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Posted on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7 a.m.

Being organized allows for more leisure and time with family

By Judy DiForte


Photo by Donald Adiska, Ovation Photography

The lunch room buzz at the Betty Brigade grew day by day, as more Betties experienced the vision. “You’ll hear angels sing!” they promised.

The legend grew, and one day it was my turn. Following the pet sheet instructions, I unlocked the front door and walked through to the kitchen. I opened the door to the basement, where the cat stayed when the owners were away.

At the bottom of the stairs I turned and…

I think I went into the light. It was all true! I don’t know if any angels sang… but it was a bit of Betty heaven! It was like Christmas! Bastille Day! Well, Groundhog Day at least!


Photo by Donald Adiska, Ovation Photography

Every wall, every corner was clean, tidy and organized. Clear bins in different shapes and sizes held toys, clothing and decorations. Another wall sported shelves with books and movies.

One corner held orderly bikes and other outdoor play equipment. In another zone was exercise equipment, a punching bag and a large mat. Although the basement wasn’t particularly large, there was plenty of room for a ping pong table.

Rarely do we as professional organizers come into such a space that we didn’t organize ourselves.

I should explain that although the Betty Brigade mostly does professional organizing, moving coordination and event planning, we also do errands, pet care, holiday decorating — virtually anything our busy clients need done but don’t have time to do.

So, we didn’t organize the basement featured in this blog. We discovered it when we were there for pet care. So why the fuss?

We celebrate organization when we find it, because we believe it truly leads to a better life. It might sound a little woo-woo, but bear with me. Most of us value our loved ones and our time on the planet more than anything else, right? I posit that being organized enhances our relationships and gives us more time. This is a case in point.

I asked the owner if we could talk with her and take some pictures. She agreed to that, but prefers to remain anonymous. I’ll call her "Kay."

Kay’s tidiness organization grows out of a lifestyle choice, rather than a neatness compulsion. Time with her husband and 11-year-old daughter is her priority, and organization serves that end.

"I don’t want the time I have with my family to get shortened because I'm bothered by finding things or making sure things are clean and not broken," she explained.

"I wouldn’t put a broken thing away; I wouldn’t put a dirty thing away. If I have an hour to spend time with my child, I don’t want that pared down to 40 minutes because I couldn’t find the toys she wanted to play with."

Kay’s husband travels a lot, so much of the time she operates as a single parent. "I have to stay on top of things, because there’s no way to catch up if I get behind."

Most people have a point on the messiness "continuum" at which they become uncomfortable and eventually stressed out because of the clutter. Where was that point for Kay?

"The measure of my stress," she said, "is determined by my kitchen counter. When the family comes in, we usually come into the kitchen from the garage door, so the counter is the natural place for things to go — groceries, school papers, things like that."

Those things stay there until they get put where they belong. "The kitchen counter is rarely beautifully blank."

Aside from the kitchen counter, is everything in the house organized? Well, yes and no. Kay has a small section in the basement with boxes and bins that still need to be sorted through. Why not just put them away with the other stuff?

"I don't want what’s done and what's not done to get mixed together," she explained.

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Photo by Donald Adiska, Ovation Photography

"What’s done" means items have been cleaned, sorted, repaired and put away. Many clients who call us for organizing help have often not defined where their things belong. How can you put anything away when it doesn’t have a place to go? It sounds simple and basic — and it is. But it's surprising how often we don't operate our households on those basic rules.

I wondered what Kay thought of households in which chaos reigns — where clutter and possessions have the upper hand because the owner has trouble letting go of items. "I don't have a personal connection to my stuff," Kay said.

She added that certain possessions do have sentimental value for her. Still, "If our house went up in flames, I’d be happy as long as my family was safe."

Overall, being organized "makes my family's life easier."

Seeing an organized space is inspiring. We Betties look for opportunities to catch someone in the act of being organized! If you or someone you know has a tidy and organized home, office or room, let me know.

How does it make you feel to be in such a place? Better yet, email a photo!

Judy DiForte is a professional organizer at The Betty Brigade, an Ann Arbor-based relocation, orgnaizing and event planning company. Email her at


Judy DiForte

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Kay herself agrees with the first comment -- who needs that much stuff?! I do want to point out that the photos make it look like more stuff than there actually is. The first two photos show much of the same stuff -- just from different angles -- so that might be a little misleading. I think the third comment makes some great suggestions. We all tend to get overwhelmed by our stuff once it gets a little out of control. Tackling the project in small "bites" is a great way to make progress without trying to do it all at once. Also, small successes give us the confidence to keep going.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

many people cannot afford to hire professional organizers nor afford a lot of pretty bins and shelves. However I have found that the best way to organize is to start with the smallest closet in the house, bathroom or even a kicthen drawer. Go through it, throw out, recycle, rehome, resale, donate etc most of it. I also watch hoarding shows religiously, it's great motivation to dust during commercials and organize something for fear you will be like the people on the show. I also have a garage sale every year and make multiple trips to the salvation army to purge all while bring less items into the home.

Jake C

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

My guess is that most people already have that much "stuff", it's just not neatly organized and lined up like that so we have no idea how much "stuff" we really have.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Yes, "Kay's" basement is beautifully organized, and I admit I am a little jealous, but, my god, who needs that much "stuff?"