Organizing your life, one room at a time.
My LA Organizer

This Q & A category is a compilation of answered questions from various publications in which I was invited to contribute.
I’ve set these up in an easy to read way, for your convenience.

Mentally Prepared to Organize

Get a vision and then get excited about that vision! Focus on the outcome. If you find a photo in a magazine or online and that photo gives you a sense of peace, tranquility or you are simply attracted to that look, translate that into your own space.
I have found many of my clients over years have contacted me on a whim. In many cases they have a hit a wall in regards to the disarray in their home and that’s when they make the call.

I’ve also found that if I don’t get them on the calendar right away, that idea, that determined drive, dissipates.

So, yes, put it on your calendar, but more importantly, get others involved. Especially a friend, an organizer, or relative that you will assist or hold you to that commitment.
Think BROAD strokes! Often times when I walk into a cluttered home, office, or playroom, I find that the placement of furniture contributes to the visual clutter, or it makes it more difficult for my client to keep the space organized.

If you have too much furniture or there are large toys that haven’t been used in a long time, move those items out first. Reorganize the space and this will invariably motivate you to keep going.

And most importantly, stay away from the tedium!!!

Don’t start with the paperwork or sorting the small toys. That’s a trap that so many folks fall into. Save that for later. Take care of the big stuff first and you will undoubtedly be motivated to keep going.
Great question!

When I do a consultation I often walk through the whole house and look in every closet, including the garage!

I do this because I’m looking for unused or improperly used storage areas that the client is unaware of. When I find that space (and I always do), that’s where I start. I make space for more to come in, so when I clear out the children’s closet and my client wants to say — save clothing for a younger sibling — then I know when I do that child’s bedroom, where I can store the excess that my client wants to save.
There is currently a book out there from a Japanese organizer that suggests you ask yourself, “does this bring me joy?” And I am here to tell you that in my experience, that question can be a trap for many folks. They always tell me (especially the hoarders), “but this makes me happy.” My response varies, but it might go something like this…”Really, then why is it under that pile of junk?”

The questions I ask my clients vary depending on how much storage they have, the condition of the item, etc. So for me, there is no “one question” or “one answer.”

In general terms I may ask myself if this item will contribute to my vision of what I would like my home to look like.

I have on many occasions reminded my clients that if they really need that “thing” down the road, they must trust that they will have the means to get it again.
At the risk of sounding redundant, focus on your vision or the end result.

As a professional organizer on the job I make the process fun! I make jokes, we laugh and I continually remind them about the progress we are making and how great their space is going to look when we’re finished. In other words, I continue to remind them of their “vision”.
When it comes to sentimental items that my client does not have room to store without encroaching on their available storage areas, I will often suggest that we take photos and make a photo book of said items.
My entire philosophy around getting and staying organized is…

In order to get and stay organized you must create a "home" for everything. And if you can’t create a home for everything you have, then its time to “Edit”!

So maybe it’s not a mantra or a phrase, but this is what I tell my clients over and over. “Where is it going to live?”
Start one project at a time. Give yourself permission to take it in bite size pieces. Find the place in your home where you can store what you need to store.

Start in the garage and let that be your first project. You may say, “but my home office is the issue.” Well, I bet there are some things in your office that you don’t need immediate access to that can live elsewhere. So when you begin to organize your office you already know where you can store all of those work binders or whatever that you can’t let go of (for whatever reason). So, you can clear your over stuffed bookshelves, cluttered desk, etc.
A) Think outside of the box!

b) Get creative!

c) Use the stage! (Use the space you have. You have it; you just haven’t found it yet!)

Kitchen Decluttering

The best way I have found to start the Kitchen de-clutter project is to start with one cabinet at a time. It’s simple; pull out anything that you’re no longing using or no longer works.
Vases! Invariably I find everyone holds on to way too many vases, and half the time we will never use some of them ever again. Especially those with hard water stains!
These days just about every food has an expiration date. Check it out. I can’t count the times I have thrown out half a pantry filled with expired food and condiments.
The number one key to keeping food from accumulating and expiring before you can get to it is by organizing your pantry in categories. Once you have your food in categories, it’s easier to keep everything in flow.

I like to organize pantries by meals: breakfast, snacks, healthy snacks, baking and the list goes on.

I also add bins to hold the bags that most of the time tend to pile in pantries. Those items are usually rice, pasta, chips, bread, etc.

I label the shelves and containers so the whole household can maintain the organization.
I like to use drawer organizers in every drawer. This helps to keep “like things” together.

Oh and don’t forget the junk drawer. Get some drawer organizers inserts and organize by category. Batteries – scissors - extra keys – tape - markers and pens, etc.

DYI Moves vs Professional Moves

If you deem yourself a grown-up you might consider getting a pro to help you move.

Why? Because the "College move” - i.e. throwing everything into boxes in a flurry is certain to create more chaos on the other end; especially when you discover broken treasures and have to make sense of all your boxes marked “miscellaneous” when you arrive at your new home.
An experienced Professional Organizer will take all the stress out of the move. Trust me - I’ve seen the most poised women spin their head and foam at the mouth during a big move. After all, it is the No. 3 Stresser! 

A Professional Organizer can handle the movers, label all of the boxes so they land in the right place, and help you sort through and discard all of what does not contribute to your “new beginning.” 

And if they’re an Organizer like me, they’ll set up your new home quickly and efficiently all while you sip wine and show off your new home to all of your friends!

Pack and Move

After packing 100’s of homes as a Professional Organizer I can now pack an unbelievable amount in just one day, if I pre plan!

Get organized: Go through each room, each drawer, closet, cabinet, and discard anything that you no longer need or want. That also includes knick-knacks, artwork & furnishings. If you wish to start fresh, consider what supports your vision.

Think about where things will go in your new home. For instance, if you have toys in your child’s bedroom currently that belong in the playroom or your new home will have a playroom, you’ll want to pack them separately.

If you have everything organized prior to packing, the packing process will go ten times faster.
Packing an entire home in 1 day is only doable if you have a team tackling the project. Though, beware – very few folks know how to pack properly and don’t always think about fragile items the way you might. So, choose your team wisely.

If you merely throw everything in boxes, just to get out in one day without fully pre-planning, you will find the unpacking process at the other end will take 5 times longer.

The most time consuming packing task is the kitchen. If you really want to pack in one day and you have pre-planned and pre-organized, you may also want to pre-pack the kitchen. Once the kitchen is out of the way, the rest of the house packs up pretty fast.
Start with the kitchen, as I like to say, (well, …and Mark Twain), …”eat the frog ”; get the most difficult out of the way first. Leave the bare necessities for the day of the move. Then move from room to room.
So important…label your boxes on all 4 sides. If you are moving the boxes yourself or you are having movers carry and distribute your boxes, you’ll want to identify the boxes, as they are place in each room. Not everyone sets a box down with a label facing out, but if you have labels on all 4 sides, you’ll always be able to locate the box you’re looking for with ease.

Speaking of labels, print your own or buy pre-printed labels a head of time so you can stick them on the boxes as you pack them rather than taking the time to write on every box.

Another pitfall I have come across is getting all of your utilities lined up and scheduled on the days you will need them. So many folks get caught up in the packing that they forget about these tiny details.

The Business of Being a Professional Organizer

True and successful Professional Organizers are not only good at putting puzzles together, i.e. figuring out the best way to organize a pantry. They must possess a myriad of other skills. A Professional Organizer will know how to communicate confidently with many different personalities, be able to make multiple suggestions to find the best solution for the client, know a wide range of organizing products, and be able to take in to account the clients aesthetic so the products they choose will fit the clients home and life style. The needed skills and knowledge doesn’t stop there, there are dozens of other talents one should have.
As a Professional Organizer who is most interested in making the most cost effective, most productive progress for my clients, I take care of big picture items before delving into the more tedious tasks. I have found that making the big changes such as moving the furniture or bringing in more products for storage invariably motivates the client to keep going. Because they begin to see their vision come to life right away, they become inspired to follow through with enthusiasm.

Another surprising fact is that an organizer must be a thorough cleaner. I often joke and say, I’m something between a Housekeeper and an Interior Designer. As the professional, I feel it is my duty to make sure the area that I am working on is clean before I begin to incorporate the new system. If you’re not cleaning while your organizing, you’re not doing your job.

Being an organizer burns a lot of calories. Often working alone and refusing to allow my clients to lift or move heavy objects, I do it all on my own. I’m constantly moving during a session, and because I track my heart rate and calories burned, I know I am getting a great workout.