Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 19, 2010

Clearing out clutter

Organizer Emily Wilska to give tips at a workshop next week

by Emily West

If a New Year's resolution to be organized has lost steam, consider trying again as spring and the ritual cleaning time approaches.

Organizer Emily Wilska said a common clean-up derailment has to do with lofty expectations that stem from the pages of popular magazines such as Real Simple or Martha Stewart.

"Anyone has the power and the ability to be organized," Wilska said. "It's simply a matter of finding the approach that works specifically for you. There are tons of different ways of going about it."

The San Francisco-based professional is speaking at the Dublin Library Feb. 27, where she plans to give people an overview and direction into a world clear of clutter.

"I hope to dispel some myths and for people to feel empowered," she said.

One such myth is that simply cleaning a space will solve the problem. A holistic approach, she said, is likely to leave lasting habits.

"I can go in and make a room look good, but if we don't address the systems and habits involved in keeping it up, things are going to return in a week, month or six weeks," she said.

The process, Wilska said, is identifying the overlying goal. More than just being organized, some people want a clean desktop while others want a particular room or space to be functional.

Once goals are established, the next step is to deal with the stuff, which Wilska said is the most popular complaint. Making decisions about items comes down to how meaningful they are to people.

"Rather than thinking 'do I need this' or 'it fits here,' when thinking about your space and your stuff, ask what actually deserves to be close to you," she said.

Even motivated people seem to have trouble making decisions over so many items. In deciding what goes and what stays, Wilska said people associate value based on thoughts of potentially needing it in the future, having once paid good money for it, wanting to use it but haven't found the time, or even feeling guilty for giving it up. By assigning real value to items, people find that they aren't in fact as valuable as they thought.

"People say, 'I haven't used this for six months, but it's taking up a huge chunk of my desktop,'" she said. "They then give themselves permission to take back the space. It's really liberating for them."

Emotion is a large part of the organization process, which is why many only relent after reaching a breaking point.

"They realized that their space, stuff, schedule, file drawer -- whatever is feeling disorganized -- add significant stress, particularly if they interact with it everyday" Wilska said. "Getting organized puts people back in control. We don't think of it as stuff having control over us, but often that is the case."

Whether the next action to regaining control is hiring a professional or clearing out time to tackle it in a do-it-yourself fashion, Wilska reminds people that it's not about being perfect.

"The gospel of organizing," she said, "is that it's not just something that already organized people can do. I'm a strong believer that being organized can help almost everyone."

Wilska will offer a presentation at a free workshop held from 2 to 3 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Dublin Library, located at 200 Civic Plaza. There she will give tips from her experience that she recently put into print: "Knack Organizing Your Home: Decluttering Solutions and Storage Ideas." For more information about the event, call 803-7286.

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