While so many people used last year’s lockdown to get in a little spring cleaning, a year has passed and you’ve likely accumulated as much – if not more -- since you’ve been home (insomnia online shopping anyone?) As outdoor, and soon indoor, gatherings become safer, now is a good time to go all Marie Kondo and get your home in order. If you have a love-hate relationship with organization, it may be time to call in the experts to bring in a little more love. We chatted with two of Bergen County’s top organizers, Lauren Farhi of Meticulous Mamas and Melissa Simon of The Home Refresh, for spring and summer organization solutions.
Bergen Mama (BM): Where should people start when it comes to cleaning out spaces and getting organized?
Meticulous Mama (MM): We recommend starting small. Give yourself a goal that is obtainable so that you don’t get overwhelmed and quit before you even get going. Commit to the space. For example, choose something like a junk drawer. Measure the drawer, go online and see what your options are. If that’s even too overwhelming, just take everything out, sort it, get rid of anything that doesn’t belong there, and put it back neatly. It’s satisfying no matter what level of organizing you go for.
Spring is a great time of year to go through closets. You can get rid of clothing that you didn’t wear last spring and summer and put away winter clothing. Another space that is good to organize during spring is the garage. Go through and see if anything is unusable -- balls that are deflated, or blow ups that have holes -- and get rid of it. Take inventory of what you might need for the spring and summer, such as a new hose or some gardening tools. Make sure you have room for new items by getting rid of old items or making space before you buy.
The Home Refresh (THR): I always recommend starting room by room as to not overwhelm yourself. It lets you be in control of what you're trying to organize without creating a bigger problem because you've now dragged stuff out all over the house. I like to begin with the bedroom or kitchen because they are the hub of the home. They are places where you start and end your day, so having them organized can set the tone for how you feel for the rest of the day. If they're in disarray, and you're in a rush in the morning, you're not going to be able to easily find what you need to pack lunches or get dressed, leaving you feeling anxious and stressed.
BM: Is there a rule of thumb for throwing things away?
MM: It depends on what space you are organizing. When it comes to clothing, a good rule of thumb is if you haven’t worn it in the last couple of years, get rid of it. We also understand certain things are sentimental, and that is okay! You can keep things that are sentimental. Sometimes the problem is the homeowner might think something is important, or that they will fit into it again, but once it’s gone they never think about it again. We also find a lot of customers that keep more expensive items just because “they paid a lot for it.” For example, bikes or sports equipment, expensive kitchen gadgets and more. The more stuff you have, the more stressed you are. We ask them to forget the price for a minute, and then tell us if they would keep or get rid of it. Most of the time, they choose to let it go.
THR: I say there is no harm in keeping something that is sentimental to you, as long as it's properly put away and stored. Put it in a storage container, label it and tuck it away on a shelf or in a cabinet where it's not in the way of everyday items you need to access.
BM: What are some useful tools you recommend?
MM: There are so many different things we use and recommend for different spaces in and out of homes. We absolutely love track systems on garages. We like to get as much possible off the floor and onto the wall for a less cluttered, but still easily accessible look and feel. Another item we use a lot are Lazy Susans because of their versatility. We use them in kitchen pantries, under sinks, for backstock storage, for makeup and to store kids art supplies. They're great for making items accessible and so you can easily see what you have. No one wants to reach into the back of the shelf to find something, let alone even remember it’s there!
THR: Something with a lid is always great because they can be stacked. I also love containers or boxes that you cannot see through. People think clear containers are great because they can see what is in them, but they can often make a space look more cluttered if you just throw items in. I try to use an alternative when possible, such as baskets or solid colored storage solutions, to hide what is inside. Pop a label on the front and you're good to go.
BM: What does post quarantine organization look like. Should people revisit organizing yearly?
MM: It’s all about maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Remember, what you see on TV and on Instagram isn’t real life. A lot of the people we organize for have families with children and high traffics areas. The number one thing we say is that we can set you up with the tools for success, but you have to follow through with maintaining. This means coming back to these spaces and refreshing them every so often. Certain spaces are forever changing, like a kitchen pantry or even a garage. Every few months, just go over the space and make sure everything is back in the correct place.
THR: I think after quarantine, a lot of people realized they don't love living among all of their own clutter. So I believe it's important to revisit every space each year. Take it room by room and discard any old clothing that is torn or doesn't fit, craft supplies that are broken or dried up, toys that your children have outgrown, or anything that you haven't needed or used in the past year.
BM: How can a personal organizer help?
MM: Meticulous Mamas is a full service company, meaning we do everything from small one space orgs to full house organization, renos, design and more. A professional organizer can really help in any stressful home situation, or to make something that’s already nice functional and beautiful. In some situations, people really don’t see an end in sight, and we help them get there. We change lives by taking away the stress that people feel when they are overwhelmed.
THR: What I have found over the last couple of years is that most people just need someone by their side to motivate them, keep them on track and ensure them that it is in fact OK to discard something. When you start organizing, it will always look worse before it looks better and that's OK! We come up with a personalized design plan and estimate for every one of our clients based on their specific needs. Organizing isn’t for everyone, but it truly makes us happy.