Totally feasible ways to organize your home

Organizing can be a daunting undertaking, especially when the piles of mail and toys seem taller than Mount Everest. Personal organizers recommend taking a step back to get a good plan before tackling the summit of organization.

It may also be the best step before taking on a huge spring-cleaning project.

“Generally cleaning is easier when you’re organized,” said Cindy Levitt, owner of Peace by Piece, an organization company in Evanston.

To build the best pre-organizing plan, Mary Dykstra-Novess, president-elect of the National Association of Professional Organizers, tells her clients to use a four-step process.

1. What are you going to let in? (Physical items or additions to your schedule)

2. Where will it go? (Do you have room for those new clothes, or do you have two hours a week to do yoga?)

3. How do you know when you’re done with an item? (Set a maximum age for clothes, such as tossing them after one year without wear.)

4. How you going to get rid of it? (Will you throw it away? Donate it? Give it back to whomever you borrowed it from?)

It also requires regular maintenance.

“People forget it’s like brushing your teeth or doing laundry,” Levitt said.

She added that she always devotes a few minutes before bedtime picking up her child’s clothing, for example.

“There’s got to be a little ritual,” she said. “For families I [ask them]: ‘What do you need to do daily, weekly, monthly?’”

Do you have your criteria in place, but you’re not sure where to begin? Here are some ideas from Levitt and Dykstra-Novess.

Repurposing furniture: “Maybe you can use a dresser to store out-of-season clothes,” Levitt said. “It’s the whole idea of being green and paying attention. I like to encourage clients to reuse what they already have and be creative about it.”

Communications center: This is the area where mail, homework and other paper seem to land; “the family inbox,” as Levitt called it. “Everyone’s got paper to throw at mom and dad. Figure out what the flow of paper is in and out of the house,” and arrange a system to accommodate it, she said.

Pantries: “I think a lot of people don’t know what they have do it’s hard for meal planning,” Dykstra-Novess said. “If you’re going to do a spring clearing for cleaning, start with your pantries and spices.” Dig deep into the back corners of your pantry and toss those long-expired items. Plus, with warm weather soon approaching, “we are starting to want to think about shorts. I’m going to think about salads than other foods.” Because your food tastes will be changing, make room for new ingredients.

Toys: “You need containers that are labeled for everything,” Levitt said. “Make it fun for cleanup time. Make it into a contest, such as, ‘Let’s beat the clock,’ or make it about a certain color, such as, ‘Put away all the blue things first.’”