Organization is about the big picture for Fletcher

Follow these tips to help get your home organized for 2011
By: Gloria Young, Home & Garden
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Auburn resident Shelly Fletcher says she was born organized.

“Part of it is being able to see the big picture — seeing how everything fits in a whole,” she said. “That’s the skill most organizers have.”

Fletcher, a retired Placer County employee, now shares her expertise through talks to local groups and at her website —

Even as a child, she appreciated order.

“I used to go to the hardware store with my dad when I was a young girl and I loved looking at all the nuts and bolts in the right containers and by size and by color,” she said. “The same thing going into a fabric store where you see everything in order. It just speaks to me.”

She was always the one to organize and coordinate events — at school or in the neighborhood. Even her career with the county meshed with that role.

“I was an organizational development manager,” she said. “The job required me to train employees and coordinate county employee functions such as conferences, recognition ceremonies and stuff like that.”

Not surprisingly, the job required lots of organizational skills.

Fletcher says the key to organizing clutter is keeping like things together.

“I call it pile management,” she said. “You create piles of similar things — office things in one pile, sports things in one pile, clothes to be repaired or laundered in another pile. Then you can start getting a handle on it.”

Another rule of thumb is when you bring something in, you should take something out.

“Don’t over load your life with things unless you can handle it,” she said. “There’s a good quote I head from another organizer — stuff expands to fill the space.”

The beginning of a new year provides impetus to get organized. And that’s a good thing. But be careful not to put the cart before the horse — in other words, don’t make the mistake of buying the containers first. Wait until you know what you have.

“After you put things into piles, then go into the organizing phase,” she explained.

For magazines, she recommends reading and tossing.

“Magazines are cyclical,” she said. “The same articles and topics come out every year and you can get most of it online, so why keep them.”

When Fletcher goes through her magazines, she’s armed with scissors and a pen.

 “I tear out and cut out what I want to save,” she said. “Those clippings get scanned into my computer and saved for future reference. I always ask if I can get this from another source. If I can, then why keep it.”

Clothing getting out of hand?

“Organizing closets is one of the easiest things to do,” she said. “You can organize by season. I have my winter clothes in the closet now and summer clothes are in storage in the basement.”

Organize apparel by tops and bottoms or by color.

“A good technique, if you want to start whittling down clothes, is to bring in a very good friend,” she said. “Put on the clothing and have the friend tell you if you look good in it or not. Think of all the people who could use that piece of clothing and then donate it to a group or local thrift shop.”

For mail and paperwork, she suggests a “landing pad.”

“It might be a basket. It might be a designated area on the counter,” she said. “It could be in a drawer — a designated place for all papers coming into the home.

That includes mail, newspapers, kids’ paperwork from school. … Then, when time allows, you can go through it and take care of the pieces. At least you know here it is.”

Fletcher uses plastic food containers and Ziploc bags to organize things like office supplies, medications and jewelry.

Her husband even uses them for drill bits in his workshop. Plastic project pockets are good for sorting bills and keeping them together

“I also use small plastic baskets — the ones you find at the dollar store,” she said. “I use them in the freezer to separate frozen vegetables from meats. The air circulates through them because they are open sided.”

For the pantry, it’s a matter of zoning.

“Have a zone where pastas are kept, where canned soups are kept and where the baking foods are kept,” she said. “In those zones, you can use those plastic baskets, containers or Ziploc bags. The key is using containers.”

For organizing your life, Fletcher recommends keeping a to-do list.

“When I think of something, I call my voicemail and leave a message,” Fletcher explained. “Or I send myself a text. When I get home, I’ll enter it on my calendar and take care of it. You can capture it through e-mail, voice or text. In the message line type “to-do.” When you get back to the office or home, you can bring up all the messages that say “to-do” and that’s your to-do list.”

Reach Gloria Young at


Learn to straighten up

Shelly Fletcher will offer the following classes through the Placer School for Adults:

• Let’s Get Organized, 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 5, at Placer High School.

• Creating the Organized Office, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Placer High School

The sessions are $37 each per person.  For more information, see the Placer School for Adults catalog at

For more information on getting organized and to read Shelly Fletcher’s monthly newsletter, see