I will create a clutter free space for myself

Q & A with LISA ZASLOW, professional organizer

Interviewed by Holly Cara Price , The Fresh 20 Social Media Manager

Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, has helped thousands of people and businesses make the most of their space, time and information. Her expertise is regularly featured in the media, including ABC News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, Real Simple, InStyle and many others. We asked Lisa for some tips to get us started with clearing out clutter and setting up easy organizational systems to start the new year off right.

For those of us who have a tendency towards clutter who want to kick that insidious habit once and for all in the new year, what would be your initial advice?

First, clear out accumulated clutter and get down to a “clean slate”. Once you’ve cleared off the surface of your desk, it will be easier to maintain it as a “clutter free zone.” Staying clutter free is fairly straightforward, but developing new habits isn’t necessarily easy. Don’t expect perfection; experts say it takes 30-90 days for a new habit to stick. You’ll have to put things back where they belong — no more draping a coat on a chair “just for now”. And you need to maintain a balance between in-flow and out-go. The “one in, one out” rule can help. Just bought a new pair of shoes? Sell an old pair on eBay. Prevent clutter from accumulating by confining things to a container. Once the magazine bin gets full, it’s time to clear some out. Even if you haven’t read them.

Often people feel overwhelmed when they contemplate getting organized and can’t even fathom where to begin. Can you give us some tips about how to get started?

First, don’t beat yourself up for feeling overwhelmed. If you’re dealing with general disorganization and clutter — over-stuffed closets, drawers that can barely close, and piles of papers and magazines — it can seem daunting. When you’re feeling strong emotions, it’s hard for your brain to plan. My Less Mess = Less Stress organizing process provides a road map. Once you’ve made a commitment to get organized, the first thing to do is to clear out clutter. Toss or give away things you don’t need, don’t like and don’t use. Start with the easy stuff – leave the harder decisions for later. This will create some space and give you a feeling of accomplishment. And you’ll have fewer things to organize as you continue the process. Resist the urge to shop for cute containers. That’s not until step 4.

Time management is another skill we want to master in the new year. What are your suggestions for some ways we can do better with this?

Despite all the apps and tech gadgets that promise to help you manage time, one of the best tools is also the most basic: a timer. You’ve probably got one on your phone. To schedule your time effectively, you have to know how long it takes you to do different tasks. And to stick to your plan, it’s critical to limit the time spent on some activities. Who hasn’t gone on Facebook for “5 minutes”, only to find that half an hour has flown by?

It’s a constant challenge to keep our children organized. Do you have any tips that you can recommend so that we can instill good habits in kids at a young age?

Kids as young as two or three can learn to put toys back into their proper “homes” and actually enjoy doing it. You can make a game out of throwing stuffed animals into a bin or putting blocks into a box. However, if parents haven’t established good organization systems, using containers that are kid-friendly, it’s unrealistic to expect children to be able to “clean up their room”. Develop the practice of regularly giving away old toys and clothes and whittling down artwork. Some kids will be more emotionally attached to stuff than others, but it’s important for parents to teach them that space is finite. As the comedian Steven Wright says, “You can’t keep everything. Where would you put it?”

Lisa Zaslow
Lisa’s mission is to make getting organized easy, fast, and even fun! Find out more and get Lisa’s super-easy free organizing tips at We also recommend her e-book Can’t I Just Shred It All? with quick and simple ideas for organizing papers, saving time, and reducing stress.

Some resources for organization

What have you been putting off organizing?