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Health and Wellness
By Pooja Gugnani

Is Organizing Your Cup of Tea?

A candid Q&A with a professional organizer

Growing up, I was taught that organizing is about being tidy and having your space look appealing. While it is some of that, organizing at the essence is plain and simple—it’s about being able to find what you need quickly and easily. This means assigning a home for everything and doing it in a way that accommodates your specific habits and lifestyle. I always tell clients that there is never a cookie cutter solution to organizing because every person is unique in what they need from their space. What is universal, though, is that an organized system will increase your productivity and well-being.
Throughout my organizing career, I have been asked numerous questions related to organizing. Below is a compilation of some of those questions and my responses.

I “think” I’m pretty organized. How do I really know if I am?
Many people confuse being organized with being neat. Organization is about having control of your life and space, by allocating where things belong and being able to find them quickly. If your physical environment is not interfering with your personal development and relationships, you’re probably organized.

We have leftovers at every meal; how can we store our countless Tupperware containers?
Indian food is almost always cooked in big proportions, which mean leftovers. The best Tupperware organizer is You! Always store Tupperware in a cupboard, not a drawer, as it is easier to access. Sort all, keeping the ones with matching lids and purging the rest. Then, stack by size within each other. If needed, invest in some plastic baskets for storage to save lids in one and containers in the other.

Too many spices and too little space, how can I organize all my spices?
I would rather buy a bigger home than throw away any of my spices! Spices are integral to Indian cooking and should always be kept handy. First, toss all spices past their expiry date. Spices should be stowed in small amounts in a cool, dry cupboard close to the stove. Save excess spices in the freezer so they last longer (up to three years). As for products to use, every cook has a different approach, but I recommend investing in an Indian spice box (round, stainless steel box with hollow compartments) to store commonly used spices (turmeric, chilli, cumin, etc.). If you need a quick solution, magnetic spice tins are useful because you can decide where you want them and in what size. Plus, you can stick them on to your refrigerator.

Under-Bed Storage Bag

Is there an efficient way to store my gazillion saris and other South Asian clothing?
Yes there is! South Asian clothing is ornate and delicate and therefore needs to be stored away correctly and with care. Never hang saris! I recommend wrapping them in some sort of cotton cloth before placing them in under-the-bed bags that usually have a zipper and can be stowed flat under the bed. These bags are inexpensive, lightweight and can hold up to six saris each. I store most of my South Asian clothing this way, except salwaar kameezes, which I suggest hanging on simple plastic hangers and in garment bags.

My mother-in-law is visiting this weekend, and I want to have our home looking organized. Any quick tips to help me out?
I’m sure most of us can identify with wanting their home presentable for guests, especially for our mother-in-laws! As a professional organizer, I’ll advise you to be regularly organized, but here are some temporary fixes. Always start at the front door and make your way in for your quick house check. As you do so, gather out of place items along the way and have a cleaning rag in hand in case you need a quick wipe. Now visit each room and make the bed, straighten pillows, empty trash cans and make sure bathrooms smell fresh. Remember, if you’re organizing for the guests and are on a time crunch, you need to focus more on the physical appearance of your home rather than tackle drawers and closets.

I just began organizing my closet, where should I begin?
I have a rule of thumb for closet organization—it’s all about what makes you look good NOW! This means if you haven’t worn something in almost 18 months, it’s time to give it away. I also urge clients to sort clothes seasonally and store away out-of-season clothing in clear, plastic tubs. Sort clothes by color and double hang as much as possible to create space.

If you find yourself agonizing over all the decluttering you have to do, don’t be afraid to seek the help of an organizing expert. Whether it is your closet, kitchen, home office or company office, their purpose is to help you maximize your space and minimize your stress. I wish you the best with your organizing goals!

Storage Box

Pooja Gugnani is a professional organizer and owner of Organizing With You, Inc. in Chicago.


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