One day, as I sat in my living room answering emails, I realized that I couldn’t stand my rug. Over the course of that afternoon, I became obsessed with replacing it. Immediately. So, I raced to the D&D building in NYC, selected three potential rugs, and brought samples home to review in the space. While none of them seemed right, and all of them cost more than I wanted to spend, I’m a sucker for crossing things off my list. So I called my dear friend, Allison Peyton, for help making the decision. Allison, who has phenomenal taste and is trained as a designer, has strong opinions that she finds difficult not to express. In other words, the exact reason we’re such close friends. When I texted photos of the rugs I was considering, she let me know she “hated all of them,” and I would need to clear my calendar in 3 weeks to spend the day with her.
On the appointed day, I took an early train to meet Allison in Connecticut. Our first stop was the Elizabeth Eakin sample sale in Norwalk. When the doors opened, we burst inside, and 45 minutes later I had purchased two rugs that cost a fraction of what I was going to pay for just one rug a few weeks earlier. Feeling excited about my new purchases and the money I had saved, I asked if she thought I needed anything else.
Allison didn’t mince words. Apparently, my end tables “were so horrible she couldn’t speak” and a custom wall unit I had designed in 2002 was “a complete embarrassment, dated, and should be used as firewood.” She also thought the furniture could use a little rearranging.
As I considered her comments objectively, I conceded that the end tables and wall unit were dated. The issue was that, although dated, the wall unit had tremendous storage capacity. Its many shelves and cabinets were packed with photo albums, sentimental items, board games, books, and even a few hundred CD’s in drawers built to their specific size. Allison was unfazed. “You’re an organizer, you’ll pare down and find other places for those things,” she told me as we approached Parc Monceau, a cozy furniture/home goods store.
At Parc Monceau, we ordered upholstered stools and a drink table. New pillows were selected from Gracious Home in New York City, and a burled wood console with ample storage was purchased to take the place of the wall unit. I was ecstatic, but Allison wasn’t finished. She thought my existing chairs looked “a bit tired” and suggested I reupholster them in leather, remove the skirt, and add nail heads to better complement the new living room.
Three weeks later, a handyman disassembled the wall unit (with its pared down contents), and the rugs and new furniture were delivered. Existing furniture was rearranged including the newly reupholstered chairs that were relocated to create a new seating area. The console was placed on the wall previously occupied by the wall unit. New pillows were arranged on the couch and chairs.
As I surveyed the room, I saw that what was once traditional and dark had been transformed to a space that was chic and light. With the addition of some pillows, a rug, and some well-placed accessories, I had achieved a stylish new look without spending a fortune. And, after much cajoling, Allison agreed to join my team at Life Organized.
Any home improvement project entails compromise, and the recent renovation of my kitchen and dining room was no exception. In order to enlarge the dining area in the limited confines of my New York City townhouse, I took my formally spacious laundry room and made it half of its former size. Fortunately, I knew how to maximize storage capacity and organize this smaller space to meet my needs. Here are the steps I took:
Purge After careful consideration, I decided to eliminate anything that wasn’t necessary for cleaning clothing, floors, or surfaces. This meant that I moved light bulbs, dog grooming supplies, tools, and other home maintenance items to other areas of my home.
Design With small spaces, it’s important to think vertically. I started by replacing my washing machine and dryer with stackable models. I then designed high shelves around the perimeter of the room, installed a rod for hanging hand wash (a towel rack repurposed and hung from the underside of a shelf), and created space for a vacuum cleaner, and laundry baskets. A pocket door saved additional space.
Organize I used white Nordic Storage Baskets from The Container Store to store cleaning products, laundry products, microfiber cloths, sponges, floor cleaners. Frequently used products such as laundry pods, fabric softener, and microfiber cloths were decanted in clear acrylic canisters. A horizontal desk organizer was used to hold pens, notepads, a folding board, and a scissor.
As we endure the 7th week of sheltering at home, many of us have become pyschologically fatigued. In order to remain productive and upbeat, check out my 5 tips for staying productive while staying at home.
1. Make your bed. As Charles Duhigg notes in his book The Power of Habit, “making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity [and] a greater sense of well being…” Completing one small task paves the way for larger accomplishments during the day.
How much is too much? What is the “right” amount of something to have? As an organizer, these are questions I’m frequently asked, and the answer is different for every situation. It depends on three factors:
How much space do you have?
How much money do you want to spend?
What do you realistically use?
I recently found a stockpile of brand new socks that my husband, Jeff, had stored between two stacks of sweatshirts. I was horrified. And, when I opened his sock drawer to put them away properly, I was even more horrified. There were piles and piles of socks… So, I asked Jeff to explain. Here’s how our conversation went:
Judd Spodek, President of Sit Happens, and dog trainer extraordinaire has a slogan on his company truck, “We don’t train husbands, wives, or kids.” I can relate; in spite of working with three dog trainers, my dog, Charly, remains anxious and untrained. The reason is simple; while I did everything the trainers instructed, the rest of my family did not. In time, each trainer told me I was wasting my money. Unless everyone was on the same page, the dog wasn’t going to learn. So, “sit” didn’t happen for Charly. [Disclaimer: Judd and I agreed that he wouldn’t be trainer number four until my husband agreed to follow his training protocol].
Organizing works the same way. If you want your home organized, you need the cooperation of your family. Often, one person is extremely motivated to purge and organize (probably the person reading this), but another family member, or every other family member, creates a bottleneck.
Our featured client this month is Samantha, the mother of three young children and the matriarch of a large extended family. This hostess extraordinaire often cooks for 30 family members and friends to celebrate Shabbat each weekend. In addition, Samantha maintains toys for every possible age group to ensure that even the youngest guest has appropriate entertainment. Over time, though, her home has become the self declared “weigh station” for toys, clothing, books, cookware, and furniture for relatives and friends with younger children, ones who have yet to have children, and even those who are not yet married.
Like many women who hire us, Samantha’s organizational skills are the envy of her friends (“why do you need an organizer,” is a popular refrain she hears). Yet, Samantha felt that she needed expert advise in how to streamline her life to entertain and function at a higher level. She knew it was time to take back her home – it could no longer be a proverbial ‘candy store’ for children and adults alike – and she needed our help.
Kermit the Frog famously sings that “it’s not easy being green,” but it’s easier than you think when you get organized. In honor of Earth Day, here are some of my tips (first published 5 years ago) for going green:
Reduce paper clutter by unsubscribing from catalogs and junk mail lists and opt to receive bank statements and bills online.
Donate items in good condition.
Buy less. The fewer possessions you have, the less time you’ll spend maintaining them.
Buy bamboo organizing products instead of plastic and non-toxic cleaning products.
Give experiences as gifts. A movie, a day at the zoo, or a baseball game can be more meaningful than a physical gift and don’t create clutter.
When you shop, bring your own bag or carry purchases without a bag.
Unplug electronics that are not in use.
Recycle batteries, ink cartridges, and cell phones.
Also, check out ecoATM,a nationwide network of automated recycling kiosks that gives consumers instant cash for their mobile devices, tablets and MP3 players.
Like most of my projects, this one started with a phone call. There was a townhouse and two dads, two kids, two dogs, and way too much stuff. Could we help? Of course.
At the first appointment, we met Bill and Alvarro, two busy dads at their home in Brooklyn Heights which was beautifully decorated yet warm and child friendly. From the basement to the office on the top floor, we could see the evidence of a well lived life. Gifts, souvenirs from travel, photos, school projects, and books could be found in boxes and piles throughout the house. Bill and Alvarro craved better organization so that they could live with less clutter and less stress. After a walk through of the house, we made a plan: we would meet once a week, and tackle one room at a time, starting in the kitchen.
About a year ago, a friend asked if I would consider doing a project pro bono; Lisa Meshulam, a single mother of triplets, desperately needed help with organization of her one bedroom apartment. I was intrigued.
When I saw the apartment, it was piled floor to ceiling with storage boxes on wire racks. Cube furniture was filled with bins, books, and papers. Children’s drawings and photos were taped to the walls, and the kitchen counters overflowed with food that didn’t fit in the pantry. Lisa slept in a bed in the corner of the living room, sacrificing her privacy so the boys could share the single bedroom. While the boys’ room was cleverly outfitted with two bunk beds, it was overrun with clutter. Clothing spilled out of empty cubes and onto the floor.
I immediately agreed to help and started by enlisting ClosetMaid as a sponsor. Then, I assembled my team of organizers, and began operation organize.
I am fortunate to have a mother turning 80 this year who is beautiful, smart, and active in her community. When we decided she should have a party to celebrate this milestone birthday, our first decision was where it should be. Our second was what kind of invitation we would send.
My mother, remarkably, had never received an evite. It seems that many in her generation still order paper invitations, addressing them by hand, and adhering stamps to each envelope before dropping them in the mail. When I explained the concept of an evite to her, she was incredulous. To her, the concept was almost magical.