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May 24

How Clearing the Clutter Can Lead to Relationship Clarification

by Michelle Santaferraro

In my work, I have seen that when clients get organized, it can often lead to greater empowerment in other areas of their life – taking control in one area breeds the desire to take control of other areas of life.  The previous president of the NAPO Association (The National Association of Professional Organizers), Mary Dykstra Novess, concisely stated what we as professional organizers do for people: We give them a decision-making process.  We help them in clarifying what they might bring into their lives, where they might put it when they let it in, and when they are ready to let it go – how to responsibly release items to the greater humanity.

Getting clear on possessions involves several criteria – keeping what is useful and beautiful.  Additionally, if something does not serve a purpose then it needs to be released.  Now there are, of course, mementos and memorabilia that simply do not fit these categories and some things to be kept for posterity.  Yet, I always encourage my clients to keep this in perspective.

As possessions are evaluated, ‘shoulds’ emerge, becoming a collection of reasons by which possessions are accumulated.  Sometimes, the item was ‘gifted’ from a relative or friend.  That friend or relative may have traveled and found something to capture the moment of their trip, but often times, it holds no special meaning to the receiver.  Other times, there are possessions that are gifted because other friends and relatives don’t have the guts to let it go. Every time the possession is passed around, the letting-go decision is postponed by the giver.

How does clarity of possessions relate to clarity in relationships? 

Many times the same ‘shoulds’ exist in the relationships we maintain.  Sometimes people try to manipulate us by using guilt, anger or fear. When we know what we want and how to ask for what we want, we are getting a clearer sense of our boundaries.  I like how Brene Brown describes folks who have good boundaries: “They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it.” She goes on to say that their boundaries keep them out of resentment.

There is process I begin to see in the questions my clients start to ask and the observations they make. They alert me that the ‘wheels are turning’ towards greater clarification.  One client recently stated she had never taken real thought to the contents on the bookshelf in her living room until we started working together. When I asked her about the items, she was slow to admit many of them had been chosen for her (i.e. were ‘gifted’ to her).  When she mentioned that one particular item was kept since her ex-husband gave it to her, she began to view the other items that were also given by him.  She said, “I don’t even like that!”

I start to see the wheels turning when they look at other items around them and start making observations about relationships that hold ‘shoulds’ – just like possessions can. I’ve seen this process reveal which relationships are obligations or may be energy sucking.

It may start by simply getting rid of items that don’t mean anything, but it often leads to greater clarity around what a certain relationship adds to life or takes from it.

Posted in Organization

Jan 28

Getting Organized & Staying Organized

by Michelle Santaferraro

A cluttered desk can breed a cluttered mind. But imagine an organized workspace where you can find what you need and feel free to do your work without distraction. Even better yet, consider what it would be like to stay organized no matter what comes your way. Organomics creates a system that works for you; based on your personality, preferences, and work style.

  1. Picture Your Organized World – What will your office look like and how will you function in it?
  • Decide what you want your space to look like when you’re done.
    Where do you want space and where do you want your work?
  • Describe what it will “feel” like when you walk into the organized room.
    What words or phrases will you use to describe how you feel in your organized space?
  1. Get Equipped – What will you need to perform the tasks you perform in your space?
  • Identify the function of the space.
    Make a list of what you will be doing in your space. What functions will you perform?
  • Identify the tools you need to perform the function.
    Make a list of the tools and accessories you’ll need to perform you functions. Locate them nearby to make work easy.
  1. Sort and Purge – What do you need to do your work and what can be discarded?
  • Sort your needed items into categories.
    Group the items categorically or topically that you have deemed as useful and beautiful. Stage these items in the room.
  • Purge any items that are unnecessary.
    Place the unnecessary items into boxes titled “Goes Elsewhere”, “Give Away”, “Overflow Office Supplies”, and “Trash”.
  1. Plan Placement and Containerize – Designate a “home” for the items you have decided to keep.
  • Place items that you use frequently in close proximity.
    Placement is all about easy access based on use. Think about what you use daily, weekly, and monthly.
  • Contain like items in a single place.
    Filers can tuck things neatly away in files or closed containers. Pilers can use upright files and open bins for storage.
  1. Stay Organized
  • Invest 5 to 10 minutes each day to put things back.
    If you get into the habit of putting things away every day, you won’t have to go back to a state of disarray.
  • Continually remind yourself to follow through.
    Resist the temptation to “put things here for now”. It is easier to keep a space maintained than it is to dig out again.


© 2012 by Organomics®, Michelle Santaferraro

Posted in Organization

Dec 8

Kondo Craze: An Organizer’s Review

by Michelle Santaferraro


I was recently motivated to pick up Marie Kondo’s international bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, because of a current client of mine.  My client loved her instruction to purge by category, so she gathered her books from recesses of her home, and reviewed them ‘all at once’ as the book encouraged.

I personally enjoyed her book and reading about organizing from a different perspective. Here is my brief synopsis of the book along with my two cents.

What is tidying? – Marie Kondo states that tidying is made up of two things – “deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.” (pg. 19) She strongly encourages her readers to “…tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little…” (pg. 16).

Why? She wants her clients to see and experience instant results.  Making it a ‘special event’ as she states, will empower a person to keep the space in order. All this evaluation of your possessions has an ultimate goal, “…to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order” (pg. 21). I particularly agree with this, the goal I have with my clients is always freedom toward new pursuits as a result of organizing.

How is tidying done? She goes on to describe that tidying done by location is a fatal mistake, instead you need to tidy by ‘category’ and not by ‘place’ (pg. 25). She suggests you start with clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and lastly you address mementos (pg. 46).  She encourages you to gather ALL your clothes, books, etc.  This may require you to search through all of your closets so that you can evaluate the entire category in one swoop.  Kondo wants you to take each item in your hand and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” (pg. 39)

Once you do this, you are to only keep the things that speak to your heart.  I found this particularly interesting as I suspect, but cannot confirm, that Marie Kondo must be a very tactile person. She places a lot of emphasis on touching your items and having the client touch them, rather than just having the organizer show each item.  For folks that are highly ‘hands on’ this can be beneficial.

We are in-relationship with our possessions.  Marie began treating her belongings as if they were alive in High School (pg. 169). It bred respect in her for the things she owned.  She shares that the reason she does this: “…caring for your possessions is the best way to motivate them to support you…” (pg. 171)  I found this to be a beautiful way of describing what I call ‘stewarding’ your possessions.  She even has particular ways you should fold your clothes. For her, folding is a “form of dialogue with our wardrobe” (pg. 74) and her style encourages clothes being stored in a vertical fashion, not stacked.

Controversial Advice:

Storage Irritation. Marie Kondo and The Container Store may not completely agree when it comes to storage containers.  She says that “putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved” (pg. 23). Just “shoving stuff out of sight” (pg. 23) did not solve the clutter problem for many of her clients.  They needed to start with discarding.  Once the client has only items that “spark joy,” she encourages very simple containers; she suggests common household items like cardboard shoeboxes or Apple Product boxes.

Paper Simplicity.  She has a basic principle when it comes to paper – she encourages her clients to throw it all away (pg. 96). But, if you must keep paper, she defines the criteria as ‘currently in use’, ‘needed for a limited period of time’, or ‘must be kept indefinitely’. All your papers are to be stored in one spot and one spot only (pg. 97).

‘Frequency of use’ is irrelevant. When this term ‘frequency of use’ is typically used, it refers to putting things away based on where you frequently use the item.  She states as such, “A common mistake many people make is to decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out.” (pg. 141,142) She is quite clear that she believes this is a ‘fatal trap’.  Why would she believe this? “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort to get them out,” she states (pg. 142). Yet, she does admit a few paragraphs later that in an average Japanese dwelling, it takes ten to twenty seconds to walk from one end of the dwelling to the other side (pg. 143). I know that in America, we are typically dealing with a structure that has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and this concept would be challenging in larger homes.

She closes her book reiterating the reason for tidying; you tidy up so that you can go on to live the life you want.  She writes, “…Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.” (pg. 204) Kondo found the ‘magic’ was in the effect that tidying had on her clients. It bred faster decision making as well as confidence (pg. 178 and 179). This book is refreshing and can give a different way to look at what you let into your life and what you choose to let go.


Posted in Organization