Noe Valley Voice December-January 2010

Slow Down to Make Room for What Matters in 2011

By Debra Baida 

With January just around the corner, and with a mountain of photographs threatening to land us on A&E’s Hoarders show, the Voice asked professional organizer ­Debra Baida to share a few tips on organizing in the new year. We’re happy she obliged. Now we have hope.

The beginning of a new year presents a fine occasion to hit the proverbial reset button and get oneself back on track or onto a new course altogether. It is a time of new beginnings and in many ways, too, a revisiting of the old.

So as the last of the holiday season’s nogs and bubbles are sipped and the glitter and pine needles are swept away, allow yourself to slow down and sit down to think about your resolutions and goals for the new year. What habits and ways are you ready to shed or revise? What will you add? 

If you are like many, getting organized may be on your list. Perhaps it’s made an appearance in years past, and maybe this time, this year, you are ready to liberate those physical, mental, or emotional obstacles that may be hindering your efforts to focus on the things in life that matter.

So where to start? Pull out a piece of paper and jot down your goals. Putting them in writing often changes your relationship to them: they suddenly become more real.

Set realistic and attainable goals. From your list, identify no more than two or three areas where you wish to make change. The lower the number, the more likely you can accomplish these goals first and cross them off the list, thereby making room for the next two or three.

Start with the task that will provide you with the greatest impact or sense of accomplishment. If clearing your desk will enable you to create the space to begin writing your novel, start with the desk. Likewise, if cleaning out and organizing the kitchen junk drawer will deliver a sense of relief, then by all means, let that be goal number one.

Commit time and effort to make your resolution a reality. As with anything in life, you make progress and achieve success when you commit to the process. Open your calendar and pick a start date and time. Schedule a regular 15- or 30-minute session with (and for!) yourself to ­organize each week. If you can do more, by all means, go crazy. You have to start somewhere, because, trust me, these things don’t happen on their own!

Focus on one project or area at a time. If you start with the piles of paper, stay with the piles of papers until they are done. Period.

Steady and slow wins the race. In organizing, there is no race. Steady and consistent progress—even if it happens at a pace slower than anticipated—will get you to your goal. It’s a step-by-step, or if you prefer a food metaphor, a bite-by-bite process.

As you set forth on the path of organization, remember to be gentle with yourself and patient with the journey. Getting organized, like any other resolution on your list—be it achieving better life-work balance, losing weight, working out more, eating healthy, or saving money—requires a change of pattern and habit. It entails bringing in and adapting something new and requires you to slow down so you can absorb it.

Onward, as you savor each slow and intentional sip of the new year!


Guerrero Street resident Debra Baida is founder of Liberated Spaces ( She’s also the first professional organizer to be certified by the San Francisco Green Business Program.