One day, after organizing a client’s beautifully renovated kitchen, I came home and took a fresh look at my own. After 22 years, what was once state of the art had become hopelessly outdated. Speckled granite counters with bulky curved edges and a stainless steel hood over the oven were rooted in the 1990’s. The grout in the tile needed cleaning, and the television “cabinet” looked ridiculous with a flat screen TV wedged inside. It was time for a renovation.
My first step was hiring Mariela Melamed of MDM Designs, a talented designer, architect, and photographer. While I initially planned to only address the kitchen, she suggested that, since I live in a townhouse, it would be difficult to renovate the kitchen while ignoring the other living spaces on the same floor – the dining room, living room, powder room, and laundry room. While this necessitated an expansion of project scope and budget, the end result was worth it! The changes that I made are described and pictured below:
Women are natural caretakers. We take care of husbands, partners, children and pets. We take of aging parents, bosses, employees, and coworkers. We invariably put ourselves on the bottom of the list. Whether we work full time, part time or stay at home, women feel guilty about focusing on our own needs. Yet, without time away from the everyday demands of life, we have less to give to those who need us.
I first met Melissa Meyers (@MelissaMeyers), The Glow Girl, when we were both mothers of young children in NYC. Over the years, we’ve worked together, collaborated together, and even carpooled our children together. When Melissa moved to the west coast, we stayed in touch, and I was thrilled when she contacted me this summer for help with a challenging project. Her daughter, Rachel (@rachel.leigh.meyers), an influencer, would be moving to NYC and trading her spacious two-bedroom apartment in LA for a Tribeca apartment with a “cozy” (read small) bedroom and an even “cozier” closet. Thus, Rachel would be experiencing one of the great paradoxes of New York City. Fashionistas flock here. Yet, like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City, the closets are often so small that shoes may be stored in the oven.
Rachel’s optimism, chill personality, and flexibility were the key assets to making her room work. Prior to our first meeting, she sent me photos of the space, so I could do some advance planning. My first suggestion was that she have the closet professionally outfitted. While this may seem frivolous in a rental apartment, adding additional shelving and hanging cost a fraction of the monthly rent and was necessary for her clothing to fit in the space. I also insisted that Rachel replace her mismatched hangers with uniform ones to eliminate the visual noise in her closet (critical in a small space).
Rachel and I met three times to get her bedroom and closet in working order. And, while we were able to leave her oven free for cooking, I did need to get creative in using every inch of space to properly accommodate her extensive collection of clothing, shoes, and bags. Here are pictures of Rachel’s bedroom and closet from beginning to end.
Tips for Organizing a Small Space
When I first arrived at Rachel’s apartment, there were piles of clothing everywhere (even outside the door to her room).
Once I folded all of the clothes, I was able to organize them in the dresser. A tray on top of the dresser holds frequently used items.
After measuring the width and depth of a quirky corner, I had floor to ceiling shelves built to store bulky sweaters and sweatshirts.
Initially, Rachel’s closet only had a single hanging rod.
The revised closet has a lower bar (same amount of hanging space), shelves for sweaters that Rachel can reach, and space for out of season shoes and bags on a higher shelf. Light clothing is on the left, dark clothing on the right.
Although blocking her windows with a high headboard wasn’t our first choice, it was the only way to avoid walking into the bed when entering the room. It also enabled us to take advantage of a cut out in the wall where we placed her dresser.
The two drawers at the end of Rachel’s bed are handy for her in season bags and pajama sets…two categories of clothing she reaches for daily.
When I first set foot in in this Montauk playroom, I almost missed the view of the ocean. Although the room boasted ample storage for the family’s four children, it was drowning in toys. The perimeter of the room was lined with bins. Deep storage areas filled one wall, flanked on either side with bookshelves that were half styled and half filled with junk. A comfy couch in the middle of the room faced both the television and the ocean outside.
The organization of this playroom was simple, and the cause of the clutter was a common one. The existing storage was filled with toys the children had outgrown, so toys they regularly used were relegated to counters and storage bins that kept multiplying.
Using my FOUR STEP METHOD, the playroom was restored to order in just a few hours.
I PURGED the toys that hadn’t been touched in months, if not years by first emptying every bin and storage area. Working with the client, we discarded or donated the contents as appropriate. Once the purge was complete, I sorted toys by type and category.
London’s Laundromat – 24 Hours, Not Quite Self Service
When a busy mom of four hired me to organize her townhouse, the laundry room was one of her top priorities. Although it wasn’t the sexiest room in the house, it was a space used multiple times a day.
The laundry room was small but well designed with a sense of humor. A counter ran the length of one wall with IKEA shelves above and the washer and dryer below the counter. The opposite wall boasted a sink and linen closet tucked behind the door. A clothesline that retracted into the wall was used to hang hand washed clothing. The sign painted on the wall read, “London’s Laundromat, 24 Hours, Self-Service.
With her easy smile, charismatic personality, and colorful content, it’s no wonder that Lisa Schechter’s venture, “Lis on Life” has taken off in just a few months. For years, Lisa has nurtured her passion for finding or creating the best of everything – food, flowers, fashion, vacation venues, wellness plans, and gifts and sharing her finds. With Lis on Life, her recommendations are now being shared beyond her many friends to reach thousands of followers on Instagram.
Lisa is known for her beautiful food displays and delicious meals. Her challah is famous, not only for its soft texture, but for the innovative shapes and toppings she devises. Her fruit boards are art, and her meal planning is impeccable. Since she’s not only preparing food, but also arranging and photographing her projects, her kitchen needs to be functional and fully stocked at all times.
Over the past several months, I’ve worked with Lisa organizing her office, children’s rooms, linen closets, game closets, sentimental items, basement, and her digital space. The only area we never touched was her kitchen…until now.
On a sticky Manhattan summer day, I arrived at Wendy Reimer’s home to organize the overcrowded bedroom of her three young girls. The oldest, a pre-teen, was desperate for her own space, and Wendy hoped I could carve out a niche for her in the large bedroom the girls shared.
As a professional, I rarely feel overwhelmed by a room. Yet, here, I had met my match. Three beds lined the perimeter of the room, and there was almost no clear path to walk. Stuffed animals covered every surface, and toys, games, and books were strewn about the room. Drawers were so stuffed with clothing that many could barely be opened. In an adjacent playroom, clutter filled every visible space with an outdoor playhouse taking center stage.
In between his full time job, volunteering in the community, and taking care of his two young sons, Mike McCleod, Jr. had little time for himself or for organizing his small, but cozy home. As a result, the kitchen, where the family spent the most time, was overrun with food, appliances, and the debris of daily living. His kitchen table was literally on its last leg and in such poor condition that it could no longer be used for meals. When Mike reached out to my friends at Hooplaha, @onlygood.tv for help, I was happy to spearhead his kitchen makeover.
When I first met the McCleod trio, they were excited about the project on hand. Kiing and Hova, Mike’s sons, greeted me at the door, and as they showed me around the apartment, I could see that the kitchen was not functioning at all; instead it was weighed down with clutter. Yet, I was also pleasantly surprised to see several areas where overflow from the kitchen could be stored.
After Adam Keller’s flash mob proposal to Jared Marinelli at Joy Ride Studio (viewed by 14 million people), life changed dramatically for these fitness instructors. In addition to cohosting an online series called “Joy Story” for Hooplaha – Only Good News, they moved to a new home, and basked in an outpouring of affection from the LGBT community. When our mutual friends from Hooplaha told me “the boys” where struggling with a small kitchen, I was happy to pay them a visit in New Jersey to help them manage the space.
While their new home had an extensive yard for them to walk their dogs, the kitchen was a fraction of the size of the one they had left behind. Since this space was limited, they were using the counters to compensate for the lack of a pantry, and the kitchen was overrun by clutter. When organizing the space, I followed my typical approach:
Take everything out of the cabinets
Group like items together
Separate duplicates and purge
Put everything back in an organized fashion
As I cleared everything out of the cabinets, I could see that inside and under the cabinets were not being used properly. To maximize space, I outfitted drawers with inserts to organize utensils, flatware, and utility items (tools and batteries). Items on high shelves were placed in bins, so that they would be accessible, and the surfaces were cleared. Accents in orange were placed throughout, resulting in a charming, cozy kitchen Jared and Adam can enjoy. See a video of the makeover here.
I met Carol Becker in early 2020 after she won a two-hour organizing consultation I had donated to the Park Avenue Synagogue benefit. Carol was planning on putting her apartment on the market the following summer and wanted assistance purging and organizing prior to the move. We started with her home office, and then in subsequent weeks tore through closets, pantries, and drawers at a rapid pace, each week giving away, selling, donating, or discarding bags of unwanted items. Organizing can be an intimate journey, and there were many stories Carol shared as we sifted through 20 plus years of memories and forged a friendship along the way.
Like many of my clients, Carol is a busy overachiever with a passion for life. In addition to owning the iconic William Greenberg Bakery, she is a biker, golfer, traveler, marathon runner, sports enthusiast, philanthropist, board member at Syracuse University (with a dog named Boeheim), die hard New Yorker, and a lifelong learner who will celebrate her bat mitzvah this spring. She’s also a single mother to Emily and Alison, both in their 20’s, and a warm and devoted friend to many.