I learned this with a new client: Kim (not her real name) has struggled all her life to maintain a neat space. Her efforts go in waves and she has managed to live a really rich and creative life — but it hasn’t been easy. She’s lost a few things along the way. Paid her share of late fees for bills and penalties for misplaced parking tickets. And wasted time rewashing clothes after the dirty commingled with the clean.
When she was ready to stop this chaos…she called in a professional organizer.
She had 3 areas to organize:
• her wardrobe and bedroom
• her living room – including a desk area
• her hallway which had become an over-crowded storage space
We started in her bedroom because the mess was affecting her sleep. After 3 working sessions we had sorted through all of her clothes, cleared every surface (including the floor) of anything that didn’t belong, rearranged her dresser drawers and closet with zones for each type of clothing she needed in her life.
Moving on to the living room, Kim sheepishly told me a “funny” story about her missing slippers. The one constant in Kim’s life had been lots of weekends away to cabins with friends. In preparing to pack for one such weekend, she described how she had scoured her apartment looking for her slippers.
She checked ALL of her usual spots: under the coffee table, in the bathroom, kicked under the hallway table, in a pile behind the couch, tucked under her bed, tossed into a corner by her cat…she couldn’t find them anywhere.
She left for her weekend sans slippers in a bummed mood.
As soon as she got on the road to the cabin, it hit her. She couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Her slippers were right where we had left them — in their new home. They were in the bottom “bay” of the hanging shoe organizer we had installed in her closet.
It was a funny lesson to us both, that getting organized takes some getting used to! The motto of Kim’s story is: It’s easy to find what you need when you need it…when it is right where you left it.
So, I’ve been saying that a lot lately and not to who you would think. It’s been to inanimate objects! You know, the smoothie you start drinking again because you are going to give ‘that diet’ another go. Why do we address people and things this way? A matter of playful affection towards a friend who we’ve known since grade school? Used in jest as we put on our bikini for the first time in the Summer?
As we sort through our things, we go through this playful or sometimes sinister game with these items:
Play the “Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers” game created by organizing guru Judith Kolberg:
Friends come and go and so do the things in our lives. If it doesn’t bring you joy, it’s time to say adieu. Keep the items you hold valuable close to you and enjoy!
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Do you ever open your closet and think, “I have nothing to wear!”? Do you ever feel like you have certain “go-tos” and you ignore the rest of your closet? Do you keep things because they might come back into style?
Imagine a different scenario. Imagine a closet filled with only those clothes that ‘spark joy,’ clothes that make you feel confident and amazing, clothes that are comfortable and cared for. In just five hours, it can!
The New York Times bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo, teaches you how. As a member of the first class of KonMari consultant trainees, I love spreading the KonMari idea of #organizetheworld. Please see below my own take on how you can tackle the clothing category using the KonMari method, step by step.
Find a time in your schedule when you can get five hours, distraction free. No kids. No husbands. No phones. This is YOUR time.
Pile every item of clothing on the bed.
Take a ‘before’ picture!
Divide the clothes into broad categories like: Tops, Bottoms, Skirts, Pajamas, etc. Don’t worry about deciding what to keep yet. Focus on sorting, not discarding.
Now this is where the magic really comes in. You are going to take each and every item of clothing in your hand and ask yourself: Does this spark joy? Pay attention to how the garment makes you feel. Does it give you a jolt of happiness? Do you love wearing it? Or do you frown, think about feeling frumpy, or have a bad memory?
A few tips:
Put all of your donations and items to sell right in the car! While you have them sorted, you can even enter the donations into an app like It’s Deductible or onto a printed Goodwill checklist. You can save thousands at tax time with donations!
Put all of the clothing that sparks joy back into the closet and folded in their drawers. To learn how to do Marie Kondo’s special folding method, visit this video. Think about using all that extra space in your closet to display your favorite items. I put my favorite books and my grandmother’s milk glass on the top shelf of my closet, where all of my bulky sweaters used to fall over onto each other. Some people hang artwork inside the doors or display wedding photos.
A few tips:
Now sit back, take that after photo, and enjoy! After just five hours and six steps, you’ve created a closet that gives you joy, easy mornings and a boost of confidence.
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Bedding-blitz As you prepare to leave colder days behind, get ready to pull out lighter blankets and sheets. Refresh blankets that come out of storage by fluffing them in the dryer with a dryer sheet. Remove heavy blankets and flannels from beds to clean and store. This is also a good time to wash the mattress covers and give the mattresses a flip. Lighter, brighter spring-fresh bedding is sure to brighten everyone’s mood!
Counter-attack Throw open the kitchen and bathroom windows and take a look at your counters. The fresh air will help energize you while you remove all items and give the counters a good wipe-down. Throw out any trash or items you don’t need and put away anything that has wandered out of its appropriate home. Return to the counter only those things that you absolutely must have out or that make you happy.
Pantry purge During our winter hibernation we tend to stockpile supplies. Cupboards can become stuffed with soups, cocoas and comfort-snacks. As this happens, other food items get pushed out of sight. Set aside an hour on a nice spring morning to empty out a shelf or two at a time, wipe them down, discard outdated or unwanted food items and reorganize what’s left back onto the shelves.
Sew or go Do you keep a sewing or ironing pile? If you do, make sure that what is in your pile has not been there longer than 6 months. If it has, it is likely that it may not fit, will be out of style, or will no longer be something that you think would be worth the effort. Now’s the time to sew or go! Pick an evening and an interesting TV show and get the ironing and sewing done. If you’re not going to do it – let it go. It will only sit there and make you feel guilty if you don’t. And, no one wants to feel bad on a sunny day!
Shoe-review The warmer days of spring and summer will mean a change of shoe style. Take time to gather any and all of your shoes together. Separate cold-weather shoes from warm. Before storing shoes you won’t wear again until fall, try them on. If they don’t fit comfortably or you don’t like them, this is the time to donate or toss them. If any need cleaning or repair, get it done now, before storing. Next, look at their sunny day counterparts and go through the same process. If you find that your favorite sandals are broken or that those cute open toe shoes you bought last summer don’t really fit right, get rid of them. Take note of any shoes you may need to add to your shopping list for replacement to complete your wardrobe. Finally, make sure each member of your household has adequate shoe storage.
Whether you follow basketball or not, college ball is an exciting sport and March Madness is the be-all, end-all competition among collegiate teams. I am always inspired by the players’ drive, athleticism, and winning attitude. Borrow this enthusiasm and plan your own decluttering plays for a Spring-ready closet.
March Madness has become an annual springboard for me to declutter. I love the NCAA’s single-elimination process as a framework for purging my wardrobe.
The tournament always starts in March and concludes in April — as we warm up to Spring. I appreciate the build-up to the ultimate winner; each week there are winners (and losers). Borrow this approach and discover the winners and banish the losers in your closet.
• winners – clothes that are versatile, stylish, and flattering
• losers – anything stained, ill-fitting, or in need of repair
If you like following play-lists, here’s some quantifiable advice to help you keep score on your efforts:
• Trim 16 (Sweet Sixteen) bulky sweaters and jackets from your closet to make room for Spring styles. Scarves are typical accessories that you can rotate each season. Footwear is another category that deserves attention: pack up your heavy, weatherproof boots.
• Remove at least 8 items from your hanging space to create room for bolder colors and lighter-weight outfits. What you remove may end up in off-season storage, or may need to find a new home. Can you find an Elite Eight to donate, thrift, or E-bay?
• Final Four Here’s where the tournament makes its biggest splash and reminds me to focus on the basics. Make sure you have what you need to enter Spring, well dressed in the appropriate clothes that suit your life and lifestyle. This may mean creating a short shopping list for your foundation pieces, or a to-do list for the winners before they go on court.
• shine your shoes to clean and preserve their leather
• alter any investment pieces so you continue to enjoy them
• dry-clean items that you have enjoyed all season but are packing away until next year
The hardest lesson March Madness teaches is one-and-done. The Final Four teams play two games over three days to determine a national champion. Culling collections down to a single winner is unrealistic (I couldn’t survive with only one pair of black slacks!) Selecting winners — of a reasonable quantity — based on proven criteria is a good play.
Quality hangers are also available for belts and neckties. If space is tight, hang these on the back wall of your closet behind the clothing.