When an Organizer Isn't Enough

I work with a lot of different people, who all have different belongings in different spaces. Our needs are all different. Our reasons for getting organized are often varied, too.

I find that people I work with are sometimes worried that I'll show up carrying banners, shouting, "I'm going to help them organize now!" It's much less eventful. Even so, I realize that working with an organizer can be a very private matter. Maybe I'm coming in to help after a death or before a divorce. Maybe I'm coming in to help someone with chronic disorganization or depression. There are so many reasons to want more organization in your life; sometimes we have more than one reason, too.

All the same, I'm not a therapist. I listen to the stories you want to share, the explanations of how your space became the way it is, the desires for your new space. These are all important to the process of organizing. However, my skill set ends there. I don't have the tools or language to tell you how to handle a death or divorce any more than the next person. And, I recognize that if you're hesitant to have others find out you're working with an organizer, you may be hesitant to seek other help, as well.

Turns out, there are a ton of resources available now to help you move through that feeling of hesitation or embarrassment. Companies exist completely online to help with counseling. For example, TalkSpace has options for writing back and forth with a personal therapist, or setting up time to chat regularly. You can do it from home, the office, the bus, where ever. No one will see you walking into a particular office, and no one will care if you're in pajamas.

Of course, of course, if you need some guidance and counseling, you should seek a professional who can help plan your next steps with you - in person in an office, or otherwise. Just like working with an organizer, find a good fit for the issue at hand.

It doesn't really matter how you got here; it matters what you're doing about it now.

Holistic Organizing

I recently became a co-leader of a national group of holistic organizers. I will admit that I think I am the least "holistic" in the group, but I also know being holistic means something different to every member. For some, it means using tools and methods most organizers wouldn't consider to be part of the organizing process. For me, it means working with people in a way that makes them feel comfortable, allows them to feel calm in their own space and makes life easier. There's no pushing of my own agenda, and there's no hard and fast systems that must be in place for the project to work right.

But, as I've been a member of this group, I've come to realize that many of those non-traditional methods that we learn about and discuss are things I'm personally interested in or take part in. Maybe there is room to incorporate new ideas into my work with clients.

We discuss topics like room clearing, working with crystals and essential oils, practice centering exercises and when it's appropriate to use these practices. I am learning a lot! I find it interesting to know how color and smell affect a space. I've never applied this to a client's space yet, but I might.

What do you think of these ideas? Is it something that makes sense to you when reestablishing your new space? Or, does it seem a little out there? I'm interested to know more, for myself and my clients. But, I also want you to feel as comfortable as possible in your space - whether you're using essential oils in a diffuser or would never even consider the idea!

The Berenstain Bears...And the Messy Room

I don't know how much you remember about the books you read as a child. Chances are, there are at least a few that stick out: The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are. I definitely remember those. Recently, I uncovered another from my childhood The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room. And, although it wasn't exactly what I thought it was, it still made me laugh to know I owned this as a kid.

Of course, I read this! Probably over and over. And so, I read it again, just to see what I thought of it now.

The title page reads, "When small bears forget to pick up, store and stash, some of their favorite things end up in the trash." A little harsh there, Mama Bear! But, let's see what this is all about...

The story begins by establishing that the Bears' home is well kept, clean and neat; everyone is expected to contribute to the state of the house. The one place that didn't quite ring true to this is the cubs' room. Apparently, they try to keep up with the room, but sometimes it just becomes too much. Sounds familiar. The chaos leads to fighting, leads to Mama Bear cleaning up for them, which leads to Mama losing it. Also sounds familiar. Mama threatens to toss it all out, when Papa Bear comes to the rescue. He suggests they store their items in boxes, by type of toy, and put a peg board on the wall. They take action and even label their toy boxes (oh yeah!). Some items end up going in to the trash, but only when the cubs give the go-ahead. The end result is a room the cubs enjoy, have room to enjoy and take pride in keeping up.

Well done, Stan and Jan Berenstain! Papa Bear's methods are almost entirely the same as mine. I would have suggested going through the toys before bringing in a bunch of supplies like boxes or bins. But, the ideas are the same. If anyone is struggling with their child about what organizing means and how it helps the person, the space, the lifestyle, this quick, little book might be the start of a great conversation.

Folding Towels

Folding your linens to fit your space can make a world of difference. You can fit more in a space and find things more easily. It all depends on your space, as usual. Are your shelves/drawers deep or shallow? Narrow or wide?

Here, the towels folded in half twice. See how they they flop over the edge of the shelf?

 Now, the towels folded in half, then in thirds. As you can see, they fit the shelf much better.

How An Organizer Unpacks Her House

Just like unpacking a client's home, I go a room at a time when I unpack myself after moving. Otherwise, just like you, I get a bit overwhelmed and start to feel scatter brained!

Moving is chaotic enough. There's no need to make unpacking any worse. So, the first thing I do when I move in is tackle the bathroom. Being able to brush my teeth and take a shower without ripping apart a bunch of boxes makes me feel human again. Especially after a sweaty day of unpacking. Plus, at least personally, I never have a ton of bathroom boxes. Then, I make the bed so I can sleep comfortably for my first night in my new place. Tackling the kitchen is the next on the list, and usually a big project. Clothes and bedroom items come next. Last, I undo the boxes of decorative items, media and whatever else hasn't made the cut yet.

When I start each space, I have the same process. With a clean slate, I first survey the new room. Do I already have a feeling that I'd like something to go in a particular space? For example, in the kitchen - do I already know which drawer I want utensils in and where cookie sheets will fit? Then, so I don't have to rip open everything just to get to those items, I open up everything for that room. (Since I've packed my own things, it's never a problem to know which boxes hold what). I break down the boxes to get them out of the way and spread out whatever will get stored in that room. Sometimes, that means I'm using the floor, the counters, the bed, whatever surfaces I need, as long as it's sturdy and safe. 

From there, I can grab the items I already know I want in a certain spot. After that, I work my way backward to zero items left to store. Sometimes, I have to stop to rearrange or adjust a shelf or move a piece of furniture over a few inches. It's better to get it done now, then to move it all after I've filled the cabinet or shelf. And, unless I buy a bunch of new items (unlikely for me!), chances are, I won't need to do this again.

Take out the trash and recycling. Wipe off the counters or sweep the floor of packing dust. Then, hit the shower, because I'm done!

Where To Keep Pet Items

We've talked about what kind of storage you could use for your pet's things. But, where?

When it comes to pet food, I recommend using a storage container or a plastic bin with a lid. You'll know if you have a pet that will help him/herself to food, if they can. For treats, it’s a good idea to put them on a shelf or a counter that’s up high enough that your pet can’t get to them easily, either.

For pet toys, you can put them in a basket where the pet has easy access to the toys, but you won't trip on it.

For food and water bowls, try to keep them off hardwood and carpet flooring. Aim for a tile surface so that the water drips don’t ruin the floor. If that's not an option, get a plastic or silicone place mat for under the dishes.

Pet beds and crates should be kept in a place where your pet feels safe, it won't be in the way, and it won't be out of place (don't keep a dog crate in the middle of a formal living room, for example).

How Much Craft Supplies Do You Really Need?

Whether yours or the kid's, if you live in a crafty house, you likely have supplies you haven't seen in quite a long time. Time to release yourself of crafts of the past!

If you're anything like... well, any crafty person ever... you probably have supplies left over from some kind of craft you used to love. 

Or, you thought you'd love...

Or, you really, really were going to see if you loved...

Be realistic with yourself; are you going to tackle this kind of project ever again? Donate or recycle whatever you won't use anymore. Schools and art programs will likely be thrilled to have your unwanted supplies. If you're sifting through the kid's crafts, have them help out with this. You might be surprised by what they want to do, instead of what you think they might do!

Kitchen Extras

If you cook a lot, have merged households, or just haven't gone through your kitchen in awhile, you likely have duplicates in there. Make quick, easy decisions to get rid of extras and make sense of the rest.
Black Plastic Spatula Hanged on Black Hook

First, donate anything that you don’t like or use any more. 

Organize your pots and pans, whether stored in a cabinet, drawer or pot rack. Keep pots with their lids, but turn the lids upside down. This creates a flatter surface that allows smaller pots to stack on top of the larger pieces. No searching for bottoms to match tops. And, save some horizontal space in your cabinet. 

Depending on your space, if you're putting utensils in a drawer, use a divider. Make sure to measure your drawer first before purchasing a divider - length, width and height! Sort your utensils in a way that makes sense for how you cook or bake. Cook v. bake, or pasta v. meat, for example. If you have too many to fit in a drawer, put the utensils that you'll use most often out on the counter in a vase or a big canister. As long as it's tall enough that the utensils won't fall over and wide enough to fit everything in it, then you're good to go. If you're going to use hooks to hang spoons, spatulas, etc., be sure those are ones you use most often; otherwise those will sit around and collect dust.

Hiding Toys

Most kids have favorite toys. They're always winners and are loved over and over again. That usually means the other toys get ignored, at least from time to time.

Hiding toys away for three to six months is a great strategy to see if your kids still want them. Pack some up in a plastic bin or box; store it away in a closet or storage area. If you're feeling extra ambitious, stick a label on the side that says which toys are inside. Then, if a specific toy is asked for, you can find it quickly. Otherwise, bring the toys out in a couple months. Pack up different toys, and repeat the process. It's especially great when you don't have a ton of space for toys, but do have some storage room to spare.

Think of it as if you're swapping out seasonal wardrobes, but with toys!

Site design by Ryan G. Wilson Amy Trager, © 2006-2015