Sometimes you need a friend to help rescue you from a crisis and shed light on the solution. In this case, the problem was my hall closet, full of coats, umbrellas, music equipment (a guitar and an amplifier head), cleaning tools, beachcombing bags, and about 20 pairs of shoes.
I cleaned this closet often. Too often, in fact. Although I vacuumed the sand that rides in on shoes worn at the beach, and straightened the shoes, it was nearly impossible to keep it neat because of the lack of organization. I thought I needed some kind of system to keep the shoes from sitting on top of each other, but I just can’t seem to muster the energy to shop for it.
Just recently, I received a Facebook message from my old friend, Sandra Schustack, who used to be Sandra Levin, the advertising executive. Recently, she married Mr. Schustack and started a new business, Clear Your Space East. She’s also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).
Opportunist that I am, I wrote back, “Sandra, I need help with my coat closet that’s also a shoe closet. It’s impossible to keep it clean and it’s making me sick.”
I thought, if Sandra Shoe-stack can’t save me from my shoe-icidal closet, no one can. Almost instantly, she came up with a plan. She also validated my notion that cleanliness and organization are related to health.
“Chances are if your stuff is all over the place, your life is too,” she says. “Tackling the clutter will transform your physical space, but more importantly your headspace. Clear, organized spaces allow you to function at your best and live your life with less distraction and stress. I always say - clear your space, clear your mind!”
I won’t bore you with the gory details of cleaning my closet, but suffice it to say, her methods were wildly successful. Here are some tips from the clutter-taming master of organization.
“Keep only what you use and love,” she says. “The rest serves no purpose but to collect dust and fulfill our what ifs, maybe one days, and I use to-s. Instead, live for today.”
Such a good point. We tend to hang on to objects that once belonged to people we love (and maybe even lost) as if they’re parts of their bodies.
“People keep things for a number of reasons, but most often it boils down to guilt and fear,” she says, “which are often the culprit of cluttered spaces.”
Apparently, she says, we exercise guilt when we hang onto things we don’t like or use because we feel like we should. Maybe that thing is a gift someone gave and parting with it would feel like losing part of that relationship to the person. We exercise fear when we hang onto something because we’re afraid we’ll need it as soon as we get rid of it. None of it is rational, but these are emotions we often don’t understand. That’s where Sandra comes in and stacks the shoes.
“I work with clients to help them let go of both (guilt and fear),” she says. “Not only is a space transformed but the clients are too. They are suddenly lighter and can breathe easier because the mental health and physical stuff is all connected.”
Here’s her best advice for avoiding emotional illness surrounding disorganization and attachment to objects, especially as the holiday season approaches.
“Every purchase, every gift, every item you receive represents some facet of your life, whether good, bad or indifferent,” says the Chicago native and the now New York City resident. “But these things are just things. If they don't bring you happiness or fulfill a necessity, then they have already served their purpose. Collect experiences not stuff! The stuff weighs you down.”
She offers more on her website, www.clearyourspaceeast.com.