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.