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The Get Organized Answer Book: Practical Solutions for 275 Questions on Conquering Clutter, Sorting Stuff, and Finding More Time and Energy Paperback – March 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Answer Book
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402216831
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402216831
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jamie Novak has over 20 years experience as a Professional Organizer and Clutter Coach. A featured organizer on HGTV's Mission Organization, she is also ivillage's Resident Organizer (3 million community members), and frequently appears on QVC. Novak also writes for Organize magazine, and is a spokesperson for companies such as Proctor and Gamble.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

What is clutter?
My definition of clutter is any item that falls into one or more of three categories:

  1. Things you do not use or love (three extra spatulas in the kitchen utensil drawer)
  2. Things without a home (the new shirt you just bought that is draped over the back of a chair because your dresser is overstuffed)
  3. Anything unfinished or in need of repair (the sweater sitting on the washing machine that is missing a button)

Where does clutter come from?
Sometimes it seems like clutter falls from the sky; as quickly as you clear one area, it gets cluttered again. I've noticed that each person accumulates clutter in a different way. Which of the following describes you?

  • Holding on to an item thinking it might come in handy one day
  • Putting an item down and planning to deal with it later
  • Being unwilling to let something go simply because it's still good
  • Getting stuck in a perfectionist rut and waiting to do the organizing project perfectly
  • Having a sentimental attachment to items because they remind you of something
  • Taking items home just because they are on sale or free

One or more of these accumulation methods can create clutter. Knowing how you create clutter can help you to deal with it.

How do I know if my clutter is normal?
The general rule is that if clutter is not affecting your day-to-day living, then you're doing all right. Like most rules, however, this one has exceptions. Some people are unable or unwilling to recognize that clutter is disrupting their lives. Here are the top ten signs of an overly cluttered life:

  1. Unexpected guests send you into "scoop and dump" mode. That means before you can answer the door, you grab a bag or laundry basket and frantically scoop up piles of paper, toys, clothes, etc., dumping them in a closet, bedroom, or garage. Once your guests leave, you don't address the clutter you just moved.
  2. You misplace things on a daily basis. Everyday accessories like a cell phone, keys, pen, purse, shoes, jacket—you get the picture.
  3. You live out of a laundry basket. Clothes are washed and folded, yet there is no space in the closet or dresser drawers to hang them up or put them away.
  4. Piles of "important" papers are stacked on surfaces (and possibly the floor) throughout your home. You leave them out as a visual reminder so you won't forget to act on them.
  5. You stash stuff in one or more areas of your home, planning to decide what to do with it later. But later never comes. You might use the garage, basement, attic, spare/guest bedroom, or other hideaway. You quickly shove items into these spaces and shut the door behind you before they spill out.
  6. You accrue late fees on bills because you don't reconcile your financial statements.
  7. Spaces in your home can't be utilized for their intended purpose.
  8. Areas of your home can't be cleaned properly because they're cluttered.
  9. Disorganization is causing conflicts in your relationships with friends and family, or causing you to decline invitations because you feel tied to your home.
  10. You find yourself running out of space, even though your amount of storage space hasn't been reduced by a major event like welcoming a new baby or moving into a smaller home.

How do I know if I would be classified as a compulsive hoarder?
Compulsive hoarding is more than simply being disorganized. Most of us associate hoarding with stories we've heard about people whose homes have only narrow pathways through stacks of junk, or about people who have fifty cats. But compulsive hoarding is a medical condition in which someone is incapable of parting with items, including true junk. Here are the top four behaviors of compulsive hoarders.

  1. The person holds on to items, planning to use them later. However, he or she never uses them. These are items that most people would not consider to be useful or valuable and have no trouble parting with, such as:
    • Junk mail
    • Outdated catalogs or newspapers
    • Items purchased for others as gifts but never given away
    • Clothing that doesn't fit
    • Out-of-control collections, like knickknacks, that overtake a space
    • Broken things, including cars in the driveway
    • Free items just because they are free
  2. The home or parts of the home are too cluttered to use for their intended purpose.
    • Dining room tables that can't be used for dining
    • Kitchen countertops that can't be used for cooking
    • Couches that can't be used for sitting
    • Beds that can't be used for sleeping
    • Garages that can't be used for parking cars
    • Showers that can't be used for showering
    • Car seats that can't be used for passengers
    • Floors that can't be walked on
    • Exits that are blocked
  3. Utilities, like lights, are disconnected simply because the person misplaced and did not pay the bills. The person's credit scores are adversely affected by late payments. Bank accounts are overdrawn because the person is unable to reconcile and record deposits and withdrawals.
  4. The person suffers from a considerable amount of distress or isolation due to the clutter. For example, the person can't invite friends or family to the home because he or she is so embarrassed by the clutter. For the same reason, repairs can't be made because the person won't let repair or maintenance professionals into the home. Shades are kept drawn so that nobody can see the clutter inside. Family members argue about the clutter. The person also might suffer from depression or anxiety because of the clutter. If you exhibit signs of hoarding and want help, seek treatment from a therapist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding issues.

Is it true that having perfectionist tendencies can actually lead to disorganization?
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it is true. Perfectionists tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude. Perfectionists are unable to do a less-than-perfect job and their goals are often unrealistic and unattainable. So, often they opt to do nothing at all. For example, to tackle a disorganized linen closet, a perfectionist won't simply refold a few towels to make some space. Instead, he or she might plan to get the perfect shelf divider, buy new shelf paper, and research whether folding or rolling towels is best. As a result, the project becomes overwhelming, the linen closet gets messier, and the perfectionist feels defeated. The solution for the perfectionist is to lower the bar and plan to do a portion of the job now and the rest later. Most likely, later will never come, but that's just fine. Since perfectionists do such a great job, the first round is bound to be enough.


More About the Author

Jamie is the creator of Bite Size Living where she teaches the recipe for an easier life: dice up big tasks into smaller more doable ones!

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Annemarie B. Demarco on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Some people are born with a great arm for baseball, the voice of an angel or an incredibly high IQ. I was gifted with the sort and purge gene - which has resulted in quick and easy routines to manage the houseshold ( and no messy piles obsuring the kitchen table.) In my quest for continuous organization, new ideas and motivation who do I turn to? None other than Jamie Novak. Jamie has helped me - a highly organized individual - become even more efficient and to have more fun during the process. I would highly recommend her book to both the organized and disorganized alike.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Perfection Wannabe on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
How do I get started organizing? This has plagued me for years. Jamie's ideas are quick and easy strategies for getting started and being able to stay organized. I'm one of those individuals who was always looking for perfection. Jamie writes directly to folks like me, would be perfectionists. Her advice is to do some of the job now and some later - we don't have to do the whole job all at once.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By V. Thornton on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Really! Simple. Practical. Real. Love the easy-to-read format of the FAQ's. Jamie covers it all - the Q & A are something we can ALL relate to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cupcake on February 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always considered myself to be pretty organized. But after reading this book, I was amazed at how much more I have learned. The instructions and ideas are very basic enough for anyone to follow. I have already started applying some of the ideas at home and work. Also I have become very aware of how I handle my daily tasks and long term projects. This book is an excellent resource and very easy to follow. Kudos to Jamie Novak.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Siddons on September 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
This books is an OK book for answering your organizational needs. It is presented in a question and answer format which makes it a little awkward when finding answers to your questions.

There are some good solutions found in the book, though you would be better off to just look at this book in a book store and record the ones you want.
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