Getting organized and reducing clutter in the New Year

Jill Palmisano
Jill Palmisano

Use this hanger trick to see which clothes you wear – and don’t wear – that often.

By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor

Each January, many people make a resolution to get organized. But, faced with overstuffed closets, piles of paper and other tchotchkes, many soon abandon that lofty goal and instead just avoid the clutter. And when the next New Year comes around, there is, of course, more stuff.

As a professional organizer, Jill Palmisano makes it her mission to help those who are overwhelmed get things under control.

“I do have innate organization skills, but it is something can be learned,” she assured. “It’s about having a system in place.”

When working with clients who wish to downsize, Palmisano recommends thinking about it, if possible, 18-24 months beforehand.

“Take an assessment of what you have and what you really can’t live without,” she advised. “Then make a ‘can’t miss appointment’ with yourself, at least one hour a week or even a month, to tackle one room or space at a time. Mark it on your calendar as if it were another important appointment.

“Start with a room that you don’t use much or perhaps your kid’s room if they no longer live at home,” she added. “And remember, it took a long time to get this way, but being able to chip away a little bit at a time will make it feel more manageable.”

Are you one who often looks at your closet each morning and sighs that you have nothing to wear? If so, you’re not alone, Palmisano noted. An oft-repeated statement is “you wear 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time.”

One tip she recommends is take everything out your closet and review each piece. Ask yourself – does it fit, it is in good condition, and do I like it? If so, put it on a hanger and then put the hanger back in the closet on the rod backwards. If you choose that item to wear, then reverse the hanger. Over time you may find that items you thought that you like are not in your rotation. If that happens, consider donating it if it’s in good condition. Items that are in good shape (ripped, stained, etc.) can be put in a pile to be donated to one of the many textile drives that have become popular.

If the process still feels daunting, consider asking a friend who you trust to tell you the truth to help you assess and perhaps give you “permission” to let go of something.

Once you decide what you can live without, consider donating your items to a worthy charitable group, such as Big Brother, Big Sister or the Salvation Army.

Although many things are now done online, we all still have to deal with paperwork, Palmisano said.

“I have never been in a house without a huge amount of paperwork,” she added. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. And there are ways to handle it.

“Sometime when you are sitting in front of the TV, grab a box and start going through it,” she said. “Make sure to keep a shred pile for anything that has bank, credit card, financial accounts or social security numbers. You do not need to shred utility or other bills that you pay. Those account numbers cannot be used to compromise your identity.

“Gather your tax papers together now,” she added. “Having one folder to hold all taxable receipts you receive throughout the year is another way to save time at this challenging task.”

Another task that often overwhelms her clients, Palmisano said, is organizing photos. Before digital photography, photos were developed at stores and then delivered to customers, whether the photos were in focus or not. (And remember those sleeves that also held the negatives? Too often they get added into the mix without any organization.)

Be judicious and only keep the best ones, Palmisano said. If you don’t know who is in the photo then toss it.

What if it’s not you that is downsizing but your parents or another elderly person in your family?

“It can definitely be tricky,” Palmisano admitted. “Sometimes it helps to have the support of a doctor or social worker.”

Many times it can take up to three years to get into senior housing, she noted. That gives families a chance to take steps to help the senior prepare.

“Go on tours of senior housing to see what the arrangements are and what the benefits are, such as the social activities, the safety of living in a senior development and the fact that someone else will take care of all the maintenance needs,” she said.

No matter if it’s your house or your loved one’s that you are trying to organize, the important thing to remember, Palmisano said, is just get started.

“It always gets harder before it gets easier,” she said. “But once you do it, life will be so much more manageable and less stressful.”

For information on professional organizing services contact Jill Palmisano at 978-821-5261, or at

Here are some places that you can donate your items that you longer wish to keep.

A garage in a state of clutter
A garage in a state of clutter
A clean, stream-lined garage
A clean, stream-lined garage
Shoes unorganized
Shoes unorganized
Shoes organized
Shoes organized







Here are some places that you can donate your items that you no longer wish to keep.

1. Big Brother Big Sister Foundation
2. Salvation Army
3. Habitat for Humanity stores
4. Goodwill
5. To donate books check with your local library, senior center or assisted living facilities.
6. To donate towels and blankets consider your local humane societies.
7. Many women’s shelters will also take donations of household goods.
8. For clothing items that are still in good shape, contact your church to see if they have a St. Vincent de Paul box.
9. For clothing items that are no longer wearable, check your local media for information on organizations such as scouts or schools that will be holding used textile drives. Many times they will also take used blankets, bedding etc.
Many donations are tax-deductible. Be sure to keep an itemized list of what you are donating. You can find IRS Guidelines and donated item values online including at