Getting Real About Organizing

With Efficient Organization’s Monika Kristofferson

Nothing says Spring Cleaning like getting your living and work spaces organized. It something I struggle with in a major way, and I know many of you do too. That is why, when it came to doing the special feature on organization, I went to an expert in the area.

Monika Kristofferson of Efficient Organization is a, you guessed it, professional organizer based out of Lake Stevens. She has years and years of experience seeing and learning about both disorganization and organization, as well as the causes and feelings associated with both.

After interviewing with her, and having the opportunity to check out her spotlessly organized home, I got inspired. While my little kitchen peninsula project (Pg 18) may not seem like much, it was a huge baby step for me and exactly what Monika suggests.

Enough from me though, your hear to learn more from the expert, so here she is …

Why do you think people put off organizing and cleaning out problem areas or their homes?

In my experience, many people end up with cluttered homes because they were dealing with one or more major life changes. Common issues are a move, a new job, an illness in the family, helping an aging relative, a divorce or a death. During that time, their focus and energy had to go toward whatever they were dealing with and many other things in life had to fall to the back burner, such as dealing with paper piles and clutter accumulations.

After adjustments have been made from the life changes, people look around and see things that piled up and become overwhelmed. They are ready to get order back into their lives, but they don’t know where or how to start. Looking at the stacks zaps their energy before they even touch anything.

Since they don’t know where to start, they don’t.

What does the decision to put off organization cost people, how does it affect their lives?

Putting off dealing with clutter and disorganization affects people in so many ways. It’s not just about having too much stuff in a closet.

When people don’t take the time, energy and effort to de clutter and organize, it can create a lot of negative feelings such as stress, embarrassment, and even anger. It can also [lead to] isolation if they [become] worried about what other people will think if they come into their home.

Clutter can also [have a financial cost], if you have to replace items that have been misplaced. And when you can’t find what you need, it eats away at our time while we search for it which is usually also going to come with another dose of stress.

Clutter can also cost [you in other ways], financially if you have to replace items that have been misplaced and [time] when you can’t find what you need.

How can being more organized make your life better, what do you get out of it?

When people de clutter their homes there are tremendous benefits. They feel in control of their surroundings and they can create a haven, their home [becomes a place to] enjoy instead of it being a source of stress. It’s very empowering to realize that you can take your home back and you can even invite people to enjoy it with you.

People can find what they need quickly and they can restore order if things have gotten messy because now they know where everything goes. They can save money when they know their inventory on items like food in the pantry instead of buying [because] they can’t remember what they have or they can’t see it.

When it comes to getting organized what are the hardest and easiest decisions for people to make?

When I’m working with people, they have gotten to a point where they are ready for change and they are ready to have someone help them make those changes. So, when I’m by their side, they typically make pretty quick decisions about what to let go of. I’m not there to tell people what to get rid of or what to keep, but I am there to help them through the process, stay focused and make the best decisions they can for themselves at that time for what they choose to keep.

Easy decisions on what to purge for most people: Expired food, tea and spices, although they often feel bad about the money that was wasted by not being organized. Things that are broken, items they haven’t used for years, empty cardboard boxes, clothing they no longer wear.

Hardest decisions-gifts from other people. Going through boxes after someone has died can be difficult. In my experience, enough time has to go by for people to be ready to open those boxes and make decisions. That time is going to be different for everyone.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you think people make when it comes to organizing in terms of how they are doing it, time spent, etc.?

There are two major mistakes that I see when people are de cluttering and organizing on their own.

One is thinking they will take a whole weekend and organize some area of the home. Chances are good that there is never going to be that weekend where you want to put off everything else and just organize, so then it never gets done.

It is much better to break a space into manageable pieces and tackle one area at a time. You’ll make progress and you won’t get burned out.

The other mistake is not staying in the area that people intend to work on. Let’s say the goal for the day is to organize the kitchen pantry, but instead of staying in the kitchen, someone may wander off to the bedroom and start cleaning in there.

It’s called zigzag organizing and in the end, neither space is completed.

Can you provide an overview of what systems for organization are, and some basic info about what the most common or most helpful ones are in a home/work space?

After de cluttering, it’s time to put systems in place so you and the people in your family know where things go.

Systems should be simple and easy to use. Don’t make it complicated or it is less likely to be used. Items of the same type should be stored together. Wrapping paper is stored with wrapping paper, scissors with scissors, vases with vases, etc. Whenever you can, store items in something to corral them. You can use baskets, bins, crates, shoe boxes and trays. The icing on the cake-add labels.

In a home/work space, it’s very helpful to have a basket or tray for paper that needs to be processed. This keeps it in one place and puts a cap on how much can build up. To have a flow, it’s important to know exactly where everything goes. From where the paper first lands to be processed until you are done with it.

Tools that are helpful include an ‘Action System’ for paper you are actively working on, a well-labeled file cabinet for paper you are keeping as a future resource or reference, [and] a recycle bin and a shredder [for things you no longer need].

How can outside help, like your services, help make the process easier and more effective?

Working with a professional has a variety of benefits.

First, we’ve seen it all, and, no, you’re not going to be the worst we’ve ever seen. A professional organizer will know how to guide someone through the process, will have many resources at their disposal.

Having an appointment scheduled will provide accountability that you have a specific date and time set aside to work on your project and a professional organizer will help you stay focused.

Best of all, you’ll receive support, motivation and someone cheering for your success.

What is the general process that clients go through when hiring and working with you/what is included in your services?

When I work with new clients, the first step before we meet in person is to fill out [a] short, email questionnaire. The questions are designed to get people thinking about where they need help and the benefits they can enjoy when their project is complete. It also provides information I will need to be better prepared for our face-to-face meeting.

At the in-person consultation I share tip sheets and resources, we look at all of the areas where someone needs help, and then I type up an organizing plan. If a client chooses to work on their own from the plan, I check in with them two weeks later to see how things are coming along.

Most people prefer having me return to work side-by-side. The process looks much like you may have seen on TV with labeled bags for items clients are getting rid of. Then we implement organizing systems that work for their style, taste and habits.

Want help getting organized, let Monika be your helping hand. Reach out to via her at and check out her books on Amazon (or via her website locally.

Did you know that this article, as well as all of the others featured on our website are part of a monthly magazine. It is all about shopping, eating, drinking, and playing local in Snohomish County. More importantly, it is about the ways that local choices can make your life better. Our monthly magazine is available in both electronic and print form (yes, you read right, print!). As if that wasn’t awesome enough, each issue contains exclusive content that can’t be found on our website or social media accounts. So if you aren’t getting a copy each month you are missing out.

Single issues can be bought HERE and annual subscriptions, which include exclusive giveaways and discounts, can be signed up for HERE. Finally, a limited number of printed copies are available at The Chic Boatique and Artisans Mercantile in Snohomish and Reclaimed Heart in Arlington, Vintage Company No. 7 in Bothell, Dahlia’s Vintage Marketplace on Camano Island, and Rustic Redemption in Granite Falls.

Let us know what you think! Share your comments and experiences below and don’t forget to spread the love on social media at the bottom of the page.

1 Comment

  1. Jeanne

    I love the storm before the calm – that’s organizing! You know if you keep going the calm is going to come. Great article and so many great tips from Monika!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *