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A new year is a good time to get your home organized
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There's that drawer in the kitchen that you dread going into.

You know the one — it's crammed with pens that may or may not work, old coupons and a few random tools. There may even be some paperclips and a ball of string tucked in the back, too.

Well, if the messy contents of that drawer — or, of your entire house — put a pit in your stomach, you're not alone. January is National Get Organized Month, thanks to millions of Americans who have too much stuff strewn about the house.

So with a new year comes a new start.

Dawn McCloskey, owner of Ultra Organized, a Cumming business that specializes in helping people organize their homes and their lives, recommended those of us with a messy side take the cleanup slow — but stick with it.

"I suggest they take baby steps, instead of tackling an entire room" she said of the advice she gives her clients, who usually call her when they're feeling overwhelmed by their stuff. "Let's say my New Year's resolution is to tackle a kitchen - I say tackle a drawer. It's a small area."

The idea, she said, is similar to going on a diet. You not only need to change what you eat, but you need to change how you eat. Cleaning up and getting organized, she said, involves changing your lifestyle.

"Just like you did not gain the weight overnight, you're not going to get organized overnight," she said.

Catherine Gentile, public relations manager for Bed, Bath and Beyond, suggested starting your organizing with the basics and moving on from there.

For example, expandable, spring-loaded drawer dividers partition drawers the way you want, making things easier to find.

She and McCloskey also swear by clear plastic storage bins, which allow you to label the contents and quickly store away odd-sized items.

"Put a label on the storage piece so you know what's in it and won't have to pull it down from the attic only to find it's not what you were looking for," Gentile said.

"If out-of-sight, out-of-mind isn't your style, try a clear storage item that eliminates the guess work," she added. "If you need constant access, consider a canvas utility tote."

The tote can hold shoes next to the front door, hold oversized items on kitchen shelves or hang in your bedroom or linen closet for easy access to stored items.

But above all, make time to get yourself organized.

McCloskey said it takes 30 days to establish a new habit, and if you're looking to get organized, this new lifestyle needs to include to-do lists and a few minutes each day to put things away.

Gentile agreed.

"Make sure you have enough time — even if you organize one room at a time," she said. "We have all been in the situation where we start off with the best intentions but eventually wind up putting things back where we took them out of - the same way they were when we started.

"Allowing yourself time will allow you to organize your space in the best way that works for you and eventually save you precious moments searching for things that can be better spent with friends and family," McCloskey said

"Schedule time for yourself to pay bills — a lot of disorganized people lose money because they do not pay their bills on time," she said. "They suffer bank fees because checks bounce. Get in the habit of paying a few times every month; a lot of disorganized people don't have that routine."

It's also important to keep a calendar — either in a notebook or as part of a smart phone or PDA - to make sure you don't take on too many things.

After all, if you're trying to make time to keep your home and your life organized, one extra task in a day could bump you off track.

"And when something comes up where someone asks you to do (something), you look on your calendar and can say, ‘Sorry, I can't do that, I have an appointment,'" she said. "And that appointment can be spending time with your family, paying bills or having ‘me' time."