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Organizers helping people straighten up their homes

| Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012

Mollie Lang says one major point became evident when she and her husband decided to attack the organization problem in her Shadyside home.

The mother of a 6-month-old daughter and CEO of a new, online business says they immediately saw "now is not the time to put on that new addition."

Instead, they brought in professional organizer Leslie McKee from Mt. Lebanon's McKee Organizing Services to find a way to redo daughter Maryn's room. That move should help get many of her items out of other rooms.

It seems a simple solution, but such organizational efforts can help sidestep the need for additional rooms, ripping out walls to create new space for living and storage or even something as relatively simple as adding a closet system, which easily can top $1,000.

Organizers and retailers say this is a hot time of year for such projects. The holidays are over, and the new items all are hunting for homes. The weather has chilled and residents are spending more time indoors, encountering space that seems a little less than it used to be.

"Straightening up has become a New Year's resolution," says Edward Strauss, a sales specialist at the West Mifflin Home Depot outlet.

Charlie Heck from the Virgina-based Rowe Furniture says the need to "get everything in its place" has led to the design of items that serve multiple needs, such as an ottoman that supplies storage and also, with a top, can be used as a coffee table.

Strauss suggests the easiest way to begin is to focus on one small area where success can be immediate.

"It doesn't have to be work in one room," he says. "It can be work on one wall."

Strauss and store manager Kevin Seidl are putting together a free clinic on household storage at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Pleasant Hills Library. The library is asking for calls to 412-655-7741 to get a head count.

McKee looks at the cleanup issue with a different strictness.

"You can do just 15 minutes a night," she says. "Keep after it and see where you get."

Jody Adams, who runs the In Its Place organizing firm in Greensburg, says the driving secret in all of these efforts is conceiving what a space should be,

"Look at the present and see what you want, and what you have to do will fall into place," she says.

When the Langs decided their house needed help, they and McKee saw one of the most logical places to start was Maryn's room. Things were spilling out of it into other rooms. By straightening it up, they could put clothes, toys and other Maryn goods out of the way.

McKee, Adams and Strauss all agree that understanding the concept of a room — either current or desired — is one of the easiest ways of getting there. That bit of knowledge can push aside any big changes that could cost more money.

McKee says getting a room where you want it to be often is simply a matter of making decisions on what you want and getting rid of what you don't.

She is involved in closet organization professionally, but says the secret often is purging more than it is adding new closets or storage systems.

Paper is one of most difficult items, she says, because it comes from many different directions. She also points out a current problem is the constant increase of electronic waste. This time of year is bad in that way because "we all got new gadgets for Christmas, right?"

Getting rid of those old gadgets is important and easy. Besides pickups held by municipalities, civic organizations and the privately run Pennsylvania Resources Council, Goodwill has a steady collection program linked to a computer manufacturer. It is called Dell Reconnect.

David Tobiczyk, Goodwill vice president of marketing, says that program has collected 2.5 million pounds of e-waste since 2007 in the effort to provide "free, easy and safe" ways of clearing out material that can easily fill up a closet. Information on acceptable goods is available at .

Little items can work as well as little jobs.

While it is possible to get large storage units to completely dominate the walls of garages, that job also is approached with smaller items. Erin Gentry, a spokeswoman for Rubbermaid, says the Fast Track system of tool holders (starting at $44) are meant to hold items of various sizes.

Similarly, Home Free closet organizers ($95 to $178) are designed to be a customizable system that can fit into closets and provide a variety of jobs.

Rowe Furniture's Heck says the company's Dalton sleeper sofa with storage ottoman does all sorts of jobs that would normally require closet space. Pillows and other bedding items can be kept in the ottoman, providing multiple uses in a family room that is being used as a guest room.

"That can help if you are living in some studio apartment, too," she says.

Storage is one of the main issues in restoring space to a home.

Strauss says one of the key things to remember is to store items according to practicality. Tools that are needed regularly should be at the front of storage systems. Likewise, clothes can be organized seasonally. Summer clothes don't need to take up space in a winter closet.

"You have to make the tough decisions," he says.

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