canada news
Beat back the clutter
$4,600 contest offers a clean solution to home chaos
Sheila Brady
The Ottawa Citizen
Win the services of Lynn Fanset, left, and Susan Yearwood, space organizers who will come to your home to help sort out your messes.
CREDIT: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen
To avoid bulging closets, professional organizer Lynn Fanset advises: If you haven't worn something for a year, toss it or give to a charity.
CREDIT: Wayne Hiebert, The Ottawa Citizen

My name is Sheila and I am drowning in clutter.

Right now, I'm staring at a single silver and gold earring sitting on a tiny open space of my desk, remembering back a few hours when I was rifling through a congested jewelry box, looking for a specific pair of funky earrings.

I noticed a ribbed earring, discarding it when I couldn't find the mate.

More precious minutes were wasted as I sifted through a heap of clothing lying on the floor under our bedroom window. A couple of days ago, the closet shelf crashed to the floor, leaving my sweaters, shirts, pants and skirts in one big pile.

It seemed too much of an effort to lug the stuff down to a closet in our son's room because the repair man promised to make an early appearance and add the screws missing from the original installation. I could ask him to re-sort my stuff, but husband was quick to note that I owned far too many sweaters, in fact too much of everything.

I grunted, kept searching for the right clothing and was out the door and in the car, where I fretted on a congested Queensway while thinking about obligations at work. Even my phone was missing in action, sitting on the floor of our van.


Apparently, I'm not unique, says an affable Lynn Fanset, who used to earn money as a human resources officer in the technology industry and now offers her services to organize people's closets, homes and lives.

"I would say 75 per cent of Canadians are disorganized," says the owner of Aroundtoit, an organizing service based in Kanata and the spark plug behind a new Citizen contest to get you and two of the rooms in your home organized. The value of this exercise in neatness is $4,500 and the promise of a clean start.


"Being surrounded by a mess affects your life," says Ms. Fanset, who owns two white blouses and another three white sleeveless blouses for the summer.

I would blush if she walked into our bedroom, even with the shelf properly installed.

She hates browsing through the racks at Winners and winces when her daughter leaves clothing on the floor. She helps clients sort through their closets and tries to put a stop to excess shopping.

"If you haven't worn something for a year, toss it or give to a charity," says the professional organizer who follows this golden rule for neat living: "Don't love it, don't use it, don't need it."

Out the door.

Her philosophy can be applied to closets and other clutter magnets in the house, including spare rooms, the basement, the attic and the black domain of clutter and tools -- the garage.

"These rooms can be like expanded junk drawers," says the anti-clutter cop who has seen clutter take over lives, weighing people down, wasting time, even posing a health risk.

There is a smart science behind professional organizers, adds Susan Yearwood, owner of Efficient Solutions and a co-organizer of the Clean Sweep contest.

"The point is not to go on a shopping spree and buy all sorts of storage boxes and pack away your stuff.

"You go in and talk to the person, find out what they want and then set out priorities," says the former occupational therapist, who sees a link between repairing injured bodies and putting order into disorganized lives.

"You want to give people a plan to get organized and then stay organized."

This sounds suspiciously like a maintenance plan after successfully losing weight. Weight loss and getting organized are both huge industries, with Rubber Maid and manufacturing giants, including IKEA, making big money out of selling small boxes for all our junk.

Clean Sweep will give you the professionals to help sort through your stuff and then provide the appropriate boxes, plastic or otherwise.

Clean Sweep, modelled on the popular organizing TV show of the same name featured nightly on The Learning Channel, is open to residents within the circulation area of the Citizen. Husbands can work with wives and parents can nominate their children's rooms.

Readers should send a letter to Clean Sweep, c/o Homes, Ottawa Citizen, 1101 Baxter Rd., Ottawa, Ont. K2C 3M4. You can also send an e-mail to sbrady, describing why you are not organized and what you could achieve by getting and staying organized. Also include coloured photographs of your disorganized state of living.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m. A trio of organized judges will examine the submissions, picking a winner on Jan. 9, 2004.

Then the hard work starts.

Charlene Laporte, a management and productivity consultant, will be first on the scene, interviewing the disorganized winner, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to establish the winner's personality and traits in a bid to set up a successful reorganization plan.

"One of the biggest organizing challenges that people face when trying to get organized, is working with the different personalities in the household," says the owner of You Can Be Organized (YCBO).

There is the methodical, disciplined individual who likes to have a place for everything and the casual person who lives by the motto: If you have to use it again, why put it away?

"The good news is everyone can be happy," Ms. Laporte says. After personalities have been profiled, a team of four to six from the Ottawa chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada will descend on the house, helping family members sort through possessions and offering suggestions that would cost $2,000 if you had to pay for the advice.

Flores Painting will paint the two rooms for a value of $1,000, there'll be $1,500 worth of storage units donated by Professional Organizers in Canada, YCBO and Space Creations and Felix Solutions will provide another $160 worth of planners.

We will feature the winner in New Homes in February 2004.

Now my life would be neat if the repair man would show up and I remember to put that earring in my pocket.

Sheila Brady is the Citizen's Homes editor.

You can reach her at .

Clean Sweep

Submit a letter with pictures telling why your home is cluttered and the benefits of neat living to Clean Sweep, Homes, The Ottawa Citizen, 1101 Baxter Rd., Ottawa, Ont. K2C 3M4 or to Prize package is worth over $4,600. Deadline is Friday, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2003

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