Closet jammed full of junk? Can’t find your shoes?

Like most New Year’s resolutions, getting organized probably falls by the wayside and ends up at the bottom of one of those piles you’ve been staring at for months.

Now that springtime is here, most of us are ready to tackle those spring cleaning chores. But what happens to a lot of people is that, a few months from now, things are again disorganized and cluttered.

“Where do I start?” you ask. Well, start at the beginning.

There are three basic principles of organizing – set goals, prioritize and form good habits. If you understand them and follow them, they can unclutter your life — not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.

Home organization

Charlene Coplen has been an interior decorator for the past 15 years and says setting goals and making a plan can make all the difference in starting any organizing project.

“It’s very hard to think of going in and organizing your life all at once,” Coplen said. “But, if you just do a few things at one time, then it won’t be so overwhelming.”

By setting goals, organizing becomes more of a project rather than a chore. Coplen recommends starting off small and then trying to tackle those bigger challenges.

“Everyone has the potential to be a little more organized,” she said. “It’s just a matter of setting your mind to unclutter your life. Clutter is stress inducing, and I don’t think any of us needs more stress in our lives.”

Try to start small – with a junk drawer or a linen closet, Coplen says. Then, when you have time, think about those all-day jobs, such as cleaning out the garage.

Cleaning up a drawer filled with pens that don’t work or pieces of paper covered with doodles is a project that will only take about an hour and can be done once or twice a year.

“There are a lot of different kinds of organizing boxes that are perfect for projects like this,” Coplen says. “It’s just a matter of utilizing them and making sure they are used on a regular basis. In the end, it will save a lot of time and space.”

Coplen says, by getting into the habit of putting things away where they belong, you’ll spend less time trying to find things.

Decorative baskets and treasure boxes are also some ideas Coplen suggests for storage units for every room of the house.

Another project that may help to unclutter your life is to organize that chaotic linen closet. Some people tend to hold onto paper-thin sheets, tattered blankets and ripped towels, just in case they need them one day.

“There are some people who have a really hard time getting rid of anything,” Coplen says. “But, if you can’t use it, it’s just useless.

“People tend to have too many linens and towels,” she says. “I think people just need to use them until they get tattered, and then throw them away and buy new ones.”

For those sentimental items that just can’t be thrown away, Coplen suggests rotation. For example, if you have too many pictures, maybe the best thing to do is put up a few favorites, and, when you get tired of those, put up some other ones. The same is true with knickknacks, Coplen says.

“Store things away, and, when you feel you need a change, switch things out,” she said. “There are some things you just can’t throw away and things you can.”

Closets are also one of those big projects that may need a little more planning than that simple junk drawer. Coplen suggests closet organizers to help with controlling those crowded closets.

The crowded closets may also need a good cleaning out, she says. “Things that aren’t used for a year are OK to throw away,” Coplen says. “If you haven’t worn something for a year, you probably won’t wear them again.”

Coplen also suggest getting your kids involved in organizing their own rooms — not doing it for them.

“You just can’t send them into their room and tell them to clean,” she said. “You have to involve them in the process. Ask them for their input in the plan.”

Making the most of the space you have and organizing what you possess will tend to make your life a little less jumbled and chaotic.

“Less is kind of mor,e sometimes,” Coplen says.

Financial organization

Have you ever felt that you can’t catch up with the daily chores of living and that you don’t know where your money is going? If so, you may be experiencing what a lot of other people are feeling – financial disorganization.

One of the first things you will need to organize your finances is the willingness and ability to face your financial situation head on. You need to know, down to the penny, what you owe and to whom you owe it.

“The first thing you need to do is to make a budget,” says Laura Armstrong, a local certified public accountant. “Most of us know what our income is going to be every month, and it’s not one that will typically fluctuate up and down.”

Armstrong says that with a fixed income come fixed expenses, and a monthly budget plan needs to be created. A monthly budget plan not only can help keep track of the money being spent, but it can also keep track of how much can be spent.

“I think it’s very wise to write it down, just because, once it’s on a piece of paper, it’s more like a contract,” Armstrong says. “I can still change it month to month if I know something will change, but I can also take a look back and track where my money has gone.”

A fixed budget can include mortgage payments, utilities and insurance. The budget must also include a list of all your creditors, amounts owed and the dates the bills are due.

This should be done every month, Armstrong says. Set up a certain day and time of the week or month that you will write out all of your bills.

“Once it’s written down, it will show how much money is spent a month,” Armstrong says. “It becomes more of a reality.”

Armstrong says, although budgets aren’t written in stone, sticking to the plan is a good way of organizing your money. Budgets won’t work unless limits are set as to what modifications are acceptable.

In every household, a budget has to allow for incidentals and unexpected expenses. Armstrong says expenses such as school clothes, sports registration fees and school fund-raisers should be planned seasonally.

Emergency reserves depend a lot on the individual person, Armstrong says. Often times, people say that an emergency reserve should equal about three months salary, just in case something happens to the job that you have.

“If you get into the habit of saving, you not only have enough saved for emergencies, but for retirement and for the kids’ education,” Armstrong says. “I honestly think a household needs to set aside 10 percent of their monthly income into savings.”

Some of the reasons people can’t stay within a budget, Armstrong says, have to do with impulse buying and trying to keep up with the Joneses.

“People tend to overextend themselves because they want to get everything that their neighbor has,” Armstrong says. “Peer pressure has a lot to do with it. When I go to the store, I see all the new products, and I want them.”

Armstrong said a lot of impulse buying has to do with having more than one credit card. By playing the credit card game, people tend to get into more debt.

“Have only one credit card,” she says. “The reason I say this is because a lot of people try and do with none. You can do just as much with your major credit card, and it’s on one bill, and you have to remember to pay the balance every month.

Armstrong says we’re teaching our children the same bad habits when it comes to financial organization and impulse buying.

“A lot of kids today don’t picture that they will ever be in need,” she says. “As parents, we allow them to have everything they want, and, as they grow older, they automatically think that they’ll be able to have those things too.”

One of the ways to help your children learn how to organize their own finances is to give them their own checking account and budget, Armstrong says.

“They have an X amount of dollars that they’re in charge of during the month, and, when it’s gone, it’s gone. So, in the early age, they have to figure out what they want. They can save their money to buy a video game or spend all their money on Cokes and sunflower seeds.”

Armstrong admits organizing a budget is easier said than done, but practice makes perfect.

“It’s much easier to spend than it is to save,” she said. “But, if we automatically save, we won’t be apt to spend so much.”

In this day and age, there is a lot to know and a lot to remember about our finances. If it’s too hard to stick to a budget, Armstrong says, a financial planner will help you organize your money.

“Find a financial planner and pay them for what they know,” she says. “Find a CPA or an attorney because, in the long run, they will save you money. They act as an objective observer and will help you with your finances and your future.”

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.