Battle Creek Inquirer, October 9, 2003 (paraphrased from
When asked by the Battle Creek Inquirer how one can become more
organized, Delma responded that the best way to tackle that pile of
papers on the desk or organize your messy closet, is to see it as a
"The first thing I do is evaluate the space. I see what the purpose or
the activity of the room is or the space. I say that every room has an
activity center. What is the purpose?" she asks. After you decide what
the room is for, Delma suggests that you not organize the room as a
whole, but do it in pieces. "Start in a closet or even a corner
section of a room," she says. "And make sure to have boxes at your
disposal. I take everything out of the closet, then sort. I have one
box that says toss, one that says keep and [then] only keep it if you
know it is going to go back in the closet, one for charity, and
another one that says, 'I don’t know what to do with it, [but] it has
to go elsewhere.'”
When the closet is clear, stand back, admire the clean closet and
decide what needs to be done to keep it looking good.
“Stand back and reconfigure the space,” Delma says. “Do you need
Do you need hook brackets for your belts? People think they need to go
buy a bunch of stuff, but simple things make a lot of difference.” She
then suggests that you put everything back that belongs in the closet,
but only things that you will actually use. This means that you need
to get rid of your inner pack rat and purge. “You need to throw stuff
away and take the charity items to a local mission,” Smith says. “And
then take the box that is labeled ‘belongs elsewhere’ and sort through
that and put the items in the right room.”
Delma notes that clutter is building up in American homes because of
busy lifestyles, life-changing events, or because it is a personality
style. She observes that, “Maybe you are the person who cannot find
your keys. You want to get organized, but you can’t find a way to
stick to it,” she says.
She says that learning to stay organized is a bit like losing weight
or smoking: You have to do it for yourself. “Knowing that you want to
change is the first step. And identify what you want to do in your
life to make this change. You have to change your thinking and
attitude.” She recommends that you give yourself 30 days to “stick
with it,” and if you can that you will probably be able to make the
“What I tell everybody is that statistics show anything that you do
for 30 consecutive days is a habit. Maybe to do it for that long, you
have to be assured of benefits that you are getting out of it. Maybe
if you knew that it was going to create more time, there would be less
chaos, you’d have less stress, more energy, and less worrying – then
that [in itself] would make all the difference.”
State Journal, October 8, 2003
Delma was asked why clutter seems to build up in homes. She responded
that this problem exists mainly because people don't know where
to put things. "[For example]," she said, "one
of the big things I see with my clients is where to put the mail."
She suggested that you designate an appropriate box or space for
the mail, so that you always know where it goes and can deal with
it whenever you wish.
home in Charlotte, Michigan, Delma not only routes stuff to its
appropriate place, but she also throws a lot of stuff away. "If
something comes in, something goes out," she said, "and
that's even for a piece of furniture." Delma admitted that
she'd always been a neat and tidy person. "But it doesn't
mean that a person has to be born that way," she quickly
reassured the reporter. "It just means that you have to
a system that works for you."
Here is a step-by-step plan that Delma suggested usually works
for organizing your home or office:
this step-by-step plan to bring order to what’s become a catch-all
– in this case, a front hall closet stuffed with everything
from winter coats to board games.
Ask yourself, “What’s the purpose of the front hall?”
Let’s say it serves as a place to greet guests and as a staging
area for family members getting ready to leave for school and work.
Empty the closet and sort everything into 4 boxes marked: Trash;
Charity; Keep it; Belongs elsewhere.
The standard closet has a rod for hangers and a shelf. If that’s
all you need, don’t spend a dime. But maybe an extra hook
would keep the scarves off of the floor. Add a shelf. Take one away.
Do whatever works best.
Fill it: Put everything back in the closet that belongs
there. Where the board games used to be piled, store the kids' school
bags. Where boxes of old photos were stacked, place shoes and boots.
Up: Toss the box of trash and send the charity items to
the local mission. As for the stuff labeled "belongs elsewhere,"
sort it and distribute the piles to the appropriate locations in
Doesn't that just relocate the mess?
Not really. The key to organization is using the near-far rule.
Items should be stored near the location they are used. So, because
board games are played in the family room, they should be stored
in the family room. That may mean organizing the entertainment center
to accommodate the games. That, however, can be a project for another
Delma Smith, Treasurer of the Michigan Chapter of the National
Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)