TAMPA — Susan Layden has been a neat freak ever since she was raised as the middle child in a family of five children. She was in charge of keeping things clean. She was the neat one.
She’s always been that way. Everything has a place, even if that place is at a local hospice or, sometimes, the dumpster.
Layden’s home is immaculate. Not a crumb in sight, not a newspaper or magazine out of place. The dishes are arranged by size and everything is spick-and-span. Nothing out of place, no laundry on the floor. It’s simply in perfect shape, and Layden said it isn’t as hard as it might look to keep it that way.
She is the owner of Susan’s Organizing Solutions, her own private business that helps organize a home. In her words, she “ends chaos, creates order and finds peace.”
Layden, who has a master’s degree in speech pathology, has never seen anything out of place that she didn’t want to put away. She’s lived in the Carrollwood area for more than 28 years and, except for the occasional pizza box left on the table by her son, her place has never been anything but spotless.
The thing that might baffle most hoarders and parents of young children is that Layden said it is easy and comes with common sense.
“The first thing, if you have children, is don’t have an overabundance of things,” Layden said. “Sometimes you have to get rid of something. Kids get way too many toys. There’s always a place for them, but they have too much stuff.”
For starters, Layden said it’s best to just let the kids open a few presents at a time and limit the amount of kids invited to their birthday parties. There will be more of a “wow” factor, she said, if you let them open them a few at a time. And most importantly, let the kids put their toys away when they are done with them instead of letting them accumulate. She doesn’t like the idea of toy boxes since they let kids go through them and empty them out, and they don’t always want to put them away.
She also has plenty of advice on how adults can police themselves. Having a shredder, for instance, is a great way to eliminate all of the junk mail and unwanted paper that accumulates around the house. Mail, she said should be opened each day, and the unwanted mail sent directly to the shredder.
“It’s the little things that take a few minutes a day that prevent clutter,” Layden said. “Get rid of everything you don’t need and don’t let it pile up. It’s really easy.”
She always told her kids that they couldn’t play with any new toys until they put away the ones they were finished playing with. “If it is easy to play with, it is easy to put away,” she said.
Many of Layden’s clients are “hoarders” who keep every possession they have ever owned. Layden was a guest on an episode of A&E’s “Hoarders” several years ago. Some of the hoarders are elderly folks who simply need to downsize in order to move to a smaller home. It isn’t easy, Layden knows, to get rid of family treasures, so she helps find a way to store those items and get rid of the things that are simply taking up space.
“Hoarding is a psychological challenge,” Layden said. “The hoarders have to acknowledge that it is a problem. Sometimes you need a team of people, family members and friends to decide where things are going to go, but there are always churches looking for furniture and clothing.”
As for Layden, she loves cleaning even if most people don’t. “It’s a habit,” she said. “I love what I do.”
To contact Susan’s Organizing Solutions LLC, call (813) 503-0967, or check her website at www.orghelp4u.com.