Separating memories from objects is one of the most difficult tasks when trying to get organized.
Reannon Hayes realized this recently as she consolidated the NBA basketball cards from the late 1980s and early 1990s she collected in her youth with her brother. It wasn't easy, paring the collection to a handful of players, but Hayes felt it was important to take the advise she gives her clients.
Hayes is a professional organizer and blogger, and it has been her goal to help people get control of their "stuff."
"It's so common with busy lifestyles, with work and kids, and trying to balance so many things, that it just becomes overwhelming," she said. "So I look at it as if your mess is my challenge."
Hayes said she didn't plan to get into the field professionally. Although she had always tried to be organized, she didn't realize it was a passion until college, when she would help her roommates combat their clutter and find ways to make furniture fit in their small apartment.
After receiving a degree in design, professional organization became an afterthought. While she had wanted to start a business, Hayes took a position at Tiffin Developmental Center in housekeeping. When she was laid off in July, she decided to give it a try, and began helping friends and family get their closets and garages in order.
"I just thought now is a great time to do something I want to do, that I'm passionate about, to start my own business," she said.
Hayes, originally from North Ridgeville, said her business has been focused primarily with friends and family in the Cleveland area, but recently she has expanded her coverage area to all of northern Ohio.
A typical organization starts with a phone consultation, and Hayes likes to start with a question, asking people what about their mess is most concerning. Often, she joked, the answer is "everything," but she said focusing on small areas first provides a confidence boost to do more.
"Sometimes when you start with a big project, it gets overwhelming," Hayes said.
Often those small areas include closets or a "junk drawer," but there are times when people want to start with the garage, which Hayes said she's happy to help them tackle.
"I really, honest to God, look at it as I want to help people get on track," she said. "When people approach me, they're so embarrassed, but it's such a common problem, I just want to help people, help them with what I've learned."
In the time since she has started organizing professionally and offering advice through her blog, Domestic Innovations, Hayes has picked up a few tips she thinks are of particular importance.
The first is for people to keep only what they use and love.
"It's a real personal issue, because people think that holding on to all of this stuff will keep you from forgetting the memories or that special someone," she said. "I just try to tell people your loved ones, and your memories, are not those things."
Hayes said she has taken an interest in simple living, owning what one can maintain and what fits in their own space.
And with that, she said people also need to consider what is important in terms of collecting. A collection can be a great thing to have, she said, but only if you are maintaining those things you own and displaying them.
"If that collection is really important to you, pick out your favorites and really showcase them. Don't keep them in boxes to deteriorate," she said.
That was the thought process behind her collection of NBA cards from her childhood. Now she has let herself keep a Ziplock bag of just the ones she loves, and let go of the rest.
"I wasn't using them, and I wasn't showcasing them - it was just a memory I had with my brother, and I loved basketball then," Hayes said. "And I have a small house, so I'm a firm believer that your space is your space, and you have to save what you have space for."
Another tip is to store similar items together, and make sure everything has a "home."
Hayes said for many of her clients, not knowing where to put things when you are done with them is a common issue. She explained a statistic she read estimated people spend as much as 55 minutes a day looking for things they cannot find.
As a suggestion, Hayes recommends multipurpose furniture for family spaces and home offices, items with storage spaces built in, designated for specific items. She said its a tool she has taught her children as well as her clients.
"A lot of people think you're born this way," Hayes said. "I think it's just a habit, it's a skill that you get better with habit and consistency. I try to show people that you can do it. ... I like to give people the tools to know that after I leave, they can go at their own pace."
"I have clutter, just like everybody else. I'm not perfect. I have my own messes I have to go through every day," she added. "But everything has its place, so when it's time to clean up, everything has a spot to go to."
While having those types of furniture can be helpful when organizing a space, Hayes said it's not necessary to buy new items or furniture to reduce clutter, but instead using the things people already have in new and creative ways.
She said most people she works with already have everything they need to be organized.
And a third tip Hayes likes to tell people is the best way to maintain is weeding items constantly when one thing comes in, another should go out.
As an example, Hayes said many people will purchase new holiday decorations every year, leaving the old ones in their homes for years without thinking of getting rid of them. She said after the holidays is a good time for people to take stock of what they have, and perhaps what they no longer need.
"And if you haven't used it, donate it. Give it to somebody who can actually benefit from it. And the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to maintain, the less stuff you have to worry about. That goes for everything," she said.
Donating items is of particular importance to Hayes, who takes time to make sure items that clients do not need are given to organizations that can use them.
With so many TV networks picking up shows on professional organizers helping people through hoarding issues (which Hayes said she is not yet qualified to handle, but knows people she can recommend), it's a field that is quickly growing attention.
For Hayes, it's a chance to do something she loves, and help people who want their lives back.
"I would like to help the people that want to be helped," Hayes said. "Somebody asked me for Christmas if I do gift certificates, and I said 'No,' because I don't want to help someone you think needs organized. I want to help people that want to be helped right now."