Clean sweep: How to get organized in 2014

kc kratt


The new year is an ideal time to set new goals and tackle nagging projects. Getting organized is a common New Year’s resolution and it can be difficult to adhere to. Jamie Shaner, owner of Home Solutions of WNY, Inc., is here to help you stick to your resolution and guide you through the difficulties of organizing. Her company specializes in home and office organizing, downsizing and senior move management. Home Solutions’ mission is to help clients create a home or work environment that is functional, visually pleasing, reduces stress and meets their current needs. Shaner offered her advice on organizing and starting fresh this year.

What is the No. 1 thing someone can do to get organized this year?

I tell folks to remember that getting organized is not a weekend marathon event — it’s a process that takes time. I encourage them to break big projects down into manageable segments and tackle one thing at a time. Finish that one thing, maintain it, move on to the next thing and keep going. Instead of trying to attack the basement all at once, deal with things one at a time by type: sports equipment, holiday décor, toys and games, luggage, abandoned hobbies, etc. Sort through all the stuff in any one category and decide what to keep, determine how to store it, then get rid of what they no longer need. Then move on to the next category.

What are your favorite organizational products/resources?

Various sizes of plastic bins, either stackable or with lids are so versatile— I use them in the pantry, linen closet, kitchen cupboards, basement, everywhere! They’re perfect for gathering “like with like” when getting things organized. I carry a wide variety of bins with me to organizing jobs, so we usually have what we need for whatever area we’rem working in. For storing things in the attic, garage or basement, plastic bins are much better than cardboard boxes for keeping out water, smoke and critters.

How do you stay on top of your mess, rather than overhaul it periodically?

The key to staying organized is to develop habits and routines for dealing with the daily/weekly/monthly things that build up if we ignore them. Open and process the mail every day. Don’t start the laundry and abandon it, see it through all phases: wash, dry, fold/iron, put it away. Remember, too, that you can’t put something away if it doesn’t have a home, so figuring out where something should “live” is a key component of staying organized.

What is the most important area of one’s home to keep organized?

One of the most important areas to keep organized is the home filing system. Whether it’s a four-drawer cabinet, a lateral file or a portable file box, people should be able to put their hands on any piece of paper they need in the time it takes to walk to the drawer and open it. When selling a car, can you find the title and lien release? When organizing or downsizing paperwork and files, documents that contain confidential/ personal data like account numbers, social security numbers, medical information, etc., should be shredded and not tossed. Next, I’d say the “behind the scenes” areas like cupboards, closets and drawers are important because those are easy places to “shove and ignore,” but are “prime real estate” areas when it comes to getting organized.

If someone is downsizing their home, where do you they start? What should be saved and tossed?

Their new space should define how much “stuff ” goes with them, so first, figure out what they love, need, and will use on a regular basis. Measure furniture and use a floor plan to see what will fit in the new space. Items no longer needed or wanted can be sold, donated or otherwise disposed of in a variety of ways. I don’t throw anything away if it’s useable, and the vendors I work with adhere to that same policy. One of the biggest areas people struggle with when downsizing is the kitchen, so I encourage them to be honest and realistic. How many pie tins will they actually use? This is the time to get rid of chipped coffee mugs, mismatched glassware and oversized serving dishes that haven’t been used in years.

We’re empty-nesters now, left with unused bedrooms. Where do we start? Should we empty the kids’ bedrooms?

That depends. Will they still come back to visit? It’s nice to have an actual guest room for company. If you’re staying in the home, rethink/repurpose the old bedrooms. Depending on your current lifestyle, perhaps you can convert one into a craft or sewing room, a quiet place for reading, an office or exercise room. One of my clients turned a small bedroom into a walk-in closet.

Our kids have moved out, leaving us with lots of their things. They won’t take it and they don’t want us to get rid of it. What should we do?

There are actually two issues here: What sort of items are left behind, and do they have the space right now to store them? If the kids are adults in their own homes, give them a deadline. Pick a date and let them know that if they haven’t taken their things by that date, you will be disposing of them however you deem appropriate. Be fair, but firm. On the other hand, if they’re just starting out in a small apartment, they might not have space to take the mementos and treasures they’ve been saving, so perhaps you could define a quantity you’re willing to hold on to until their living situation changes — six storage totes per child, for example. Take advantage of family gatherings and ask them to sort through drawers, boxes, and bins of “stuff” because a lot of it is just that — stuff — and not actually things they’re sentimentally attached to. Store the keepsakes in plastic bins labeled with their names and a brief description of the contents.

My father/mother recently passed away and my siblings and I must clean out his/her home before we can sell it. How can I prevent inheriting a house full of things?

Don’t take things out of guilt. Don’t take things you won’t use, don’t need and don’t love. Let those things go to someone who can actually use them, needs them, and will love them, whether it’s via an estate sale, auction, consignment, garage sale, donation or other disbursement. Your loved one doesn’t live in the “things” they once owned, and you’re not honoring their memory if those things are just boxed and stored in the corner of the basement for years.

My husband/wife is very stubborn about clearing out the years of stuff that has accumulated in our basement. How can we find some middle ground?

An impartial third party can often find the middle ground between spouses, partners, or parents and grown children. Because I’m not emotionally vested in the “stuff” I can almost always negotiate a compromise and make progress. However, I won’t go behind one person’s back at the request of another – personal boundaries must be respected at all times.

For someone who is grieving for a loved one, they may be overwhelmed by the task of cleaning out the home or nursing home room of the recently deceased. What is the best way to deal with all of their things?

I think this is when families appreciate my services the most. I help determine what the family should keep, and we can take care of disbursing the rest. I’ve been in business for over eight years and one of my areas of expertise is knowing which business associates to call in to best serve the needs of the client and meet the deadline for clearing the space, whether it’s in a nursing home, senior or assisted living apartment, or a home that’s been sold.



For more information, call Shaner at 984-4841 or visit

Edit ModuleShow Tags



Edit ModuleShow Tags

Trending Now

  1. Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station
  2. A Weekend in Watkins Glen
    the perfect anniversary getaway
  3. Veteran Monuments Large and Small
  4. WNY Heroes
    Supporting local veterans in need