OTTAWA -- If you feel you need to wear a hard hat to safely open your cupboards, a team of archaeologists to find anything in your kitchen drawers, or if your closet has more than just skeletons in there, you might appreciate some free advice from a certified professional organizer.

Since I consider myself a ‘certified disorganizer’, I pay close attention to Kathy McEwan’s tips.

McEwan owns “Second Set of Hands”. She earns her living making people feel better in their living spaces. 

“I started Second Set of Hands because I wanted to create a business that helps people gain more time to do the things they love to do,” says McEwan. “I thought if we came in and tidied up people people’s homes, they will have more time with family and friends.”

McEwan says she quickly learned it was not just about tidying up and creating more time. 

“What we do is often life-changing. Having a lot of clutter causes a feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed, and sometimes even depressed.”

Declutter before

Declutter after"Having an organized home brings peace and order into your life. I always say that having an organized home is like having a breath of fresh air, and it is so true.”

McEwan will share her tips in person at the Ottawa Fall Home Show this Thursday through Sunday.

To help you get started on decluttering, McEwan has seven top tips:

1. Focus on one small area and finish it before going on to another

One of the first thing a client says to us when we come in to their home is that they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Don’t look at the big picture, instead focus on one small area that you would like to declutter and organize. For example, start with your kitchen counter or one corner of your storage room.

2. Keep, toss, sell or donate

Go through each item and decide whether or not you want to keep it, sell it, donate it or put it in the garbage/recycle. If you are undecided as to what to do with an item, ask yourself, “Would I buy this today? Have I used it in the last year?” If the answer is no, then it may be time to get rid of it.

When selling items, keep in mind how much money you are going to get for it and the time it takes you to try and sell it. You may find it easier to donate the items to a charity. If you are keeping items for family members, ask the family members if they want them. Often they do not want the items and you find yourself keeping them for no reason. If they want them, have them come and pick them up as soon as possible.

3. Take away items that do not belong

When going through your belongings, if you come across items that do not belong in that space or room, then put those items in boxes and bring them to the proper room. However, don’t put them away. Instead go right back to the room you started organizing. When you are done organizing that area you are working on, then consider organizing the items that didn’t belong in the room.

4. Start organizing

You should now be left with only items that belong in the space you are working in. Time to organize! Categorize your items by putting like items together. For example, put pens with pencils, books with magazines, and make sure all your everyday dishes are together.

5. Use organizing products

You can get really nice and functional products that do not cost a lot of money. For example, expandable kitchen shelves, drawer organizers, lazy Susans/turntables, clear plastic containers, baskets, and so much more.

6. 20 minutes a day

Once you are all organized, take 20 minutes a day to tidy up and put things in their right homes. I would suggest doing this before you go to bed so everything will be in their right places in the morning when you wake up. Make sure there are no items on your stairs or kitchen counters. Tidy up your desk area so only the essentials are left on your desk.You are going to feel amazing!

7. Ask for help

If you find it hard to get started or keep your home organized, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Can your spouse help you? Are your children old enough to do chores? If you are not able to get the help you need, consider hiring professionals that specialize in helping others get their homes and lives organized.