I love living rooms. They are usually not too cluttered and I can usually sink my teeth in to some layout options. A lot of living rooms are set up the way that movers place furniture - not the best configuration for the space. There's nothing better than finding a better layout for furniture which increases the useability and feel of a room.
Below are several kitchen before/after shots.
Kitchens are usually very straightforward to organise. They are a good 'first step' for someone who is looking to organise their whole home.
A client who is new to organising is able to experience the process but it is not extremely challenging as most people are not overly emotionally attached to kitchenwares. I do not usually start in peoples wardrobes or other personal spaces. After the first session, the client knows the drill and I am able to tailor my approach as based on their responsiveness to the kitchen.
A lot of clients have trouble keeping their dining rooms tidy. They seem to accumulate items the way that studies do. A disorganised dining room is usually symptomatic of a blockage in the home.
For example, if children's homework or paperwork settle in the dining zone, then it is likely that there is no appropriate system in the study (or even a paperwork 'solution' in houses without a study). On the otherhand, if clothing and linen sit on dining tables ad nauseum then it is likely the linen cupboards and bedrooms are disorganised.
In this case, the client's wife struggled with some personal issues which lead to a lot of clutter being accumulated and a good portion of the items pictured were unused.
Our goal for this room was to remove all the rubbish, unused goods and to get it useable. We knew it was unlikely to be used frequently (there was another dining area in the house) but we aimed to clear it out to be kept neat and 'formal'.
The storage items you can see to the right on the floor had been earmarked as christmas gifts for friends and family. The clients wife was going to wrap and gift these items shortly after we completed the work in this home.
A lot of the items that were removed from this room were donated or discarded. A good portion were moved to other rooms in the home, but due to the sheer amount of items it was not possible to keep it all.
This client was a very busy producer who spent little time at home. She struggled to create organised systems of order for her belongings. This room was a challenge as there is a non-pictured wardrobe that was literally full of clothes and shoes.
The client was not on hand to assist with sorting this room, which added to the challenge. My aim for the room was to sort all of her belongings into groups and fit in her limited cupboard space. Due to the amount of clothing she owned, it was necessary to put a lot of her non-season (i.e. winter) clothes into storage.
Bedroom Two: unused storage space
The client used the second bedroom of the apartment and the hallway as a storage room. When she had moved into the apartment all of the boxes had been put in the bedroom and gradually been added to.
A lot of the items that had been stored in the bedroom went to her garage to be picked up by charities or rubbish collectors. She assured me that once the garage had been emptied she was going to move the storage items down and set up the second bedroom as a guest room.
This client had an unused sunroom and they lacked a study area. They were keen to start working from home and enlisted my help to complete.
- Two desks
- Filing storage under each
- Light and Airy
- Inviting space
We ended up painting the space a lighter white colour to lift the space.
We then measured out the usable floor space and worked on ways to fit two desks into a room with very limited space and two doors!
This study was just one room in a much larger, very complex organising job that we completed. The client and his wife were overwhelmed by the accumulated goods in their home. Many of the rooms in the home were difficult to walk through due to piles of clutter.
This study had accumulated all of the technology, electronic and paperwork clutter from the house. Much of it being out of date and superseded.
As the client was moving from Organising into long term, long house housekeeping help, I was looking for ways to reduce the clutter and to create some systems of order. Unfortunately, in this case, the client was largely not on hand to help with decision making. In these situations I must use my discretion and judgement about what needs to stay and go.
There were several processes involved in this study (this room required several sessions to complete):
- Sort paperwork into required/to be shredded piles before filing
- Remove all business related paperwork to be stored by client at his place of business
- Discard unused and out of date technology
- Create a filing system that could be easily followed
- Store long term momentos/memorabilia
This is the end result of two full days sorting this study. As you can see, most of the clutter has been removed. There are spaces for new mail, stationary, new filing and rubbish.
The two tubs under the desk were for the client to remove to his business location - we do not typically use tubs for everyday storage/use.
Below are some other studies I have organised over the years.
Studies are a very common room for clutter to accumulate, as people often move clutter from more 'visible' rooms in the house to the study (which guests rarely enter).
This living room/playroom suffered from a lack of definitive layout and storage. The clients had two young children who were not at home for much of the day, but they were in this room for the time when they were home.
This particular client was having organising done in preparation for a housekeeper to start immediately, so any solutions needed to be easily maintained by someone who didn't live in the home.
In the end, a lot of the problem in the room was the layout. I needed to create definitive spaces for the three different activities that occured in the room; baby changing, toddler playing, and TV watching.
The client actually had a whole lower floor that had been dedicated as a toy room, but (as usually happens) it was rarely used as a playroom because when the family was home they congregated on the main floor.
The toys that had previously been in the living room had only been there as the toddler had brought them up herself. The client did not want toys stored in the living room, but understood that it was going to happen - it was the natural flow of the home with two young children.
I brought up a shelving unit from the lower floor and brought up the toys that she was interested in.
During this particular session we also worked on the front room, which was being treated as a dining room/entrance zone. We debated whether to move the dining table to the back room, but ultimately the fact this front room was adjacent to the kitchen won out!
As part of the earlier session, we also worked in the kitchen. The client was an avid baker, but lacked the time and space to keep the kitchen neat. We reorganised the cupboards - which were actually fairly empty before we started.
Unfortunately, a lot of food had to be discarded due to an infestation of moths. It is very common for aspiring bakers to have a moth/weevil problem due to unsecured starches. Most supermarkets now sell moth traps, which are a fantastic way to keep your pantry clear of them.
Working with kids and teenagers is usually very enjoyable. For a lot of kids, what they want to keep or discard (donate or otherwise) is very straightforward. Essentially, most kids have a lot less emotional baggage about their belongings than adults. They also usually love being empowered to make choices about belongings stored in their own environment.
I have very basic parameters for working with kids:
- Your room - your choice (nothing stays in their room they don't want in there)
- I'll respect your decisions, so long as you make a decision
The room pictured belonged to a 13 year old boy. A lot of the items in his room were from younger years and he had moved beyond them. It was a simple process of having two buckets which he sorted things into - one for keeping and one for discarding.
The most difficult part of the process was keeping his decision making going (usually an hour is tops). He did a very good job advising me what were his current interests and we were easily able to declutter the space.
We ended up with a much easier space to use and a lot less clutter! It was only a brief session (part of a much larger one) but we accomplished a lot.
When Good Kitchens Go Bad
This client called me as she had trouble keeping her kitchen organised. It was a real chore to cook, empty the dishwasher and to keep the bench tidy. Everyday, she was fighting a losing battle to maintain order in the space.
Her goals were:
- The kitchen should be easy to keep neat (even by her husband when she travelled)
- To stop work clutter encroaching/landing in the kitchen
- To feel inspired to bake again - an old hobby she had neglected
What we noticed about this kitchen was that when it had been set up, there had been no planning about what went where. The kitchen had been newly renovated, and what had happened was the items that had been packed up for the renovation were unpacked before the everyday items that had been in a temporary kitchen were put in.
Basically, the things that you don't need every day were in the easy to reach cupboards, and everything else was crammed in the leftover drawers/cupboards.
To meet her aims, we prioritised being able to empty the dishwasher easily/efficiently and to conduct daily food preparation (tea/coffee etc) without being crammed down one end of the kitchen.
We unpacked all the items from the cupboards and went through them with the client. She decided to part with some of her servery items, wine glasses and other unused-kitchen appliances.
Once the kitchen items were sorted into more thoughtful locations, we moved on to the pantry.
In the photo above you can see one of the systems of 'order' that celebrity organisers commonly recommend - using tubs. I have rarely seen this system maintained well. It contributes to a lot of food waste and overspending on your grocery bill. People (especially those where multiple people grocery shop) often have many duplicates of the same items stacked on top of one another. For example, there are often 5 bags of half-used pasta packets all stacked on top of one another.
Tubs in pantries are handy for smaller items (like having a baking tub or a medicines tub) but not for cereals or fast moving goods like tins.
At the conclusion of the first day, we had reorganised and sorted the kitchen cupboards and pantry. A large number of medicines, food goods and inherited items were removed from the kitchen. Main actions we undertook were:
- We spread out the bench appliances as best we could (the client wanted them to stay on the bench), to reduce pressure on the pantry corner zone.
- We created a dedicated 'food preparation' zone between the sink/fridge.
- Whereas, the other end of the island bench was dedicated to plates/bowls/cups, as it was adjacent to the dishwasher.
- We moved some items out of the pantry so they could be easily accessed (medicines)
The client reported that the kitchen was much easier to use and she also was able to get back into baking - she made her daughter a lovely birthday cake not long after we finished organising.
The heck is organising anyway?
Over the past decade, Professional Organising has come a long way. Even when I started GYO many people had no idea what it entailed. Now, with the rise of shows like 'The Living Room' and specialists on "Oprah", the public has at least some idea of what an organiser does.
A good organiser is someone who works with you to create systems of order and structure in your home that suits you and your family. It should be something that works long term - not something that falls apart when the organiser departs.
I see a lot of tips and techniques from TV celebrity organisers and posts on Pinterest that make me shudder. A lot of the very pretty/photogenic systems of tidy order are really hard to maintain in real life unless you dedicate a lot of time keeping them going.
Organising is about being tidy, but it is also about that tidiness being easy to maintain.