When spring arrives, most people get either a serious case of spring fever - or, an urgent need to purge and organize. And guess what? There's a pro for that.

We asked Tina Blazer, professional organizer extraordinaire and president of Spot On Organizing (spotonorganizing.com) in Toronto, to tell us how to organize, de-clutter and transform the home or office — and how to maintain this newfound domestic perfection, too.


We often collect and build up piles of old newspapers and magazines we think we'll read again. Make a cut-off period: if you haven't read the material within a week, odds are you won't pick it up again. Recycle these, and if there is an interesting story, rip out those pages and keep a collection of them in a folder. As you organize the rest of your home or office, set aside the items you no longer use to give to charitable organizations. But also accept when an item has outlived its usefulness, for anyone, and simply needs to be taken to the curb.


Much like calling in a professional such as Blazer to help you get your home or office into perfect organizational shape, you may also want to call a professional company to help you assemble all your home organization purchases — especially if you're not the best instruction reader, or if you don't have the time to assemble a product yourself. (These days, who does?) EUREKA! Furniture Assembly & Installations (eurekaassembly.com), based in Toronto, provides on-site home and office furniture assembly and installation at affordable prices. They'll even hang your pictures for you, and they'll likely leave your home looking better than it did when the team arrived.


Organization is much easier to accomplish if your family or partner is on board. "My suggestion is to be in the solution, not thinking about the problem," says Blazer. This is why she includes homeowners in the preliminary organizing work she does, rather than doing everything on her own. The point? Unless you truly feel a part of something, it's likely not a system that's going to work for you for very long.


As in, store vertically, not horizontally. Flat surfaces such as desks, countertops, tables, dressers, and even beds can quickly become permanent homes for piles and piles of stuff. Instead, think of your home or work space as a complete space, and include walls and shelves, not just floors and flat surfaces in your conceptual image. Set up vertical filing systems (magazine files on shelves work well for this) and, in closets, build or purchase custom shelving that uses all the space available, from floor to ceiling. And get creative! Sliding bins under beds, installing double hanging racks in closets and hanging racks over doors to store handbags, belts and other items turns unused space into useful space.


Having an organizational system that works for you is about more than in-boxes, out-boxes, files and storage bins. What's important to consider is where you're storing items and why. Blazer likes her clients to think in terms of what they use, when: daily, weekly and monthly are the three main categories. A hierarchical storage system can then be formulated. As in, the winter coat you won't be using til next year should not be stored in your front hall closet, and the files you only look at monthly don't need to be on top of your desk.


This is especially important when organizing an office. "The biggest hurdle for people in their offices is that they don't book time with themselves — at least once a month — in their planner to take care of filing and editing the piles that have collected," says Blazer. For the home, this means setting aside a small amount of time per week to deal with incoming items, and a larger amount of time per month to deal with more major events, such as seasonal changes.


No matter how hard you try to get and stay organized, if you don't have the correct items to store things in, you'll likely never succeed in the long term. "I would say that space is most dependent on the right storage pieces and using the appropriate containers," says Blazer. So once you take stock of the items you have, it's definitely worth a trip to a home storage solutions centre (or Ikea, which is a veritable cornucopia of home storage solutions) to gather up the shelving units, wardrobes, racks, hangers, bins and files that are going to work for you and your project.


"It is most common for families to have a follow-up session after about three months," says Blazer. "Just to fine tune and have a look at any seasonal items that need to be re-shifted. A yearly maintenance session is also important, in order to address the natural changes that happen, from kids moving to job situations changing from off-site to workat- home." Whole Home organizing can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on how large a house is and how much stuff there is to deal with. An office sort and plan creation costs approximately $225-$450. "Or, a threehour session ($225) gets most people started with sorting a couple of closets or a kitchen. I've never left a client's place after a three-hour session where they haven't said 'Wow, what a difference'."