WILLMAR – Gretchen Otness definitely practices what she preaches.

Walking into her Willmar home is like taking a breath of fresh – very organized – air.

A professional organizer who started her own business, MODE Organizing, in 2019, Otness said her goal is to help others “get in the mode and out of the mess” by taking practical steps to live in homes that are tidy, clutter-free and yet homey and inviting.

Otness said organizing “comes naturally” for her and she thrives on blending her passion for being organized with her client’s needs “for a little help in their homes.”

The COVID-19 pandemic that has kept most people homebound has led to widespread purging of possessions. People realized “how closed in they can feel in their homes” when they’re working, going to school, eating and playing in their homes all day long, Otness said.

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The pandemic is providing an opportunity for people to think about what they “really need” versus what they have “just accumulated,” said Otness. “We look at their homes in a different way.”

Getting organized doesn’t mean getting rid of everything. Otness said there is a “happy medium” of eliminating excess stuff that can cause stress and experiencing “joy” in having possessions.

“Be as honest with yourself as possible about keeping what you truly use and need and being OK with letting go of the rest,” said Otness, who encourages people to tackle organizing in “bite-sized chunks” by doing one drawer or cupboard a day.

Otness is not a fan of putting excess possessions in storage units. “They’re just simply a place to hold onto stuff because we can’t make the decision,” she said.

Heirlooms and antiques may be hard to part with. But if keeping something is “more of a burden than a blessing” Otness suggests taking a photo of the item, savoring the memories associated with it and then “be OK with letting go of that guilt” while letting go of the memento.

The name of her business – MODE – stands for Minimize, Organize, Design and Efficiency.

She uses those tools and the mantra of “a place for everything and everything in its place” when working with clients no matter how big or small of a space they need help with.

Spending more time cooking in the kitchen during COVID-19 has resulted in remodeling projects for some. But Otness said organizing the space you have can also create a more usable and efficient space.

Otness shares her advice for reducing the kitchen clutter.

1. Put what you use most often, like dishes and silverware, in the “go zone” between eye and waist level. Keep less-used items, like small appliances, in the highest and lowest spaces.

2. Remove dry goods and pantry items, like, pasta, beans, flours and rice from original packaging and put into jars and bins for better organization and a visual cue on when to put items on the grocery list.

3. Shop your home. Use things you already have, like baskets, trays, bowls and vases for other uses, like a utensil holder by your stove or a decorative bowl for produce on the counter.

4. A Lazy Susan can help utilize space in deep shelves while keeping everything accessible.

5. Eliminate the junk drawer and replace it with a utility drawer that houses smaller needed tools like batteries and flashlight, and omit things, like Band-Aids, hair ties and pens that belong in a different area of the home.

6. Spend 60 seconds now to save hours later. Put a recycling item into the bin as soon as the container is empty, go through your mail as you bring it in the house, do the dishes before the end of each day, wipe up spills right away and put away all groceries as soon as you bring them in.

7. A clear counter = a clear mind. A cluttered counter creates stress and anxiety.

To learn more about home organizing, Otness can be reached at:

Email: gretchen@modeorganizing.com

Website: www.modeorganizing.com

Instagram: @modeorganizing

Facebook: @MODEOrganizing