Playroom challenge: ACCEPTED

My latest adventure in tidying was with a client with three small children. She contacted me for help organizing a playroom that had just been ravaged by the spoils of a generous Christmas season. Most parents know what that feels like -- and it’s certainly not merry or bright.

My client faced two major dilemmas: 1) the space was large, yet there was still stuff covering every surface, and 2) she feared having to negotiate with three kids under the age of six about what stayed and what was donated or recycled. We addressed these concerns with a simple three-step process.

Step 1 - Remove & Sort everything

First, let’s talk about large rooms. When it comes to clutter, sometimes too much space can wreak as much havoc as too little space, because when an area is large, and especially when it is undefined, there's an assumption that there's ample space for everything—- it becomes a catch-all for stuff, big and small. This was the case for my client’s playroom, and she felt like she was drowning in a sea of toys, books, puzzle and lego pieces, and the dress-up accessories of all kinds. 

My first step when organizing is to pull everything out of wherever it is stored. Empty every closet, shelf, drawer, and cabinet. Do it mechanically, and make sure you get to the bottom of every bin, basket, and box before you make any decisions. It doesn’t take as much time as you think.

Next, you’ll sort everything in the room into categories. As you’re sorting, notice things that are broken or missing parts, outgrown, or otherwise unnecessary, and toss them as you go. Think critically about each item that passes through your hands, but don’t overthink it. (I know this is a delicate balance — just make sure you don’t end up in what I call “analysis paralysis.” Our categories for the playroom were books, puzzles, games, figurines, legos, blocks, cars, train, dress-up clothes & accessories, coloring stuff, kitchen set, dolls & accessories. 

If you’d like, you can involve the kids in the sorting process, but make sure that they understand it isn’t play time (yet). Especially if you’re outnumbered, it may be best to limit their involvement to the decision-making process for what to keep, which is the next step.

Step 2 - Keep ONLY what sparks joy

Once everything has been categorized, have each child pick the items that spark joy for him or her. This is It’s important that each child only decide on his or her own items, and shared items can be decided together. Through this process, you might learn new things about your child - maybe they don’t like puzzles, yet they have accumulated over 20 puzzles. That clears out a lot of space for the stuff they really like!

Now, the next thing I’m going to say is not necessarily in line with the KonMari method, but in my work I’ve learned that most moms prefer to have more decision-making power here, which I can understand. KonMari says that there is not a specific number or amount of stuff to aim for — that all that matters is keeping what sparks joy. But moms tell me “the kids’ll say it all sparks joy! They don’t see the mess!”, so I say, if you have limited space, you should limit the number of items within each category that can stay, and count enthusiastically with the items they choose, without judgment. Remember, we’re picking which toys we want to keep, not which to discard. When they find items that spark joy, it’s a wonderful thing to celebrate and be grateful for. How lucky are we that we get to witness children in a state of joy? 

  • If your young children do not have the capacity to verbalize what brings them joy, you can certainly rely on your observation of him or her at play to understand the fervor and frequency with which their toys are played. The point is to edit the space so only the favorite and best belongings are kept. Next, we’ll set up organization systems with intention, and mark them clearly so everyone can follow it moving forward.

Step 3 - Create zones, set up organization system, & label

After categorizing and choosing what will be kept, the excess should be removed (remember - free haul-away of donations and recycling is included with each organizing session!). Once you see what you’re left working with, begin evaluating the size, shape and function of each category to consider storage options —smaller items should be grouped and enclosed, and larger items will need surface space on the floor or shelf. (Generally toy chests become untidy dumping ground so I don’t generally recommend them). Consider children’s reach and motor skills when devising organizational systems and make sure they will be cognitively and physically able to clean up without your assistance.

Prior to our session, my client’s playroom was well set with storage systems— she had two of those cube shelving units from ikea with canvas cube storage bins, command hooks on the wall for dress-up clothes, some wall-mounted shelving, and a closet with more built-in shelves (perfect for those items requiring parental supervision like play-doh, markers, and paints). 

With the kids help, we selected a bin or box for each category of small items, and shelf space for the larger playsets and dollhouses. We made a label to go with each category (the kids loved helping me spell on my label-maker). Before we knew it, every item had been assigned a home. We even had a practice clean up session to get the kids excited about tidying. 

If this seems overwhelming and time consuming, I am here to help. My trusty label maker and I can help you find peace in your space, no matter what form your clutter takes. Take a look at these before and after pictures and then contact me for a complimentary in person consultation!

Organize the office to maximize workflow!

When I began organizing, I was primarily hired by individuals to organize their homes. I hadn't worked with many businesses but when my friend Emily Ried, co-owner of Gypsy Floral, reached out to me for help with her floral studio, I jumped at the opportunity. Her studio and office were a total mess, and although business was great, she felt like she was going to lose her mind.

Emily's floral designs are amazing. She's able to turn a creative vision into a stunning piece of living art, but the disorganization around her made it difficult to focus. She knew that if she was able to create systems that better utilized the studio space, she'd be able to spend more time creating and less time working around (or looking for) her supplies and tools.

I began with a consultation to see what wasn't working. We talked about her workflow and I studied every nook and cranny of space to see how we could maximize "real estate" of existing shelves, cabinets, drawers, and other storage. We unpacked every box and pulled everything out of drawers, sorted, categorized, and decided to discard (donate/recycle) all that was no longer adding value to Emily, her business partner, and their clients. We made a list of what we needed to buy, including some hooks, shelves, a trash can, and some drawer dividers, and we shopped.

Since Emily is in the creative field in which aesthetics are super important. I wanted the studio to inspire her in addition to being functional. I wanted her favorite things to be the first thing she saw. After a few days of removing, installing, and replacing, the transformation was complete. Floor clutter was replaced by clean lines of shelving with beautiful vases and containers front and center, items grouped by color to create a beautifully flowing space, and tools neatly organized and conveniently within reach. Just look at these before and afters

Clothing Swaps keep your closet tidy and fresh

When I was ready to officially launch Organized for Good, I knew I wanted to host a gathering that reflected the spirit of its mission. Thus, "Swap & Sip" was born.

As a KonMari Consultant-in-Training, I've seen lots of overflowing closets firsthand, and I know the stress of letting go of things and the terrible guilt and feeling of wastefulness that goes along with it. No one should have to experience these feelings about choosing to live clutter-free.

So, for my business launch party I invited over girlfriends (and their girlfriends) to bring a bag of their no-longer-loved clothes, shoes, and accessories to a party for a clothing swap. I turned my house into a little boutique, and we sipped hibiscus mimosas and shopped each other's closets for free. It was delightful. We tried on items that sparked joy and enjoyed the community of women with great style. We only kept what truly sparked joy. What's more fun and sustainable than recycled fashion?

All that remained at the end of the swapping frenzy was donated to local non-profit organizations including Austin Fairy GodmotherDress for SuccessAustin Creative ReuseSafe PlaceFront Stepsthe Salvation Army, and Project Transitions (Top Drawer). All together, we donated 481 items to charity! 

Thanks to my lovely friends at Drink Slingers , (TABC bartenders, bar setup, and fresh mixers for your private event), and to Gypsy Floral (luxe bridal florals & event design), we sipped on mimosas and gave gorgeous blooms to some lucky attendees. 

The event was a huge success, and I plan to make it a bi-annual event. Please clean out your closet and join us for our next Swap & Sip on March 26th, 11am-2pm!

Looking back on Organized for Good's first year...

My Favorite Moments from 2016:

1. Launching Organized for Good and helping my clients control their chaos.
2. Hosting the inaugural Swap & Sip (next clothing swap 3/26/17)
3. Meeting Marie Kondo and beginning KonMari Consultant Training

2016 has gotten a bad rap (mostly rightfully so), but for me, creating Organized for Good was the focus and delight of the year. I had been a part-time home organizing consultant since 2014, and realized that I truly enjoyed helping people get clarity in their lives through decluttering and simplifying. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo's bestselling book and cultural phenomenon), I realized this might just be a full-time calling, and in January 2016 I founded Organized for Good. In August I attended the KonMari Consultant Training Seminar in New York City (the first of its kind anywhere outside of Japan).  

Since then, I have been practicing the KonMari method, along with traditional organizing methods to tidy closets, kitchens, offices, garages, bathrooms, studios, playrooms, utility rooms, warehouses, sheds, and more.  My clients are amazed at the results! It
was a year of creating, learning, and growing, and I'm so excited for the many new adventures 2017 will bring.

If you’re resolved to live more simply, more mindfully, and more organized in 2017, please allow me to provide guidance, accountability, support, extra hands, extra eyes, and so much more.