Do you know where your toothbrush is?

Elizabeth Lee posted on 13th April 2009    CATEGORY: Organizing
cannot find anything, closet organizing, clutter control, clutter management, help me, messy closets, seattle organizer, seattle organizing, strewn thong,

Even a pair of simple cotton undies deserve respect.

When you wake up in the morning and you go to brush your teeth you probably don’t have many problems finding your toothbrush do you?  And then when you are done brushing your teeth chances are that you put your toothbrush back right where you found it.  Am I right?  Floss might be a different story because it could be there on the sink or in the medicine cabinet or maybe you don’t floss at all.   You can always find your toothbrush because it has a home and so should all of your other belongings, especially those that you use on a regular basis. 2301336711

Case Study: Last week we helped this great gal organize her bedroom.   Her email said that her room was a “hot mess” and that “it looked like a 13 year old lived there with 2 dogs and fiancé.”  In my own life I have 2 dogs, teenage twin boys who rule the roost, a handsome hubby, but no “hot mess” to speak of.

When my partner and I arrive at the job, the place appears nice and neat and tidy with some basic storage issues going on but nothing out of the ordinary.  “Wait” she says, “come to the bedroom”.   Well let me tell you THAT PLACE WAS A HOT MESS!!  This poor girl had clothes everywhere.  Clothes falling out of the closet, on the floor, on the bed, on the TV, on the window ledge, on the bathroom counter….E V E R Y W H E R E.

After a brief scolding (“How can you throw your clothes all over the floor?”; “Do you know how to use a hanger?; “How many tank tops does one person need?”) we got down to work.  Pulling out everything (yes, everything) from the closet, small cabinet, unpacked suitcases and unpacked moving boxes in the kitchen (clothes had been there for 1 year) and piling it all on her stripped bed we began to create 4 piles:

KEEP (You love it and wear it)
TRASH (It is damaged and could be considered a rag)
DONATE (Someone else will love it)
CONSIGN (You paid a lot for it so get some money back if you can)

…oh and one more laundry/dry clean, (dog fur was everywhere)

After we sorted all of the clothes and cleared out at least 2/3 of them we were able to address some of the basic issues at hand. If you are going to have a lot of clothes you need to have proper storage solutions.  Invest in a dresser whether a nice one, or if your budget won’t permit, one from a discount store or tag sale.  If all else fails, purchase some clear plastic bins for overflow items and stack them neatly. Buy more shirt hangers (send the wire ones back to the dry cleaners if you have them) and vertical skirt/pant hangers with clips that hold 5 to 6 items to take up less room.  Homegoods stores have all sorts of hooks, drawers and shelves for what you need.

So, we have come to the part of the story where I disclose something about myself.  Perhaps many of you can relate to this.  I am 43 and while a select few think I still have it “going on” (thanks honey), I am not and have never been a Victoria Secret kind of girl.   I am your basic cotton panties sort and if need be something depending on the outfit.

It therefore came as a shock, and then major amusement, when we discovered no less than 45 pairs of thong panties strewn throughout this room.  Strewn you ask???  Yes strewn.  So I ask our client “What’s up with the panties?”  She tells me that whenever she can’t find clean ones she just goes and buys more.  I immediately think she can certainly afford our rates and this is out of control.  “YOU BUY NEW UNDERWEAR WHEN THE OTHER STUFF IS DIRTY??”  “Well no, I do the laundry, I just can’t find the clean ones so I have to buy more” she replied.

Life lesson:  Underwear and socks need to have homes too.

My dirty little secret.

Elizabeth Lee posted on 3rd April 2009    CATEGORY: Organizing
closets, organizing closets, seattle organizer, seattle organizing,

The story of how one professional organizer braved the clutter at the bottom of her closet and found treasure.

Ladies and gentleman I am a professional organizer, but do not let this title mislead you. I receive comments all the time from clients that resonate in my head for days   “Wow, your house must be so perfect!”   I literally laugh out loud (well I snicker when they say it and then laugh later in the car) because that is not the case. That is just simply not real life and the word “perfect” only appears in my vocabulary when speaking about my children.

I’ve decided to share with you my dirty little secret.  There is a corner of my home that I really don’t covet, that I’m actually pretty embarrassed about – the floor of my closet. It’s a mystery to me, how I can keep a clean, organized home, but then refuse to address the complete disarray of shoes on the floor of my otherwise clean closet. So what is the cause of this shoe problem? No, I do not have some sort of shoe fetish if that is what you are thinking. The cause of the shoe problem is the set of double doors that I can close every morning after I scrounge around on the floor looking for a pair of shoes to wear.   Yes, out of site out of mind. I do not have to look at the mess so I do not care about the mess. Great news for me? Not really. We will get back to that.

If left to their own devises most people will create clutter. It speaks to an attitude long held that managing the minutia of life is not important or interesting.   We simply save all the detritus we collect, regardless of its urgency or lack of, until the dinner guests arrive and then cram it into the desk drawer or behind the closet door. When you have a home office situation this creates work-work things going on top of play-work things and chaos ensues.

Case Study: I had clients that lived in a large beautiful bungalow home. With 4 children and home based careers these were busy people and their home showed it. The husband’s office was right off the main entry of the house and every square inch was covered with papers, books, electronics, furniture, hair elastics, ballet shoes, a dog bowl, camping equipment, unfolded laundry…you get the idea. The wife had her office space in a corner of what was also the kid’s playroom. Her desktop and drawers were overflowing with paper, magic markers, computer programs, diapers and dinner plates. In between these two rooms was a closet that could be accessed by both offices. Imagine an earthquake at Staples where a girl scout troop selling cookies had met its untimely demise.

After the initial shock of the situation wore off I asked them how in the world this had happened and they admitted that initially when friends would come over they would madly shove the “stuff” into the rooms and close the doors, but later they would never address the bow and arrow that had ended up on top of the business proposal and they never were able to find the bill from a vendor which became stuck to the bottom of an old baby bottle. Eventually they stopped panicking when the doorbell rang and kicking the clutter into the rooms was second nature.

Take a picture of your workspace and you will be amazed at what you see through the camera’s eye. I do this when I start all of my organizing jobs and my clients are always shocked to see their workspace this way. Swing open those closet doors. Start going through the stacks and bags of your life and see what you find. There may be something good in those piles: money, a note from a client that you have been meaning to touch base with, an unopened love letter.

So what does this have to do with my closet? Well I got down on my belly yesterday and pulled out all of my shoes to take an inventory of summer shoes and I found seven pairs of flip flops and my black belt with the great silver buckle that I have been looking for for months and thought aliens had stolen in the night. Seven pairs of flip flops??!!  To some that would seem an inordinate amount of flip flops – that is not the point. fendi-b-belt-7762692

The point is that even “Professional Organizers” such as me have a small corner of doom. I however do not let it get beyond my closet’s double doors and neither should you. The key to any successful business, relationship and household is control over the closet, corner or pile of of doom.

**it is also helpful to have shoeracks and hooks for belts installed in your closet to avoid problems like those mentioned above**