Tuesday, March 20, 2012 1:06 PM EDT
With the help of Spot On Organizing’s Tina Blazer, three major areas of my house had been decluttered: basement, closets and home office. With additional help from Blazer’s team and Eureka! Assembly & Installation Inc., we were finally able to put the storage and organizational potential of the basement and closets to full use. The last stop on the “big reveal” journey through my house was my former disaster area of an office…
STAGE SIX: THE OFFICE, AND THE FINAL ANALYSIS
My new office! As you can imagine, judging by picture above, I was absolutely thrilled. Here was a room truly transformed. No more senseless piles and overwhelming clutter: This room was streamlined, organized and pretty. It was a room I wanted to be in — which was a good thing since it’s where I’m supposed to be at my most productive.
How was I going to keep it organized?
According to Blazer, keeping an office organized comes down to the simple practice of scheduling time for filing, sorting and organizing. Even the most organized room is not going to stay that way without maintenance, so I’ve started scheduling 30 minutes a week for office upkeep, as well as some monthly time for more major filing and sorting.
My favourite thing
Because we were able to move out the dining room sideboard that was taking up a great deal of space in my office and not performing a very useful function (it had turned into a catch-all for off-season clothes, children’s artwork and files), I got my bonus space: a place to read and write. I outfitted the now freed-up corner with a comfortable and space-efficient Newport chaise lounge ($199) from Modern Sensibility, a company that specializes in furniture for small spaces. I also bought new paintings and a lamp, and put up lovely curtains, effectively turning the office into a haven to which I can regularly retreat and do my favourite things: read and write.
The best advice
The most important advice I took away from my time working with Blazer, and something that we’ve been able to maintain as a family, is the ‘daily, weekly, monthly’ method of organizing: placing items strategically based on general usage patterns. This approach can — and should — apply to every room in the house. Here’s how it breaks down, according to the pro herself:
Daily items: a toiletry or kitchen item on the counter; a little box for receipts on the desk; a basket or tray on the dresser. “Things that you use daily that are placed in a prominent spot, so you don’t have to move from where you execute the task to get the item,” says Blazer.
Weekly items: magazine boxes with action files on a shelf; reference material in a cabinet; office supplies in a bin just under the desk. “It means you have to get up from your seat or reach a bit higher from where you are to get the item,” says Blazer.
Monthly items: areas such as the top of the closet, under the bed, higher on the bookcase, in a cabinet across the kitchen. “You’re not using your ‘prime’ real estate for an item you only go to occasionally,” says Blazer.
Other items: areas such as in the basement, the bottom of the closet, the bottom drawer of the dining room side board. “These items are usually more ‘archival’ or ‘seasonal,’ so shouldn’t be taking up space where you do your everyday living,” says Blazer.
Ultimately, I was very pleased with the entire process and the outcome, but here’s what I would have done differently:
As previously mentioned, I think clear storage bins are a must for children’s toys. Sure, the idea of keeping things out of sight makes for a look that’s aesthetically pleasing, but in an area that’s meant for kids to enjoy and be able to play freely, ensuring the toys are accessible is an important step in an organization that can be maintained.
Involving all members of the family in the process is also important. My husband ended up taking care of the kids during most of the sort and cull days, so I made some decisions without him he wasn’t so pleased with (remember when I moved all his clothes out of our bedroom closet?). A home organization project can only work if everyone is on board, so inviting everyone to be in on the decision-making process is essential.
What it costs
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to ballpark an ‘average’ organizational overhaul, as numerous factors are involved in crunching the numbers. Still, Blazer says that whole home organizing can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. “It’s dependent on how large a house, and how much stuff there is,” she explains. (Our project came in around the middle of that estimate.)
If you don’t want to tackle an entire house? Start small. An office sort-and-plan takes three to six hours, and costs $225-$450, says Blazer.
Or, a three-hour session could get most families started. “This can mean sorting a few closets; an entryway and closet; or a kitchen. I’ve never left a client’s place after a three-hour session where they haven’t said, Wow, what a difference!,” says Blazer.
Why you should do it
If the results weren’t obvious enough? I was the most typical of cases — many people live like this (well, my pre-organized ‘this’) and really don’t need to. “My suggestion is to be in the solution, not thinking about the problem,” says Blazer. “Often, working with a Professional Organizer can kickstart that process.”
The follow up
It is common for families to have a follow-up session after about three months, Blazer adds, “just to fine tune and have a look at any seasonal items that need to be re-shifted.” Many families also schedule yearly maintenance sessions in order to address the natural changes that can — and will — happen, from kids moving into a different phase, job changes, renovation plans coming up, new family hobbies, etc.
In the end
I wish I could say that we lived happily ever after, in a state of organized bliss. But we’re a real family, and a busy one at that, and there are days (and weeks) when our home starts to veer dangerously close to its pre-organizational territory. What has changed is that we know how to get out of the hole. I will never again feel overwhelmed by my stuff because I know there is a place for everything, and a method (daily, weekly, monthly) for keeping it all in check. Plus, if I start to lose control again, I know exactly who to call.