The average American spends 2 ½ days every year looking for misplaced items — and we collectively spend $2.7 billion each year replacing those items.
This holiday season, why not give your friends and family — from the slightly disheveled to the bona fide slob — a bit of time and money in the form of an organizing solution?
“Everybody loves to be more organized,” says Ellen Delap, 63, a certified professional organizer who served two years as president of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals. “It makes people feel more confident and more in control, especially in uncertain times. We want to know what we have and make it all easy to find. It’s universal.”
Know what else seems to be universal? Praise for the label maker as a thoughtful present.
On spice jars, storage bins and countless other places, labels can reflect a personality. Label maker tape comes in different colors and sizes and can be simple or fancy, and many of the handheld devices can print borders. (Adding metallic or calligraphy pens to the gift is a nice touch.)
Labels may be particularly helpful for those with memory challenges, says professional organizer Linda Birkinbine, 59, owner of Keep It Organized in Amherst, New York. On shelves and inside drawers, they can alleviate confusion.
“That’s what’s so important about labeling — not only does it help you identify what you have, it also helps you identify where to put things away,” she says.
If you’re concerned that giving someone an organizational gift might come across as offensive, think about the continuing popularity of Marie Kondo and shows like The Home Edit. Containing clutter is hip. And the range of products on the market shows that such gifts don’t insinuate judgment.
Someone who spends a lot of time in this room may appreciate clear glass jars with pop-off lids that keep flour, sugar, nuts and other essentials fresh — and give a clean look to what can feel like an overwhelmed counter.
But don't forget about what's behind closed doors.
Acrylic bins — clear, so it’s easy to see what’s inside — are good for storing packaged snacks, rice and other kitchen staples, as well as medicine, says Delap, who is based in Houston. They’re usually sold in sets of four and come in various shapes and sizes.
“These help organize the pantry so it looks like Pinterest,” Delap says.
While jewelry makes a statement when worn, it should bring the owner joy even when being stored.
A hanging closet jewelry organizer with clear pouches for rings, slots for earrings, and velcro straps for necklaces keeps inventory front and center.
“And because the jewelry is hanging in with the clothes, it gets used more frequently,” Delap says.
Also for the closet, matching hangers are aesthetically pleasing. “A mishmosh of hangers can be difficult to move around because they don't have the same type of hook that goes over the rod,” Birkinbine says. She adds that closet rod dividers — those plastic discs often used in clothing stores — can help easily identify garments by size or color. (Another chance to put that label maker to good use!)
Know someone whose cosmetics are in chaos?
Birkinbine recommends a tall, vertical, modular, acrylic makeup storage system if someone is short on space.
For those who like to have their items out, and if space is not an issue, “there are a lot of carousel, double-decker makeup organizers out right now that alleviate counter clutter” and make it easier to get ready in the morning, Delap says.
Seen too much junk in the trunk?
Help out with a trunk organizer. Be sure it has straight sides, is sturdy and doesn’t taper at the bottom, Birkinbine says.
Although they don’t typically go in the washing machine, trunk organizers should be washable by hand with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris.
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For the garage toiler, heavy-duty plastic storage cabinets and drawers, as well as floating wall systems that fit hooks for things like bikes and garden hoses, tend to be safe bets, says Todd Allan, a professional organizer and owner of Structured Space in Seattle.
If buying for an older adult, keep in mind the need to minimizing bending, squatting, reaching or climbing. Choose an organizer that can be installed at a reasonable height and fit in an accessible location, says Jeff Julia, founder of Koncept Garage in Austin, Texas.
Allan also recommends chrome or black multitiered wire shelving with casters for easy transport. (These rolling carts are also good indoors for those short on desk space. Delap recommends giving one with woven baskets to help recipients categorize office supplies, technological devices and toys for the grandkids. “It’s portable and can move along with you wherever you go,” she says.)
Invest in a professional
Instead of purchasing a product, bringing in a professional organizer might be the way to go. These specialists can be hired by the hour — expect to pay $55 to $100 per hour — or by the project.
Projects can range from clearing out a messy mudroom (so people know where their coat is “instead of finding it underneath a stack of coats on the dryer,” Allan says) to digital decluttering, which involves cleaning out and restructuring email folders, organizing electronic files and categorizing photos.
For some, being handed a few hours with a pro may be priceless.
If you go this route, however, Allan has a word of advice: “I learned early on that an organizing gift certificate is best given to people who know they’re getting one.” Once, a man whose wife had given him such a gift gruffly told Allan, who had called to schedule an appointment, that his services were not needed.
Marjana Ababovic would take no offense. In fact, she’d welcome the extra hand with open arms.
“In your own house, it’s very easy to get stuck and overwhelmed,” says the 61-year-old, who lives in Irondequoit, New York. “It just seems there’s so much to be done, so I say ‘Whatever’ and usually don’t see anything to the end.”
She has organizational cubes in the closet by the front door, but they’re not transparent.
“So I can never remember which one has the gloves and which one has the scarves,” she says. “Every time I want to pull something out, I have to pull them both out. It’s so stupid.”
Someone needs to get Ababovic a label maker.
Robin L. Flanigan is a contributing writer who covers mental health, education and human-interest stories for several national publications. A former reporter for several daily newspapers, her work has also appeared in People, USA Today and Education Week. She is the author of the children's book M Is for Mindful.