Marissa Ponikowski

Guest Blogger

Marissa Ponikowski

Marissa Stapley-Ponikowski’s work has appeared in numerous outlets including The Toronto Sun, The Globe & Mail, TV Guide and Today’s Parent. A mother of two, Marissa strives to make the world a better place through writing on lifestyle and green living, as well as completing a novel, Saving the World (In Sensible Shoes).

Clutter Gut Job, part 3: Tackling the Home Office

Posted by Marissa Ponikowski Wednesday, March 14, 2012 4:09 PM EST


As Virginia Woolf so perfectly put it: “Every woman needs a room of her own” (A Room of One’s Own, 1929). I have such a room, with a skylight and a big window, tucked away at the back of my house. A lovely office. At least, it should have been a lovely office...


So, what went wrong? Household-wide disorganization had reached such epic proportions that I was shunning my own workspace, taking my mini laptop to cafés, the couch, even to bed — anything to avoid having to actually sit down and write in my disaster of a so-called “home office”.

The Principal 
“When it comes to any space, it’s important to think vertically,” my professional organizer, Tina Blazer of Toronto-based Spot On Organizing, explained. Basically, I needed to start looking up instead of down. Often, especially on top of desks and in offices, people start to make horizontal piles, spreading stuff across every available surface, instead of using all the vertical space that’s actually available.

The Strategy 
Storing 'up' meant we had to think strategically, which ultimately meant two sortings: the first of the traditional 'keep/store, toss' kind (being a beauty editor means there's always a ton of books, magazines and random sample products floating around); the second, involving separating the 'keep' pile according to how often I expected to be needing the item -- daily, weekly, monthly (or, in the case of a dodgy looking at-home tooth-whitening system, never).

The rationale is simple: the lower the frequency of use, the higher the item gets stored.

The Plan of Attack
First, take stock of what storage was already available:
• 1 IKEA Billy bookcase
• 1 pine desk that wasn’t especially functional, but had major sentimental value (my dad made it for my mom)
• 1 dysfunctional dining room sideboard (dysfunctional, as Blazer explained, because when people attempt to repurpose furniture it doesn’t generally work)

Next, I needed to decide which items should go:
• the dysfunctional dining room sideboard, to make room for my dream space: a reading nook, with a lamp and chaise lounge, at the back corner of the office (stay tuned for the “Big Reveal” post to see if I got organized enough to fit it in!)

Finally, I needed to determine what items required purchase:
• one more IKEA Billy bookcase, plus height extension unit ($79.99 and $30.00, at
• several IKEA Kassett magazine files ($3.99/2 pack) and CD boxes with lids ($3.99/two pack) for storing papers, cards, files, etc.

Clean Slate
By the end of the day, I had a clear picture of what my near-future office was going to look like. Better yet, I was over the clutter hump (well, the office clutter hump) and was starting to get really excited about what kind of organizational miracle Blazer and her cohorts from Eureka! Furniture Assembly and Installations were going to make happen in this space, in less than one week.

Here's what Blazer and Eureka! would be starting with:

Pretty impressive, all things considered. And it was only going to get better!

But before I got that reward, I still had one more de-cluttering step ahead of me. One word: closets. Gulp.

Tomorrow on “Clutter Gut Job”, I consider the closet conundrum (which includes an explanation of why the state of the closets in my house was not my fault!).

Topics: Design, Interior Design, Home Office, Spring


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