Hello everyone, it’s Haleigh! I’ve been working as a professional organizer for a little over a year now, but I’m still the newest member of the organizing team at Kuzak’s. When I first started in March of 2019, I was relying heavily on on-the-job training as well as my natural inclinations as a generally organized person. Recently I’ve also had the opportunity to join NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, and have started to dive into some of the benefits that membership comes with, including all of the various courses they have on professional organization.
I know that many of you have taken the extra time afforded by Shelter in Place orders to purge out unused items and reorganize areas of your home. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the most useful things I’ve learned from the NAPO introductory courses, Fundamental Organizing and Productivity Principles and Skills. These courses include excellent explanations of how to mentally and emotionally frame the process of organizing for yourself or for others as well as some helpful exercises to organize more efficiently. I’ll be going into detail on how you can use these strategies on your own or with a professional.
Clutter is the result of unmade choices and incomplete actions- in other words most disorganization is the product of procrastination. Because of this, many times the most important decision we help you make is simply the decision to start. With lots of first-time clients, our role is usually to guide you through the organizing process while making sure you feel confident in the decisions you’re making through discussion and feedback. If you tend to put off tackling a project, sometimes all you need is to commit to spending just five minutes getting started. Often this is enough to give you the momentum you were lacking. If you’re still struggling it could also be that you’re paralyzed by perfectionism, and it’s important to understand that done is better than perfect and that systems can and should always be refined.
Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble getting started on a project because you don’t feel like you’ll be able to get it perfect, try adjusting your frame of mind. Organizing isn’t a straight path with a clear ending; it’s an ongoing process that involves constantly tweaking and refining your system to fit evolving needs. Even if you did get it perfect right away, over time that system wouldn’t be perfect for you anymore, and you’d have to change it anyway! So don’t be afraid to try different strategies and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
Kuzak’s Closet Experience: Whenever we work with a repeat client, we always revisit old systems and see if they are still working. We always leave space in our systems that allow us to make small tweaks and keep things up to date. Life changes and so do the needs of the families we work with. Here are two examples…
Double Duty Closet: Amanda originally designed this closet with the Elfa system for our client in 2014. It was originally meant for guest room storage but fast forward to 2020, our client now has twin toddlers who are sharing the space so adjustments needed to be made. During a session earlier this year we added extra drawers and carved out a zone for each child to help discourage the clutter creep. As they grow the diapers will no longer be needed and those shelves can transition again.
Perfect Pantry 2.0
In some cases the procrastination can be tied up with finding the perfect product. In this Menlo Park pantry we couldn’t find the perfect product right away so we settled on these white bins at the time. Amanda continued to search for just the right product that would be functional and also stylish in the space and finally a year later the pantry went from this…
To this! We swapped out the white bins with chalk labels for these smoke bins with custom vinyl labels and the space really came together!
Even if you are very self-aware and know what your ideally organized space would look like, sometimes you simply have too much stuff for a system to be functional. The NAPO courses go through several methods for reducing the number of items in a space and how to establish rules and a frame of mind to help with the decision-making process. A really simple method that I like is the ‘use it, love it’ matrix, where items that you both use and love you keep and items you neither use nor love you get rid of. This helps you concentrate more of your decision-making efforts on the items that you’re the least sure about (things you love but don’t use or use but don’t love) and helps you avoid decision fatigue. We normally will walk you through this during a session, but it’s a skill that gets easier with practice and can definitely be done during a solo organizing project. When all else fails, one of the easiest ways to reduce items whether you’re working with a professional or by yourself is to set up rules or limits to help make the decisions more automatic. This can be anything from getting rid of any magazines that are older than X date to getting rid of clothing that is Y size, or any other parameter that you feel makes sense. This is an excellent tool to have not only for any initial sessions, but also for clients to help maintain the organization of a space even after we’ve left.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve reduced a category down to what you feel is a good amount, one of the easiest ways to maintain that organization is to find the right home or organizing product to house that category of items. If you have a defined amount of space for a category, you’ll be forced to either get rid of items before you bring new ones in, or adjust the whole system to accommodate a new acquisition. This can be done in lots of different ways, from limiting the number of hangers you have in a closet to having designated spots for makeup products.
Kuzak’s Closet Experience: Letting go can be challenging but I’ve learned that taking the items away for our client at the end of each session really helps with the process of saying goodbye. Many of our client have donation piles waiting for us when we arrive for a session, others rely on the extra push that we offer help say goodbye and reach their goals.
His and Hers Closet: Amanda and I had a closet session this spring. Our client shares a closet with his wife and while he was extremely motivate to purge and start fresh she didn’t share the urge to tackle her side, that is until we were finished with his side. Seeing his entire wardrobe organized and decluttered gave her the motivation to spend an hour purging with us so we could give the same treatment. The final results were so much more satisfying because the entire closet received a refresh. Amanda told me that she wouldn’t leave until we could tackle both sides and I can see why!
His side before…
His side after…
Her side after…
The purge pile up!
We removed mismatched hangers and there were enough wooden hangers to go around. Now that they have a clean slate they will more easily be able to maintain and enjoy their wardrobes.
In my first year of working at Kuzak’s, I’ve learned that one of the most important aspects of our job as professional organizers isn’t creating picture perfect after’s of your spaces, but instead setting you up for success as you live in and maintain the systems we help create. There is no singular right way to organize any space, so it’s important to have your input during the entire process. The three organizing activities that NAPO defines as reducing, arranging, and maintaining all need to involve you in making decisions and giving preferences if the organization is going to remain sustainable. Everything we do while organizing from selecting categories for sorting to choosing products to enhance a system is always done with your preferences in mind. We always ask which items are the most frequently used, which items need to be accessed by multiple people, and which things you always use together among myriad other questions to try to create the most useful and efficient system possible. If you’re working on a project solo, it’s totally fine to take inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram, but it’s more important to make sure you’re creating a system that fits how you use the items in a space, so make sure to ask yourself these questions!
Pro Tip: If you’re working to organize a space that is used by multiple people in your household, be sure to talk with them about how they use the space and what their preferences are. This will help make the space efficient for everyone, and will help motivate them to maintain your hard work.
Kuzak’s Closet Experience: Garages and pantries are two of the most common shared spaces that we see and preferences in each space vary. In some cases you will want to set up a system that works for everyone, in other cases the system should be set up to the preference of the main user but be clear enough that others can follow the system when needed.
Wheels Up Garage: It drove this Los Altos Hills client CRAZY when all of the cars and scooters were left rolling around the garage floor so she requested a system that would provide a parking lot for each vehicle up on the wall. Having most items out of hands reach of the children must not be appealing for other mamas but it worked for this one.
Packed Up Pantry: This pantry was so personalized to this Woodside client that when it came time for them to move, we packed it up and replicated it at the new house. Why recreate the wheel if you don’t need to?
Now that we’re spending more time at home than ever, it’s important to feel comfortable and at peace in our own spaces. I hope these tips and takeaways will help you get the most out of any organizing projects you tackle while at home. If you conquer a new zone in your house, send us a picture through Instagram @Kuzakscloset, we’d love to see your hard work! And if you have any organizing questions and want some professional advice, DM us on Instagram and we’ll share more tips and tricks you can use.