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Lasting Lessons from the Organizing Pro
Remember my amazing organizer friend, Teresa? I’ve written about her before. And again. And again. And sadly, yesterday was my final session with her (at least for now) – because my house is finally – FINALLY! – all organized.
Let me give you a quick review of everything we did together, because in my opinion it was a lot:
- We started off by tackling the kitchen, which remains the longest and most complicated project we had.
- We moved on to the bedroom, where we went through our insane bookshelf o’ crap, and organized a “bonus” bookcase in the living room as well.
- The third visit was spent in the closets – mine and his – completely revamping the way we “do business” in those spaces.
- Fourth (not written about on this blog, since who really wants to see the contents of my bathroom cabinets?) was our bathroom and front coat closet
- In the fifth and final visit, we hit the guest closet, bathroom, and laundry room.
A full 24 hours (total) spent organizing my house, and what do I have to show for it? Clean, neatly presented spaces with functional stations, ample storage (we have room to grow in nearly every space), and a feeling of contentment and peace you can only achieve by coming home to – and maintaining – an organized home.
So what did I learn in our final lesson?
First, she really hit home the concept of making “stations” for things we use regularly – in this closet, you’ll see our “supplies” station for paper towels and TP, our easy in/out station for the Amazon Fresh bags (since those are constantly taken out and replaced), and a red bin that holds miscellaneous sports equipment (now contained and boxed so it’s not lying out everywhere). Everything is visible, so we know when it’s time to restock, but also accessible without having to go in a drawer or box.
I should probably mention at this point that I forgot to take “before” pics on this particular visit – which shows you how much fun we were having drinking coffee and organizing to jolly Christmas music. But had you seen those pictures, you would’ve seen a gigantic wire rack in the guest bathroom, taking up about half the space in there and containing basically nothing but towels and a few guest toiletries. By cleaning out some space under the sink, we were able to get ALL of our guest towels and accouterments placed there, eliminating the need for an outside rack and making the entire space seem neater, cleaner, and larger.
But worry not, wire rack fans: Teresa is a huge proponent (and master) of repurposing useful storage/household items – so we took that rack right over to where it was needed – the bar! – and created a stacking system for our empty growlers, bar trays, towels, and mixers. This freed up almost an entire person-size area behind the bar (you know, so someone could actually tend said bar) and made it look even more professional and functional, which I love, since I do have a huge bar in the middle of the living room.
And finally – not to be forgotten – our little laundry room. It was noted that we were barely using the (massive) cabinets above the washer and dryer, yet we were cramming towels and other cleaning products under the guest bathroom sink (which, as you’ll note above, is now a minimalist haven of the bare necessities). We were able to split up the cabinet areas into “laundry supplies” (over the washer) and cleaning supplies/spare towels (over the dryer) – meaning nothing is sitting on top of the washer/dryer anymore, the space itself is clear and open, and we will never be stuck looking for a dust rag again (they’re all contained in that cute little chevron bin, rather than a crappy pile of stained and dirty rags).
So again – what did I learn from the past two months of having a pro come in and work on my house? In summary, the top five takeaways from this amazing experience:
- A place for everything and everything in its place. Nothing in your house should be put there at random – be intentional with where you store things, don’t let piles build up simply out of convenience, and make sure to always return items to their proper place as quickly as possible to maintain the order.
- Use storage wisely. Storage is not a place for junk and crap; rather, storage is a beautiful empty zone where you can put things you don’t want visibily cluttering up your home. “Storage” is not a synonym for “donation pile” or “garbage,” and the latter two should be dealt with appropriately.
- Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. I have a cookie tin full of coffee supplies. I have two desk organizers on my bathroom countertop, and I have a mudroom shelf holding our towels. Don’t get hung up on what pieces are “supposed” to be used for or what room they’re designed for; use the items you already have in the house in ways that are outside the box and you’ll find that even ugly things can be beautiful when used for a noble purpose (i.e., organization).
- Make a to-do list and don’t move on until it’s done. Each week, Teresa would leave me with a checklist of items for each area (get over-the-door hooks, organize the coats by length, put dresses in a garment bag) and we wouldn’t move on to the next room/area until we had completely finished the one before. No projects went half-assed or sorta-done. It took more time (and at times, more money – those velvet hangers ain’t cheap, people), but I was so much happier.
- Let utility be your guide. Do you keep your coffee maker in one corner of the kitchen? Then your mugs, creamers, and filters should be there also. Do you wash your clothes in the laundry room but fold them in the bedroom? Keep a small table in your bedroom so you don’t have to throw clothes on the bed. Think about your processes – logically and step-by-step – and organize your home to follow those steps as closely as possible. It might not make sense to someone else, but if it works for you, it doesn’t matter – this is your home, after all!
Don’t forget – my wonderful organizing pro (and friend!) is SoCal local – she works all over the L.A. area – so if you want her info, just send me a message on my FB page and I’ll put you in touch!
Have you ever reorganized your home? What are your favorite cleaning/organizing tips?
Lessons from the Organizing Pro
If you think this post is going to be about my personal organizing tips, take a moment to shake that off and have a hearty laugh. While I do credit myself with many talents – training, writing, and doing makeup among them – I come in about 50th percentile when it comes to organizing. My home is “basically” neat (I’m no hoarder!), but if you look just beyond the surface, you’ll see the problems: piles of papers, stacks of books, spilling-over spices, and much, much worse.
A friend and client of mine mentioned that she’d had a professional organizer come into her new (much smaller) home and help her get unpacked and established. I realized then that I’d moved into my home over five years ago and still didn’t feel established. So I called this lovely woman* right up and made an appointment.
First task on the docket was to make a room-by-room task list, which I did in about 12 seconds. List-making is no problem. Execution…well, not so much. She asked to organize the list by which room was causing me the most stress, which in this case was my kitchen. So when she arrived at my house at 11am yesterday, we walked straight into the kitchen.
And I sighed.
See, this is exactly why I need a professional organizer. It’s similar to why many people need a personal trainer. It’s not that I am incapable of organizing, similar to how most healthy adults not incapable of exercising. It’s more that when I look at what needs to get done, I don’t see a clear path on how to do it, and I get overwhelmed. So she asked me a simple question:
Where do you keep your cookbooks?
This simple question was the catalyst for our entire day. We started with the fact that I was storing cookbooks above the oven, which left them smoky, sticky, and generally forgotten – so we took them out and weeded through them (did I really need The Sunset Seafood cookbook from 1971?). After picking my “top 10” (ok, top 17, but seriously, I love cookbooks!) we stacked them neatly by height across the kitchen from the oven, out of harm’s way, yet completely visible and useful when I want to refer to them.
Once the cookbook cabinet was clear, we were able to take a lot of the countertop “junk” (read: Costco-sized food that was too large to go in the pantry along with some seasonal/party supplies) and put them up over the oven where a little bit of grime wouldn’t hurt ’em.
Next up was my spice problem – I have almost 100 unique spices (!) in all sorts of jars, tins, and bags, and they’re spread out all over the kitchen – some near the oven, some with the baking stuff, and some strewn about in a nearby basket. She asked me to find a permanent home for the spices – whether on a rack, in a drawer, or somewhere else – and committing to both throwing away old, expired ones and decanting and properly storing any new purchases.
After a meticulous inventory and reorganizing, we emerged with five (!) racks full of spices – two of the most-used near the stove, two racks of magnetic loose spices (mount pending), and one corner rack (see photo above) for the lesser-used stuff. Badda bing! The little jars and bags seem so much happier now that I can see them individually – and it makes prep time a thousand times quicker.
Oh yeah, also in that picture to the right? TWO utensil caddies. I told her I needed LOTS of utensils for the type of cooking I do, and she said that if I absolutely needed to have them, I absolutely needed to have a place to put them (up until this point I was shoving them all in one caddy, often overflowing and falling out along the way).
Next we moved on to another functional project – the “stations.” Besides cooking, we determined that there are two auxiliary uses of our kitchen – shake-making and coffeemaking. Both of these functions are done daily, and done require at least a few steps and devices (for the coffee, for example, we need the coffee maker, filters, coffee, mugs, and spoons). That said, I was running all over the kitchen to make a simple cup of coffee – coffee was with baking stuff in the pantry, filters were under the sink (?), the mugs were next to the fridge, spoons in a drawer…nothing made sense.
The result of some simple cabinet-switching (and mug-donating – someone at Goodwill is going to be VERY happy with their new set of matching Christmas-themed mugs) and shelf-repurposing (yep, that’s a shower caddy corner-shelf thing from the bathroom section of The Container Store anchoring that shake station).
I know this might seem like small potatoes to some of you organizing gurus who came out of the womb with stacks of drawer inserts and shelving in hand. But for people like me, who are used to just plugging along, putting stuff wherever it fits and hoping for the best – this was a revelation. We finished the day by washing out all the cabinets with soap and water, finding lids for all pots and Tupperware, and taking a hard stance on glassware and plates (donating about half of what we had), and taking a helluva load (see photo – and this doesn’t include the TWELVE BAGS of stuff we trashed!) down to Out of the Closet (the donation transportation, incidentally, is part of her services – you don’t have to touch a thing once it’s out of your house for good).
Five and a half hours later, I had a workable kitchen – and boy, were the results immediate! I made a very complex dinner last night with speed and finesse; I felt like I was working in a TV studio kitchen with everything within my reach and easily located. I cannot wait for her to come back next week so we can work on Mammoth Project #2: the master bedroom (“before” photos pending).
Sure, there’s a cost involved with this type of service, and yes, I did drop a little extra cash at The Container Store last night on some storage and racks. But the payoff in sanity and peace of mind is worth its cost multiple times over, and I am confident that once we have our entire house organized I will be a happier, more energetic, more efficient person in all parts of my life.
Have you ever hired a professional for this type of service? What are your favorite home organizing tips?
*did I mention she’s kind of famous? She’s a classically trained actress and has many fun and interesting stories to share while you work! Please contact me privately for contact information and rates.