Before & After: Open Pantry

This week Before & After is for an open kitchen pantry. The convenience of having an open pantry is easy access, but it also means seeing the clutter if it’s not organized. Especially if you enjoy cooking, it can be frustrating to not be able to find the ingredients you need. My clients is a busy working wife who recently changed to a plant-based gluten-free diet. After a long day at work, it would be nice to come home and quickly put together a healthy meal.

Before: Open Pantry

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In the before image, the shelves are packed to the edge. Other than seeing the various bottles of olive oil, there’s no clear division of what goes on each shelf. Part of the problem also is that some of the rice and pasta made their way to a separate wall cabinet because the pantry was full.  And by spreading out items from the same category, you end up not knowing exactly how many you have. And most likely you’ll buy more before you actually run out.

Before: A separate wall cabinet that holds more rice and pasta

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As with any organizing project, start by visualizing how you’d like to use the space. In this case, we want to create a pantry where the homeowner can easily see what are on the shelves, be inspired by the ingredients to cook a nice meal, and take out what she needs without having to rearranging anything in the way.

Next, take everything out and sorted them by category: sauces, rices, pasta, soups, canned food etc. Anything expired or no longer fit my client’s diet were removed. Anything that belongs with the snacks or beverage category were moved to the appropriate cabinet.

After: Open Pantry

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This built-in pantry has an inner shelf within for shorter items. This is a nice feature, but also creates a problem for what can go underneath or in front of them. Sometimes storage takes a few tries to get the right combination. Our focus is on ease of use, so use your instinct and personal habit to determine the best pantry storage solution. Here you see a wide selection of oils and vinegars. A plastic shoebox-sized container was used so you can pull it out to reach the shorter bottles in the back. Even though bottles in the front are taller, it works because they are also the most used. Applying the KonMari method of “rise to the right”, which visually lifts up your mood, the bottles are also placed shortest on the left and tallest to the right.

The cookbooks are sorted by the type of cuisine, then lined up from the tallest to the shortest within each group. If you prefer, labeling or creating dividers can make it easier to find the book you need.

After: Open Pantry Close Up

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Pantry organization is most successful with clear divisions. This doesn’t mean everything has to be in matching containers or containers at all. Here, the jars of coconut oil fit right in between the 2 plastic containers. The mustard and olive tapenade are placed on a lid used as a tray. The variation works well according to the size of the bottles and the numbers of bottles you have. I also like to leave at least half and inch of space in between the bottles and jars so you can see what’s behind, and have room for your fingers to grab what you need.

The seasonings on the back upper shelf are lined up by grouping the different brands. Unless you bought a whole set of seasoning at once, it’s very common to have bottles or bags from different brands. It is best to keep matching bottles together to create visual uniformity. Your eyes will flow easier across to find the flavor you need quickly.

After: Open Pantry Closet Up 2

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On another shelf, the rice and pasta are divided using the mesh wire baskets originally on these shelves. These baskets also include the rice and noodles from the other wall cabinet so now they are all in one place. Again, instead of putting the basket next to each other, we created another space to placed other types of grains in between.

If you bake, you can place your frequently used baking ingredients such as baking powder and vanilla extract in one container like we’ve done here on the bottom left. When you are ready to bake, you only have to take out one box with everything you need. And clean up is easy too!

The finished pantry looks full but not stuffed, just like how we should feel after we eat! I hope you’ve enjoyed this before and after. Does your pantry inspire you to cook?

Before and After: Armoire with Drawers

In this before and after, my client who frequently hosts parties and playdates needed help organizing a large armoire with 12 drawers. Over the years these drawers have been filled with things from party napkins, to batteries, to candles and coloring books. It’s a beautiful piece of furniture that became the ultimate junk drawers.

One of the goal for this project was to create personal drawers for her 2 kids to keep their homework and school supplies organized. We also wanted to make sure every drawer clearly defines what belongs inside.

BEFORE: Armoire with drawers

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Facing the armoire was a long dinning table. We started the process by clearing the table to create a workspace. Then we emptied out drawer after drawer, and placed each item on the table by category (Office supplies, tools, party supplies etc.) My client told me after 20 minutes that if I wasn’t there she would have stopped already. This reaction is normal and expected since drawers like these are the most difficult to sort through. You are making thousands of decisions for items you’ve ignored for a long time. And very often you will find multiples of the same thing because when things get lost under the pile, you end up purchasing a new one. These 12 drawers and 4 shelves took 5 hours to declutter. Let’s take a closer look at some of these drawers.

I want to point out that we did not purchase any small containers for the interior organization. My client had a big collection of holiday and thank you cards, so I used those boxes and lids to create these “bento boxes” to create divisions.

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Office Supplies Drawer

The plastic containers that hold the craft paint were once food containers. My client had a stack of them ready to be recycled, but I suggested we use them inside these drawers. What amazes me with my work is that almost every client’s home already have containers that works. Ziplock bags are also great for holding markers and paint brushes.

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Arts and Crafts Drawer

We all have various charging cables and plug that ends up all round the house. Here, we gathered the cables and wrapped them with rubber bands. Another box holds all the plugs. Keeping with the charging theme are batteries. The same type of batteries goes int he same ziplock bag so there’s no need to label them.

My client likes to hang pictures on their walls, so we kept the hammers handy next to the picture hanging supplies.

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Charging and Tools Drawer

My client enjoys entertaining. We placed together everything she needs for hosting a dinner party with candlelight. There are special serveware in one drawer, cloth and printed paper napkins in another. By having drawers like these, she can ask other family members to help set the table while she’s cooking, and they won’t need to ask where anything is.

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Candles Drawer

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Serveware and Coasters

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Napkins Drawer

Originally these greeting cards were all in separate boxes or piled up in different drawers. I sorted them by holiday, separated the envelopes and filed them by size. Then finally, I used a label maker, and a few of the tallest envelopes to create dividers for each holiday category. This filing system will make it very easy for her to find what she’s looking for. And all those boxes and lids were put to good use as shallow containers for the other drawers!

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Greeting Cards Drawer

This drawer is for my client’s daughter. The empty space is for her school notebook and folder. She has a tray for her pencils, sharpener and erasers. The drawer also holds her kindle, calendar book, and a container of hair products used each morning to get ready for school.

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Daughter’s Homework Drawer

Her brother has the same set up with his things. These drawers are side by side and labeled with their name. Their mom told me they loved their drawers so much they were showing them off to their friends. : )

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Son’s Homework Drawer

Since organizing these drawers, the whole family has been enjoying easy access to what they need. They feel lighter overall knowing that each drawer is neat and has a purpose. They feel less stressed getting ready in the morning and during homework time.

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Do you have drawers like the before photo? I hope the tips shared here can help you declutter. If you get stuck, I’d be happy to help.

Before & After: Girl’s Closet Part 2

Following my last session working with a 9-year-girl on her closet, I went back to see what we can do about the other half of the space. The family has been using it as a pantry and storage space. When I showed up this time, I was delighted to see my young client folding her own clothes and putting them away using the KonMari method. Her mom did purchase 4 new dresses for her, which I later found out she told her mom “You buy me too much stuff.” She even gave away a few more things to her friends.  I am so proud of this girl. She has fully embraced the KonMari Method, and getting in touch with what brings her joy. This new found confidence and understanding will continue to benefit her in all areas of her life.

For part two of this closet organization, I worked with only the mom who is responsible for the miscellaneous items. We emptied the closet and dusted off the shelves. As we moved the things out, we sorted them by categories: food, vases, blankets, gift wrapping supplies, holiday items etc. You can also think of these categories as similar materials: ceramic, glass, metal, textile, paper.  We moved all the food items to the kitchen pantry, and only left items that are not used frequently in this closet. Our goal was to minimize the family coming in and out of the daughter’s bedroom.

BEFORE: Bedroom Closet/Storage Closet

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AFTER: Bedroom Closet/Storage Closet

I REALLY LOVE this closet transformation. I felt like I discovered a treasure chest filled with things in beautiful colors and textures. The result added a cheerfulness which didn’t feel out of place in a girl’s bedroom closet.

Let’s take a closer look:

I placed the tall glass vases on the top shelf. They reflected the light and made the ceiling look even higher. The Easter baskets handles are very tall, so they also went on the top shelf.  The blankets are folded so they expose a clean edge. They are also grouped by their color schemes. The holiday table clothes and utensils made sense to be on the same shelf. I repurposed the vases and planters to hold the smaller items. Also, the shorter easter baskets came in handy for keeping the ribbons and bow, while a tall ceramic vase was perfect for the rolls of gift wrapping.

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The cleaned up shelves allows my client to still keep items like the vacuum and golf clubs in the closet but out of the way of her daughter’s things. There’s now room to also display some toys.

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Both the mom and daughter couldn’t believe the transformation of this closet. I personally love how the colors of those blankets infused more joy into the space.

What do you think about this before and after? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions.

Before & After: Girl’s Closet Part 1

Recently I had a blast working with my youngest client yet, a 9-year-old girl, on her closet makeover. Because her bedroom was the guest room, the closet functioned as a storage/pantry. The items were never removed when my client moved in. As a result, there were paper towels, holiday decorations, a vacuum cleaner, and many other Costco purchases stored next to this little girl’s clothes. Access to those items meant going into my client’s bedroom when she’s with her friends or studying. This was something I felt would definitely become a problem as she becomes a teenager and wants more privacy.

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We started the session by talking about the issues she has with the current closet: folded and stacked clothes becoming unraveled, household items blocking her drawers and she’s unable to find what she needs. I explained to her the KonMari method, then began the joy-checking process. My client was very comfortable saying thank you to the items she placed in the bag to be donated. However, she also apologized to her mom before putting the clothes in the donation bag (her mom was not in the room with us). I asked her why, and she explained that because her mom bought it for her that she felt bad giving it away.

That guilty feeling is completely normal, and is one of the main reasons why people have trouble letting go. I explained that her mom cares more about whether the clothes made her feel comfortable and confident wearing them, then keeping something that doesn’t spark joy anymore. For her to keep anything she won’t wear is more of a waste then allowing the clothes to have a second life elsewhere.  (Note: When working with younger clients, I let the parent know to not go through the discarded items or put anything back into their child’s closet. This is to show trust and respect in a child’s decision, so they can have confidence in themselves in learning what they like.) With those thoughts in mind, and learning to trust her feelings, my client was able to complete the process and felt good about her choices.

At one point her mom came in to see how we were doing. My client told her mom that she had put something in the bag that was too small that she once loved. Her mom offered to put it in a memory box, which made me a little bit nervous after 3 items went in the memories box after given that option.  So I suggested we limit to only those truly special and meaningful to her. I also asked if she knows where the best memory box is kept. She immediately put her hands to her chest and said “your heart”. What a smart girl. I told her that our memories can continue to bring us joy, and it’s with you anytime, anywhere. Suddenly the memory box didn’t feel as necessary.

BEFORE: Girl’s Closet

 

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In the 3 hours we worked together. I showed her how to fold her clothes the KonMari way. She thought it was really fun and was excited to put away her own clothes. We put all the pajamas in a drawer. Her socks, underwear, and bathing suits in another. All the short and long sleeve tees in one. And all the pants and shorts in the lower drawer. Her dresses and skirts were hung and lined up from longest to shortest. And her furry vests, sweatshirts, and heavier long sleeves are also hung and sorted from darkest to lightest.

AFTER: Girl’s Closet

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My client was so happy with the results, she was excited to invite her friends over to see the newly organized closet. Before I left I reminded her that the more she can show her parents that she is responsible by keeping her closet nice and neat, the more they’ll trust her. I was so proud of what we have accomplished in the 3 hours, and she now has the skills that will benefit her for the rest of her life.

Stay tuned for part 2 when I return to help organize the other half of her closet to move the miscellaneous pantry stuff out.

Before & After: Toddler’s Bedroom

Little kids’ clothes are so cute that buying them is hard to resist. The same goes for stuffed animals that offer our children comfort and imaginative play. Whether they are purchased or received as gifts, they can quickly get out of control.

In this Before & After, my client needed help with her 3-year-old’s bedroom. He has over 40 t-shirts, 50 stuffed animals, and 200 books. This is very common in the households I’ve been in with young children. And parents are overwhelmed by the clutter, the amount of laundry, and the time and energy to clean up.

According to Marie Kondo, children as young as three can start to tidy. It’s important to develop these habits and learn about responsibilities as these life skills help to build confidence, and teach them to be a contributing member of the family. Our job as parents is to show them how to take care of the belongings they love, and offer support and encouragement as they try to do it themselves.

During this initial session, the mom and I worked one-on-one to discard the items that she felt confident no longer sparked joy for her son. We separated the toys and books they borrowed from the neighbor and library to be returned. We also moved the ones that are no longer age appropriate to another room for his new baby brother.

Using the KonMari method, we started with the clothes category. Children grow so fast, it’s important to pull out any that are too small or worn out. In general, owning 14-16 tops, 8-10 bottoms, 3-4 coats or jackets, 3-4 pairs of shoes, will get you through two seasons (spring and summer wardrobe, fall and winter wardrobe). I do encourage you to keep all seasons of clothing in one place because you may need to travel somewhere with very different weather, and you can mix and match to create new outfits. When the clothes start to get snug, then make new purchases, and prefereably involving your child in the choice making process. Try to resist buying larger sized items when you see a good sale. We often store those away and they get forgotten. By the time we take them out, either they are too small, or doesn’t match the interest or animated character your child is into. Unless you have multiple children and want to keep them as hand-me-downs, you really don’t need more clothes than what’s listed above for a child. Children generally like to wear their favorite clothes over and over, and the less clothes to choose from means they can get ready faster, and you’ll have less laundry to do. (Some people have known to delay having to put away clean clothes by tossing them back in the hamper to make them “go away”.)

So let’s take a look at this before and after. You may be surprised that the room is actually quite neat. but my client knew there were some items that her son doesn’t use and needed to be removed.

Before: Books and stuffed animals

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Stacking the folded t-shirts means you can’t see what you have, and pulling one out will mess up the pile.

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The closet had nice containers but they make it hard to see what’s inside. Behind the laundry basket on the floor is a shoe rack, but the shoes are never worn and are all too small now.

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After: Pajamas, socks and underwear drawer

The far left are the underwear, the socks are in smaller boxes to keep them separated by sports sock and ones with graphics. The pajamas are folded and placed as sets.

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We sorted the items in all the storage bins into most frequently used items and placed them on the lowest shelf, and seasonal or occasionally used items higher up. The clothes are hung from the longest to the shortest. We looped the snow gloves on the hanger with the snow plants so they are easy to find. The shoe rack behind the laundry basket was removed so the basket can be pushed all the in.

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The T-shirt collection has been pared down to her son’s favorites. We folded them the KonMari way and place the side with the graphics on the outside so you can easily find the one you want. The small box contains rash guard for swimming because the fabric is slippery and the shirts can’t stand on their own.

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We organized the books and lined them up by size. In children’s rooms, I like to place them from the tallest to the shortest then back to tall again because the negative space creates a smile shape. I told my clients that if her son pulls the books out himself, as long as he puts them back, it’s fine that he doesn’t put them back in the same spot. When they have the time, they reorganize them by playing a game to of sorting by size, or matching books from the same series.

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The next step we plan to do is for me to work with her son to continue to reduce the number of stuffed animals he has. I also reminded my client to not purchase more by replacing material things with experiences for her son.

I hope you enjoyed this before and after. Let me know if you have any trouble decluttering your child’s room and if these tips have helped you.

 

Are Subscription Boxes Worth it?

According to an article on Forbes.com, about 2000 companies have implemented a subscription-style delivery service into their business. From food to fashion, activity kits for kids, to beauty products, you can find a subscription to match any lifestyle or interest. They cost on average between $20-$50 a month depending on the subscription you choose. I have tried a few myself when this trend first started. I do love receiving those beautifully wrapped “gifts”. You feel a rush of adrenaline from anticipating the surprise inside. You get that butterfly feeling, hoping to discover something new you might fall in love with. The benefit that it saves time from having to go shop yourself for those unique pieces is a very attractive selling point. However, as wonderful as all that seems, we have to look at the flip side.

Meal Subscription Boxes (Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh)
These services allow you to choose from a wide variety of meals tested by gourmet chefs. The ingredients are pre-measured and clear instruction with photographs are included in each box. It’s a fun activity for a couple or friends to cook together, and a great way to try to different types of food. In those instances, the experience adds to the enjoyment of the food. However, to create a meal that looks like the photos takes time.  The individual plastic packaging for the ingredients are tedious and wasteful. If you were to buy the ingredients yourself, you may have leftovers to take to work the next day, or turn into a wrap or soup. For those who are less adventurous or experienced in cooking, this may be fun to try. However, don’t expect that you’ll be saving time or money.

Beauty Products (Birch Box, Glossy Box, Beauty Fix)
There was a time when sample beauty products were free. These days, you can get a box full of them for a price. I did try Birch Box for a few months. Part of me wondered if I’m paying for items that don’t sell and helping those companies clear out their inventory. Out of the 25 beauty samples I got, I found one lipstick that I liked that I wouldn’t have tried on my own. The rest of the items were used so I don’t waste them, or given away.. Many of the products at regular price are more than what I’d normally pay. If we just took the time to stop by a Sephora, we can get an actual person to recommend products that we can try on the spot for free. That may take a little extra time, but you can ask questions and only buy the items you really like. Another negative when you take advantage of a better subscription deal, you end up locking yourself into a pre-paid 6 to 12 months plan, spending more money on things you don’t want. And one thing I noticed during my research, most of the sites don’t have a section to explain their cancellation policy unless you contact customer service.

When I read the reviews from happy customers, it was never about the products. Instead they felt the thrill of getting something new each month. And that feeling goes away fast, but very addictive. In the end, you might end up with one or two things that sparks joy. However, it will cost you a lot more than what they are worth.

Clothing Subscription (Stitch Fix, Golden Tote, Fabletics)
Clothing box subscriptions are quite costly depending on the type of clothing you want. I tried this service because I didn’t think I had a personal style. I was waiting for a professional stylist to solve this problem. Enticed by the cute outfits on their website, which never seems to make it into the boxes I received, I signed up for 3 months with Stitchfix.com. The deal is that if you decide to keep something, you can put your monthly fee ($20) towards your purchase. Sadly 2 of the 3 boxes had clothes that the entire selection are styles I would never wear. So not only I paid the monthly fee that could have gone towards a purchase, I had to take the time to pack it up and send it back. Once I talk myself into keeping a dress so it wasn’t a total loss. However, if I had tried it on in a regular store I probably wouldn’t have bought them.

I realized this services taps into our insecurities and lack of understanding of who we are. The professional stylist is probably a computer algorithm that’s programmed the same way we make selections to narrow our choices when shopping online. In the end, I made the purchase out of guilt from not wanting to waste the money I already paid. This experience happened before I kondo-ed my closet. And it was going through my entire wardrobe, joy-checking each piece, that I realized I have a personal style. All of the clothes that makes me happy are already in my closet.

Kids Activity Boxes (Kiwi Crate, LittlePassports, Stem Box, Make Crate)
Every parent who is too tired or intimidated by doing an educational activity or craft with their child loves these kits. They come with all the parts and instructions you need, tested extensively to ensure the subscriber to have successful results. But that’s just the problem isn’t it. Learning is most effective when children have questions that they want to find the answers themselves. The boxes you receive may be interesting, but if your child is not in the mood for science, this will feel like work. And parents will get frustrated when the $40 box they paid only lasted 5 minutes of their child’s attention. Also, learning is about failing, trial and error is where learning happens. Creativity comes from being resourceful, to solve a problem in a new way. When given a kit with all the parts included and detailed instructions, there’s very little creativity involved in the process. Of course some of the themes may be a big hit with your child, but as most parents have experience, sometimes the box is a lot more fun than what’s inside them.

To sum it up, we need to be more conscious of what we are buying. When we leave the choice making process to someone else, we start to disconnect from our own ability to make decisions. The KonMari method is a great way to hone your skills to get to know your likes and dislikes. Trusting in our own instincts gives us power and control of how we spend our time and money. Simplify your life by becoming a more conscious shopper and make choices that will infuse more positivity rather than adding more clutter.

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Before&After: Clothing Closet

In this before and after, my client needed help with her closet. Because she’s expecting another child, she has a mix of pregnancy and regular clothes both in one closet.

In the United States, it is common to have closets with a bar for hanging and multiple adjustable shelves. People generally use wire hangers that comes with their dry cleaning, and shirts and pants are folded and stacked. This method of organization is problematic because wire hangers ruins the shape of your clothing. And folded shirts gets messy every time you take one out from within the pile. The daily process of tugging and pulling makes a neatly organized closet difficult to maintain. Often in our busy lives they are left undone, and the pile becomes increasingly cluttered, adding stress to an already hectic morning time to get ready.

This tidying experience is a great example of when someone who has reached a breaking point and fed up with her storage problem. After spending 3.5 hours joy checking everything and discarding 8 bags of items, she gained some important insights. She learned that certain colors or styles she should never buy, and stores she shouldn’t shop at. She also realized reasons that will positively affect her future shopping decision making and habits based on the mistakes she made from past purchases.

After discarding, the storing process was a lot easier once she had the right amount of items intended for the size of her closet. We placed her regular clothes farther back, and the pregnancy clothes within reach. The clothes hung are in order from longest on the left, then rearranged within that to go from darker to lighter colors. This KonMari method of hanging can visually uplifts your spirit. From a maintenance stand point, it allows you to easily place something back in the same spot if you follow the length and color criteria.

All of her bags are nested inside of a large duffle bag and placed on the floor underneath. The folded clothes are separated by category. To infuse more joy, my client plans to get some boxes she likes to hold them (If you don’t have the budget, you can use shoe boxes or any rigid box, and cover it with wrapping paper that you like.) By separating folding items into subcategorized boxes, you create a more uniformed look, creating boundaries so you can easily find what you need, as well as less work for keeping them organized. (Note: The shelf that holds some denim and white shorts are folded and temporarily stacked one on top of the other. Those will be placed in a box so they’ll be “filed” instead of stacked.)

 

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After photo of the closet seen above: I apologize for my slightly out of focus After photo. My client is keeping up with maintaining this closet so I’ll be taking a better one next time.

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After photo of her post-pregancy clothes and shoes in the closet-above: We folded the clothes and stored them into an under the bed storage, sorted by category (work, pajamas, workout clothes) My client loves shoes, but is short on shoe storage. We placed her heels on a shelf (not shown) facing opposite direction to fit more pairs per shelf. Her sneakers and flats are paired up, placed them on their sides sole to sole facing opposite directions. Again, this allows more shoes to fit while keeping them visible and accessible.

In the end she had extra shelves in her closet which will be put to use after she brings back more regular clothes currently in storage. My client tells me she went from feeling frustrated every time she opens her closet door, to literally going inside to feel calm. And she looks forward to starting her day feeling positive as she gets ready for her busy day.