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Organizing a Chronic Illness (with Teresa Richman)

· Kitchen / Nutrition / Wellness · , , , , ,

Those of you who know Teresa, see an “Energizer Bunny,” full of life and great organizing advice. Yet, what most people don’t know is that she has suffered with severe gastrointestinal disease her entire adult life. In 2012, after a 25 year bout with ulcerative colitis, she opted for a colectomy, a surgery that removes the large intestine, and results in an ostomy bag.

While some people might let a chronic illness slow them down, Teresa manages her illness through careful organization. In order to maintain an ostomy, there are several supplies necessary: a wafer (a piece that attaches to the stomach and holds the bag), a barrier ring that seals the wafer, adhesive removal wipes, skin protection wipes, and plastic bags to dispose of waste. Teresa orders these items every three months, and stores supplies in a bin at the top of her closet and, for easier access, she stores a 5 week supply in a caddy under her sink. Since the ostomy bag can be used for up to four days, this enables her to have supplies accessible without them being a constant reminder of her illness.

On a daily basis, Teresa uses a small pouch in her purse to hold two full sets of supplies in the event the wafer loosens and necessitates an unexpected change. When she goes on vacation, she packs extra supplies in a larger pouch since she enjoys a full range of activities (e.g., swimming, snorkeling, and skiing) that may require more frequent bag adjustments. After each vacation, Teresa repacks her ostomy travel bag and stores it in her luggage.

Over the years, Teresa has changed her diet multiple times to accommodate ever evolving food sensitivities. In order to ensure she has the foods she needs, she buys groceries and prepares food for each week on Sunday evening, storing everything in stackable glass pyrex. When she travels with food, she uses lightweight, non-breakable containers. In her kitchen, temptation is avoided by keeping her snacking food separate from her family’s food. When medication and supplements need to be taken at specific times, prior planning is a must, and medication is kept in a bin inside a kitchen cabinet.

Given that flare ups of her disease are unpredictable, having an organized home and routine, allows Teresa to control as much of her life as possible. If you or a loved one is experiencing a chronic illness, let the Life Organized team put you at ease as they declutter your home and reduce your stress. Also feel free to DM Teresa @richwomanhkny if you need a supportive ear or would like to share your experiences.

Kitchen Renovation: This Shoemaker’s Children Don’t Go Barefoot

· Makeovers · , , , , ,

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:

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A Laundry Room with a Sense of Humor

· Makeovers · , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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From Piles to Perfection

· Makeovers · , , ,

I first met Katrina Mitzeliotis, a chic and adorable fashion director with Hollywood Life, over breakfast in midtown, Manhattan. Newly married and highly motivated to get organized, Katrina admitted that her clothes and shoes were currently in piles on the floor of a spare bedroom in her home in Brooklyn. And, when she said “piles,’ she wasn’t exaggerating!

Before Katrina’s closet makeover

Many people would shy away from sharing a “dirty little secret,” but Katrina wanted Hollywood Life readers to know that there’s no shame in learning to be organized. While Hollywood Life often features celebrities and their fabulous clothing and closets, Katrina is relatable and typical in many ways.  She has more clothes than she needs, she has no idea how to organize them, and she lacks the closet infrastructure that would make organization attainable.  A closet makeover was needed, so I teamed up with ClosetMaid to give Katrina the closet of her dreams.

After obtaining measurements, ClosetMaid opted for its SpaceCreations collection for Katrina. This DIY system is easy to install, yet still has a high end designer look and feel.  Katrina chose the Classic White with contemporary chrome hardware.  The entire system was shipped directly to Katrina’s apartment where it was easily assembled and installed.  We were all thrilled with the possibilities, but the hard work was just beginning.

The closet looked amazing at this point, but we weren’t finished yet. After a quick snack of a hot spinach and cheese casserole, it was time to accessorize the closet with fun accents Katrina had purchased.  We placed a poof in the corner, so she would have a place to sit while putting on her shoes.  A rug was added for polish and pizazz, and a small table with a photo and a candle were placed front and center. A large photo of Katrina and her photogenic husband was added to an empty shelf. We were all giddy with excitement, especially Katrina, who stared in disbelief at her clothing, bags, shoes, and accessories lined up and completely organized.  As she said, “it’s a dream come true.” See the amazing “after” pictures here:

Katrina in her dream closet

A Space of Her Own

· Makeovers · , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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Kitchen Makeover for Single Dad

· Kitchen / Nutrition / Wellness, Makeovers · , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Before pictures of the McCleod kitchen.

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.

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Size Does Matter: Finding Space in a Tiny Kitchen

· Kitchen / Nutrition / Wellness, Makeovers · , , , , , , , , ,

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:

  1. Take everything out of the cabinets
  2. Group like items together
  3. Separate duplicates and purge
  4. 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.

An Empty Nester “Upsizes”

· Makeovers, Moving · , , , ,

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.

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Young Matriarch

A Young Matriarch

· Family, Makeovers · , , , , , ,

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.

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Three's a Crowd: A Single Mom, Her Triplets, and a One Bedroom Apartment

Three’s a Crowd: A Single Mom, Her Triplets, and a One Bedroom Apartment

· Family, Makeovers · , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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