain and adapt when the time is needed. Everyone benefits from being more efficient at home and at work; we just need to make sure we don’t skip past analyzing our current state and looking at our closets! We can actually learn a lot about our organizing style and lifestyle choices through our closets. So again I tell my clients to take this step very seriously, and don’t skip over it.

What about when it comes to our personal lives, how do we declutter there?

I try to explain how to declutter using a systematic method, and adding a holistic structure that addresses your entire lifestyles. From home to business, rather than focusing exclusively on organizing possessions or “things.” I also tailor the system to different lifestyles. The structure-orientated MBA may employ a task-based system, whereas the creative entrepreneur might prefer big picture outcomes for their daily planning. I also constantly bring in research to prove that decluttering does reduce stress both with your surroundings and brain. I’m sure you’re heard this before, and I know you’re thinking it’s easier said than done, but de-cluttering your space can help de-clutter your brain, making you less stressed, and more productive. To begin de-cluttering, you need to make some hard decisions about what items are practical necessities, what items are emotional necessities, and what items are just plain trash. Everyone’s definition of what is clutter and trash will be different and there are no set rules about what items fall into what category. Going back to my organizing mantra: the most important thing is that the items you keep fit your lifestyle, and if they don’t, they’re better off somewhere else. Start small and give yourself a goal for each room or part of your life. Some de-cluttering gurus suggest tackling categories instead of rooms—for example, starting with all of your clothing, or all of your books. Regardless of where you start, if you’re surrounded by clutter, whether it’s in a work area or a leisure area, then stress will always be lingering.

The holidays are fast approaching! What are some ways we can keep things orderly this time of year?

Of all the months put together by season, fall turns out to be the most productive and it is a great time to get more organized especially before the hectic holidays. If you want to take advantage of fall productivity I suggest tackling a big organizing goal whether it be digital organization, improving time management or even overhauling your closet! And truly make fall a time to focus on being productive instead of busy, as with the holidays approaching fast this can sometimes happen. And after the holidays, many people actually buy even more items to store or organize all of their new gifts or purchases. I’m all about organizing, but having a pretty system of colour-coded boxes with things inside you’ll never use is also a waste of space. Before we organize our stuff, we have to evaluate it. Lastly, have fun and make organizing a priority. My favorite quote is from Benjamin Franklin, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”

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