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Ten Tips From A Home Organizing Convert

 

About two years ago I was asked to produce a TV series following the work of professional organizers. Knowing that other shows like The Home Edit and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo were enjoying success with viewers, I said yes. After all, it would not be the first time I have produced and/or directed content that did not touch a personal chord. I AM organized; you cannot work successfully in my industry without being ‘on it’ and when you also juggle numerous other career paths and passions, organization is a necessity, not an option.  

My decision was made. I would create 50 half-hour episodes, make them as wonderful and informative as possible and move on. No harm, no foul, and no impact on my personal lifestyle. 

Boy was I wrong! 

When I returned to my home base in Toronto after principal photography on the first 25 episodes wrapped, I found that my fundamental approach to my always clean but often cluttered home had changed. I wanted the same order and systems that I saw professional organizers bring to their clients! And, after completing the second block of 25 episodes with a different organizer, I was a total convert teetering on being labelled – and labelling is a big thing in home organization – an extremist. 

Now I am almost evangelical about spreading the word and the mindset. The message is simple; turn your chaos to calm and make your domestic life simpler with organization. And why not reduce the number of hours you waste searching for things? 

Terrifying statistic: Over the course of your life, you’ll spend roughly six full months looking for missing stuff! I want that six months back and I want you to have it too.  

Here are the top ten things that I learned about home organizing while creating a TV show about home organizing. 

 

1. Get a label maker!
I thought of this as a silly extravagance. Really, could I not be trusted to remember that the extension cords or Christmas decorations are in the bins in the garage?  In truth, NO. The human memory is a fragile thing.  So now all my bins, boxes and storage containers are labelled. And, in fact, I have been getting even more specific with lists on labels that prevent frustration and wasted time.  Seriously, I love my label maker! 

 

The trifecta using vertical space with a riser, labelling, and organizing by the most frequently used saves space and frustration.

 

2. Create systems and stick with them.
Have one place for each category of item in your home or office. Creating systems is satisfying but they must work for you; form must follow function. If you organize by frequency of use, do it every time, if by colour blocking be consistent. The trick is simple self-discipline that will lead to a life with less self-inflicted frustration. 

 

3. Get bins, bottles and containers that are identical and that fit well together.
This is not only pleasing to the eye, but it helps maximize storage and reduces visual clutter that can rob you of your peace of mind.  Another fact I discovered is that when we live with clutter (even if we feel we know where everything is) the clutter sends a message to our brains saying that our work is not done – and that feeling is something that we can all do without.

 

Reduce visual clutter and wasted space by using identical containers and label label label! 

 

 

4. Use vertical space for storage and visibility.
No matter if it’s a tall shelving unit in your garage or a tiered storage organizer in your spice cabinet, using vertical space, makes it easier to see what you have and find it efficiently. Vertical space is often ignored; let’s all stop doing that and look up storage solutions.

 

5. Shape and type matters when it comes to clothes hangers.
Since becoming a convert, I have replaced all mine with ‘velvet’ hangers.  They are narrow, which saves space, they can be colour coordinated by family members or type of clothing, the velvet prevents garments from slipping off and they have rounded ends preventing the dreaded shoulder hanger puckers.

 

To make room for more clothes, use velvet hangers of equal size and shape.

 

 

6. Square is better than round when it comes to saving space. 
Kitchen cabinets are a perfect example.  When I replaced my various spice containers (a collection of various shapes and sizes) I suddenly was able to find things and at the same time fit more containers into limited space. 

 

7. And this brings me to decanting.
This one had me perplexed at first. Do we really need a new container for nuts and bolts when they come in a box? A container for breakfast cereals?  In a word, yes. When I fully accepted and appreciated that the shape and size of containers for storage could make my daily tasks move along without friction, I was decanting everything from food to building materials into similarly sized containers. 

 

8. Back storage is super important if you have a large family and/or a big property. 
Having a storage space that is out of the way for items that you buy in bulk can make all the difference to efficiency. But, if you have no place for back storage, then inventory simply becomes clutter. Shop accordingly. 

 

9. Shoe storage:
I know I have an addiction issue that rivals Carrie Bradshaw, but I like them and want to be able to find them easily. By alternating how you place your shoes on shelves you create more space. Place one shoe facing forward and one backward and you gain inches allowing you to store – and purchase – more shoes.

 

Organize shoes back alternating back to front for more space. 

 

 

10. Every room in your home can benefit from a critical evaluation when it comes to organizing.
Don’t ignore any place. When one of my professional organizers suggested that we take on organizing a fridge for the TV show, I knew my eyes were rolling back in my head. Seriously, how could that work?  Well, I am here to tell you that it can be magical. Containers, storing like items together, always keeping leftovers at eye level, and yes even labelling if needed are just a few of the tricks of the organizing trade that will change how you use your fridge.  This is a life-changing rethink that helps prevent everything from “hey where’s the mustard” to food waste and sticky icky spills. Lesson learned: evaluate every place you store anything and create a system that works. 

 

Every area of your home benefits from organizing. In your fridge: less waste, fewer spills and no excuse for waste when you can grab and go.   

 

 

Beyond these top 10 tips, I also advocate the simple but challenging act of purging. This is the hard part, as we all love our stuff, but I recommend you be critical and strategic because when it comes to your home, storage space is valuable real estate. Real estate that you only want to allocate to items that are useful or loved.  If you adopt this attitude and tackle one space at a time you, like me, will soon be spreading the gospel of home organizing. 

 

For more Canadian designers with unique approaches to design, check out Jamie Wolfond, Nikki Chu, and Knauf & Brown on Canadian Real Estate, Housing & Home:

– Good Thing Collection By Canadian Designer Jamie Wolfond

– Designer Nikki Chu Brings Colour To Cautious Canadians

– Knauf & Brown, And Questioning Perceived Value

 

** PHOTOS COURTESY OF THERESA KOWALL-SHIP **

 

Theresa Kowall-Shipp is a TV producer, director and writer.  Her interest in home design grew from exposure to her family’s construction and architectural woodworking firm and producing or directing dozens of hours TV focused on design, construction and home organizing.  

 

 

 

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