ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Professional organizer Susan Parziale, left, talks with client Liana Bevilacqua before organizing the bottom of her closet.
By BILL BROTHERTON
LYNNFIELD — Every year we make New Year’s resolutions. Every year we fail to honor them.
We vow to lose weight. We promise to exercise more. We pledge to treat people better.
We usually fall short.
The key is to get organized, says Susan Parziale, a Lynnfield-based member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, she says, but focusing on one small part — cleaning out the junk drawer, tossing out clothes you haven’t worn in years — of a massive project makes even the most daunting task manageable.
“People look at too much. They think of it as a whole, instead of breaking it down,” she said. “It’s better to say, ‘This is the weekend we’ll tackle this part of the basement’ rather than look at the entire basement and not know where to start. That’s how projects get put off.
“It’s important to purge. Sell it. Donate it. Recycle it. Have a yard sale,” said Parziale, who has helped moms organize their homes and lives and assisted executives to tailor their offices to best suit their needs. She has also overseen estate sales and helped homeowners downsize. “If you don’t need it, get rid of it,” she said.
Parziale started her business, Organizing Offices & Homes LLC, in 2008, when her daughter Jenna entered a private autism school in Bedford. During the drives back and forth, she thought of the many moms like her who were overwhelmed and needed support and help simplifying their lives. The Medford native networked and advertised her services; success came immediately. She even appeared on the popular TV show “20/20” with “Shark Tank” bigwig Kevin O’Leary, discussing how she organized a 3,000-bottle wine cellar for him and five of his buddies.
There’s a sign in the office in Parziale’s split-level: “If you give it a home you will always find it.” She shows off the “junk drawer” near the kitchen sink; everything is in its place, organized nicely in a series of small wire baskets.
Discipline is key, she added. “If your mother gives you a beautiful piece of furniture, something that’s important to her to keep in the family, and you don’t want it, tell her so.” Parziale said the promise of big dining room sets, clunky sofas and silver services don’t excite this generation. “Our kids don’t want this stuff. We live in an IKEA world,” she said.
This day, Parziale is helping one of her neighbors, Liana Bevilacqua, organize the hall closet. Her 3- and 4-year-old sons’ shoes, flip-flops, slippers and sneakers are in a heap on the floor. Parziale produces a two-shelf wheeled cart that fits in the closet, and the women arrange the sneakers two-by-two. “I can put the slippers and flip-flops in their bedroom closet,” said Bevilacqua.
A lack of closet and storage space in her home is a real challenge, said Bevilacqua, adding that Parziale’s organizing skills have been most helpful.
Parziale reached out to her Facebook friends, asking what their top 2017 resolution would be. The answer — organizing old photographs — surprised her a bit. It’s not necessary to scan them, she insists, emphasizing that it’s wise to sort through small piles of pictures at a time, separating duplicates and pitching photos of exes that you don’t want to see again.
“Take a pile out and go through them together. Do it with your family. You’ll share lots of laughs and memories,” said Parziale. “Make sure you write on the back who is in the photo, where and when it was taken.” She suggests organizing pics by year, then putting them in separate boxes. Negatives should be stored at a relative’s house, she adds, in case fire destroys your home.
What if spouses and families can’t agree on what to toss? “Compromise,” said Parziale, adding that her husband Jonathan was willing to sacrifice some but not all of his baseball cards and “Star Wars” memorabilia. Should you throw something out without the other’s consent? Wouldn’t that be a sure way to ensure that photos of you could end up in the exes pile?
Parziale smiled. “Doing this together, and compromise, they are the most important things.”
Here are Susan Parziale’s 10 top tips for getting organized in 2017:
↦ Be mindful when getting the mail. Put bills in a bill basket (If you do not have one, create one. The dollar-store baskets are the best); put junk mail in the recycling bin and magazines in a rack or basket. When you receive coupons in the mail, tear them out immediately and put them in an envelope that will stay in your car or purse.
↦ Take 10 minutes each week to tackle the junk drawer.
↦ Use a calendar — paper or electronic — but use just one.
↦ Food shopping: Keep a magnet memo pad on the fridge or mount inside of a cabinet for when you run out of an item. Just jot it down, tear it off and bring the list with you to the market.
↦ Are all of your plastic storage containers mismatched? If so, toss them all in the recycling bin and buy a matching set. That will save you time finding the lid to a container.
↦ If you have a bunch of recipes that you pulled out of magazines, buy a binder at Staples or a similar store, add some tables and, voila, you have your own binder of your favorites.
↦ You know those felt hangers you see at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls or Christmas Tree Shop? They are the very best for doubling the storage in your closet and nothing falls from the hangers.
↦ Sell your unwanted items on Craigslist, Etsy, the popular Yard Sale pages on Facebook and other classified ad vehicles. If you are never going to use it again, sell it! Saving it for your children is a mistake; trust me, they don’t want it.
↦ Some of the best organizing systems around come from IKEA. They are inexpensive and look fantastic. You probably have more storage than you think in your home. What about your garage? You can buy inexpensive wire wall shelving and line your entire garage to store holiday decor, memorabilia and sports equipment. Storing these items in clear plastic locking bins ensures their safety from the elements.
↦ Keep a bag in each closet if possible for clothing you will never wear again; bag it up and drop it off at Goodwill, Salvation Army or other thrift stores.
Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor; he can be reached at [email protected]