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In organizing, focus on the 20 percent

Organizing a closet can be a daunting task, and Emily Fitzgerald, a local certified professional organizer, says that’s because it taxes people’s emotions as well as their time.

One way to get around the emotional pull of items, she says, is remembering what she calls “the 80-20 rule” – we use only 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time.

The principle is well researched, she notes, and “anytime you can add objectivity to an emotional process, it becomes easier.”

The rule doesn’t mean you have to get rid of the 80 percent, Fitzgerald says. But it does mean focusing on the 20 percent.

“You don’t go at it from a feeling of loss and deprival,” she says. “Focus on keeping what’s important to you.”

Here are more of her tips:

Sort into four piles -- keep, donate, repair, toss. If it’s out of style, has no chance of fitting, doesn’t suit your life anymore or you haven’t worn it in a couple of years, get rid of it. If you donate to someone or a cause you believe in, donating things gets easier, Fitzgerald says. Don’t keep something just because someone gave it to you or because of what it cost.

Remove bulky items. Store luggage, bedding or sporting equipment elsewhere. Don’t store luggage empty – store smaller pieces inside larger ones, and use smaller pieces to store handbags.

Use organizing tools. Baskets, boxes, caddies, multiple hangers, shoe organizers to keep shoes off the floor, a laundry hamper – all cut down on closet clutter.

Don’t hang sweaters. Fold and use shelves or a hanging organizer. Use plastic or cardboard dividers between individual shelved items.

Hang belts, scarves and ties. Easy viewing access of these is a plus.

Organize clothing. Fitzgerald says she prefers to hang by season first, then item type, style and color to make it easier to dress. Others like to hang by outfit.

Don’t store unrelated items in the same closet. Kitchenware doesn’t belong in a bedroom closet.

Have someone work with you. “Sometimes it’s challenging to do your own stuff,” Fitzgerald says. “Sometimes it helps just to tell the story of an item to another person to free you up to get rid of it.”

Expect organizing to be a continuing process. Take time to put things back where they belong, and periodically take inventory. Keep a bag or basket in your closet for future donations.