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Byline: Diana McKeon Charkalis Lifestyle Editor

Want to get the most out of your home in 2006? Decluttering is the key, says Peter Walsh, the professional organizer featured on the TLC series ``Clean Sweep.''

``The only reason to get organized is to live a less stressful, more peaceful life,'' he says. ``Imagine the life you want - does your home enhance or impede that?'' Walsh says a well-ordered home also makes it easier to entertain and socialize. And January is a great time to start.

``My philosophy is new year, new you,'' says the Sherman Oaks resident. ``But you have to make your resolutions reasonable. You're not going to clean the clutter overnight.''

He suggests starting with two garbage bags and 10 minutes a day.

``Fill one full of trash and the other with stuff you want to give away,'' he says. ``After a week, you'll notice a difference. In one month, others will notice. And in three months, you can be free of clutter.''

Walsh, who is also the author of ``How to Organize Just About Everything'' (Free Press; $25), suggests tackling projects in manageable chunks. Here are some of his ideas for doing so, in some of the toughest rooms to tame.

Diana McKeon Charkalis, (818) 713-3760


Make space, maintain sanity

PURGE FIRST: Get rid of the stuff you don't love, need or use, Walsh says. ``Ask yourself: Does it enhance the life you want? If the answer is yes, keep it. If the answer is no, throw it away.''

KEEP FLAT SURFACES CLEAR: This is one of the biggest principles. ``It really helps to keep dust and clutter at bay. It gives you the sense of open space and makes it easy to tidy things up.''

CREATE ZONES: Everything should have a place in the house where it lives, Walsh says. For example, in the kitchen, there should be prep, cooking, serving and cleanup zones. In the office, create areas for magazine storage, mail and bill-paying. In the garage, group tools, garden supplies, sporting goods, etc.

Overwhelmed? Begin with a professional

If the prospect of getting your home organized seems overwhelming, consider investing in the services of a professional organizer.

The Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers has more than 100 members who can help get a whole house in shape, or just one room.

``We work all size jobs, from a 500-square-foot apartment to a 20,000-square-foot estate,'' says L.A. chapter president Chris McKenry. ``Clutter is the biggest culprit for everyone. Size doesn't matter.''

Although each project is unique, the same principles apply: ``We work in a nonjudgmental manner. It's about letting go of all the excess. It's always about purging and then setting up a plan and developing a system that works for you.''

McKenry says professional organizers can charge anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour, depending on their experience. He suggests getting a referral from a friend or visiting the L.A. chapter's Web site for a listings of its members (

``Don't be afraid to ask questions. You're letting a stranger come into your life for a period of time. You want to feel comfortable with them,'' he says. ``They'll also ask questions so they can get a sense of the situation and the space they'll be working in.''

After the first or second meeting, an organizer is often able to give a good estimate of how long the project should take and what the cost will be, McKenry says.

``The decision of what to purge is the client's, and for some people it's hard to let go, so time can be a factor.''

Once an organizer has the client's new system in place, he or she may revisit once or twice a year for maintenance.

``Organization is a continual process. It's not a one-time event.''

For those considering hiring a professional, McKenry has one tip: Don't buy special organizing containers ahead of time.

``If you're going to use a professional organizer, wait to make purchases until he or she can come and make suggestions on what will work best for your space.''

- D.M.C.


Work around the magic triangle: This is the area bounded by the sink, refrigerator and oven. Only frequently used items should be kept in this area. Items used semi-regularly should be stored just outside this area. Seldom-used items should be kept in less-easily reached areas.

Claim vertical space: Expand the available space in your cupboards by using a lazy-Susan, mini step shelves, racks and even ``back of the door'' shelving systems to hold extra items. ``Store items like platters vertically so you can see what you have.''

Create more counter space: To keep counters clear, designate a cupboard as an ``appliance garage,'' where items such as toaster ovens and blenders can be kept. Slide out drawers make it easier to access items.


Test the 80/20 rule: We wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time, Walsh says. To figure out what really needs to stay in your closet, take all of the clothing on hangers out. Keeping them on the hangers, turn them the ``wrong'' way, so the hangers face the opposite direction. After you wear each item, put it back correctly. ``After 6 months, get rid of the clothes not turned around. If you haven't worn them in this amount of time, you never will.''

Get it made: Your mom was right when she told you to make your bed every day. ``A made bed anchors the room. It's motivation to keep the rest of the room clean. If your relationship isn't in the shape that you'd like it to be, look at your master bedroom.''

Keep shoes in shape: Hanging cubby bags or shoe racks capitalize on extra vertical closet space. Horizontal shoe shelves maximize space between the bottom of hanging clothes and the floor. For women with many pairs of shoes they can't part with, Walsh suggests: ``Put them in boxes on a high shelf, but first take a Polaroid and attach it to the end of the box for easy identification.''


Organize monthly receipts: Use an inexpensive 12-month accordion folder to quickly and easily organize paid bills. ``Every time you pay one, drop it into that month. When you come back around the next year and you haven't had to look at them, you can shred them.''

Clear excess books and magazines: For every four books you keep, discard or give away one. Challenge yourself to lower the ratio to three to one. Only keep the books you have the shelf space for. Only keep two past issues of any magazine; when the third arrives, commit to throwing out the oldest copy. ``Keep magazines in one spot to ensure they can be easily located and don't roam all over the house.''

Eliminate junk mail: The average American spends eight months of his or her life going through junk mail, Walsh says. ``Junk mail has the ability to multiply in the dark. How else can you explain how we end up with so much of it?'' Walsh suggests keeping a junk mail recycling bin handy and depositing the envelopes as soon as they arrive.


Store according to age: Younger children like open bins on low shelves or the floor for faster and easier clean-up. Older kids can use drawers, under-bed storage, shelves, pegs and pegboards. ``But items should still be within easy reach,'' Walsh says.

Avoiding using large boxes: ``What's out of sight rarely gets played with.'' Sort toys into groups (dolls, dinosaurs, plastic food) and stash them in smaller baskets or bins.

Set toy limits: Kids get overstimulated by too many toys, Walsh says. ``More is not better. Two or three toy bins are all you need. Before they can add a toy, they have to remove a toy of their choice and give it away.''


Get items off the floor: Install a sturdy shelving system to store items you decide to keep. ``Once items start spreading across the floor it becomes almost impossible to keep them under control.'' Use pegboards to hang tools.

Heads up: Consider using the ceiling for storage. Hardware stores offer a variety of hooks that can be used to hang bikes, sporting gear, gardening tools.

Label it: Clearly identify seasonal items such as Halloween and Christmas decorations, as well as other items that may stay there for medium- to longer-range storage. ``Be sure to label any box, bin or container so that items can be quickly located.''


6 photos, 2 boxes


(1 -- cover -- color) Wide-open SPACES

`Clean Sweep' guru Peter Walsh offers tips for a clutter-free 2006

(2 -- 3 -- color) Peter Walsh, the professional organizer featured on the TLC series ``Clean Sweep,'' uses pull-out drawers in the kitchen of his Sherman Oaks home. Flat items such as platters and bakeware can be more easily recognized and accessed when stored vertically.

(4 -- color) Cabinets and individually labeled boxes help organize bills and other items in the home office.

(5 -- color) The garage - the final dumping ground in many homes - can be kept neat, clean and well-organized by hanging tools on pegboards.

(6 -- color) In the bedroom, shirts and sweaters are stacked neatly in customized wardrobe spaces.

Photos by John McCoy/Staff Photographer


(1) Make space, maintain sanity (see text)

(2) Overwhelmed? Begin with a professional (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 31, 2005

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