The Southampton Press

New Year, Better Organized

A professional organizer offers advice and insight on the matter of clearing clutter

By Rachel Collins – Dated Jan 4, 07

As the ball dropped in Times Square this New Year’s Eve, were you wondering how you were going to fit your new holiday gifts in your home? Where the new shirts and shoes would go? How you’d find space for the new kitchen appliance or latest gadget? Luckily, New Year’s Eve is not only a time for revelry but a time for resolutions and cleaning house, literally. For Meryl Starr, owner of the organization company Let’s Get Organized and author of “The Home Organizing Workbook,” and her latest release, “The Personal Organizing Workbook,” every day is an opportunity to keep or reaffirm that familiar New Year’s resolution to remain tidy. Ms. Starr, who founded her company in New York City 14 years ago, said she was always an organized person but had not found her calling until one fateful day in a friend’s kitchen. “I was staying at a friend’s house,” she said in a recent interview. “I was trying to make breakfast, but everything was a mess.” All she needed was a little compliance from her messy friend, and Ms. Starr was in all her glory organizing the space. The task took all day, but the payoff was a neat and organized kitchen and, as it turned out, a new career. “It’s been the perfect job for me,” Ms. Starr said. The business of organizing has become a serious one in the last five to 10 years, and Ms. Starr, now almost a decade and a half into her career, has been at the forefront of her profession. Thanks to the San Francisco-based Chronicle Books, which approached Ms. Starr in 2004 to write her first book on home organizing, she has become a nationally cited expert on the subject, appearing on television shows—Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and HGTV’s “Smart Solutions”—and in major publications, including InStyle, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day and Real Simple magazines. “It was challenging,” she said of writing the book, “but it was great to be able to share these ideas that are second nature to me.

“It’s just a matter of dividing the online casino home up into the rooms, and then, you know, thinking about what is the reader looking for,” she said. “Is there too much clutter? Not having enough storage space or closet space?” Ms. Starr approached the book the same way she approaches a home in need of her help—room by room. The kitchen, living room, laundry room and home office are all spaces that can attract chaos, for different reasons. Space is of the utmost concern to Ms. Starr; one could even say it is the backbone of her business. Her clients can never have enough of it, and the lack of it can bleed into parts of a person’s life in ways you wouldn’t think possible. The culprit robbing citizens of their space, she declared, is clutter. “Clutter is such a big issue. I think once you get organized, you don’t want to bring clutter into your life,” she said.

See ORGANIZED, Page R2 Ms. Starr offered a timely example of clutter that can be excised from your life: gifts. “If it’s something you don’t like, then don’t feel like you have to keep it,” Ms. Starr said matter-of-factly. “Once it’s yours,” she reasoned, “you can do whatever you want with it. “In our personal spaces, we should be surrounded by things that we enjoy, because they are our spaces.”

While re-gifting or simply throwing away gifts doesn’t seem like the sentimental option, Ms. Starr is quick to point out that it is our overabundance of stuff that eventually drives us to an unhealthy stress level. “I think that people … are so busy, they are so stressed, they just can’t handle it anymore,” she said. “This is one of the ways to decrease the stress.”

Getting organized and getting rid of clutter can be addictive, according to Ms. Starr, because it feels good to simplify. When your house looks good and feels good, you have the “motivation to go on,” she said.

The best way to get started organizing is to assess what you have. One of Ms. Starr’s practical tips for organizing drawers and closets—which can easily be translated to organizing any room—is to start by emptying the closet and laying its contents out for review. With a sharp eye focused on culling out the clutter, each item and its usefulness should be considered. Clothes that don’t fit, or have fallen out of favor, should be removed. The remaining items can then be categorized and hung, folded and stacked accordingly.

For Ms. Starr, who eventually hopes to organize everyone’s lives through her own television show, the books are just an extension of her everyday life, both personally and professionally. While she is admittedly very organized—her closet is color-coded—she also believes one’s personal space should be filled with things that make its inhabitant happy. For example, when her teenage daughter’s room went the untidy way of most teens, Ms. Starr respected her daughter’s choice and simply asked for the door to her bedroom to remain closed.

It is just such tales, from Ms. Starr’s own experiences, that help her to relate to clients. While she understands not everyone is built to organize as she is, she sees definite room for improvement.

“You can’t look at the whole house,” she warned, “do something small, and the difference in the energy is so good you just keep going. Getting organized is a life changing experience.”

Meryl Starr’s new book—”The Home Organizing Workbook”—offers frank advice and lots of inspirational photographs of successful organization techniques.

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