Of the Baker City Herald

Betty Spooner keeps two places organized her home and the preschool where she teaches at the First Presbyterian Church.

Her secret is that she doesn't let clutter get ahead of her.

andquot;Just making sure every day something is done so it's kept up on,andquot; she says.

But when she does feel the need to regain a sense of order, she starts with a plan.

andquot;It's organizing it first in your mind,andquot; she says.

Then, tackle only one project at a time, and finish it before moving on to another. Otherwise andquot;you become so overwhelmed that nobody does it,andquot; she says.

Spooner may have an advantage she likes to organize.

andquot;I love everything to be where it's supposed to be. I love it, I thrive on it,andquot; she says.

Her spice cabinet is even alphabetized.

andquot;Starting with Allspice,andquot; she grins.

Not everyone has these same orderly skills.

andquot;People just don't have a lot of time and something has to give a lot of times it's their house,andquot; says Carol Keller, owner of The Organizing Experts in Portland.

Keller is also the vice president of the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

She's built her business on teaching others how to gain a little order in their lives by organizing their homes.

Determine the importance

The first step to organizing is to ascertain what items are most important to save.

andquot;What's overwhelming to people is the big picture, but they have to look at the big picture to find out how they want their life,andquot; Keller says.

Most of her client's houses fit into two categories, she says.

andquot;When I go into someone's home, it's either the entire home, or one room. Then you get down to why this is happening,andquot; Keller says.

Sometimes the clutter is the work of one person, and for others it's the result of a major change in the family.

andquot;Either somebody was born, somebody died, somebody got married or somebody moved,andquot; she says.

Her advice echoes Spooner's: The key to tackling the project is to start small.

andquot;If it's a drawer full of stuff, start with that drawer. I ask people to pick one room to organize that would make them the happiest,andquot; Keller says. andquot;But people need to finish what they start.andquot;

First things first, though you need to sift through everything that contributes to the mess.

andquot;And saying, 'Do I really need all this?'andquot; Keller says. andquot;Another thing I tell people is you can keep what you have room for. If they have a gazillion books, but have that many bookshelves, I don't have a problem with that.andquot;

Sort it into piles

The easiest way to begin is to start sorting stuff into piles: one to keep, one to throw away, one to donate and one to move to another part of the house.

andquot;When they're done, the keeping (pile) goes back in the drawer and everything else goes,andquot; Keller says.

Clothes and books are toughest to toss, she says.

That's where an impartial opinion may help.

andquot;It's not my stuff I'm not related to it,andquot; Keller says. andquot;When it's your own things, there's emotions and money involved.andquot;

For items that are to be saved, something as simple as labeled storage containers may be the answer.

The trick, Keller says, is to determine where the containers should be located to complement the family's habits.

andquot;If everyone dumps their shoes and backpack by the back door, that's where they need the storage,andquot; she says. andquot;If it's not easy to put away, people won't put it away.andquot;

Containers should also reflect the decor of the home clear plastic boxes may be fine for a backroom, but might not look too nice in a living room.

Smaller storables

If you get three really good pictures from a roll a film, what happens to the rest of the prints? Are they filed and forgotten in a drawer?

Start by dividing the photos into groups either by person, year or family, and then store those in separate boxes andquot;until they have the time to get them into albums,andquot; Keller says.

Sifting through the piles of pictures also helps weed out the bad photos or duplicates that don't really need to be saved.

andquot;I would encourage people to be really selective and just keep the best ones,andquot; Keller says.

The same concept applies to recipe cards.

andquot;The first thing is to collect them from all over the house and corral them. Then you can sort and purge choose your favorites,andquot; Keller says.

This advice can be applied to nearly anything that clutters up a home, and the main objective of organizing is to cut back on what you really need to keep around.

andquot;It's about excess,andquot; Keller says.