Before & After: Bookshelf

How I came across Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was finding it on someone’s stoop, left for passerby to pick up. Now I know whoever left that book (for me) has realized that the book has fulfilled its purpose in their home. I imagine they had followed the KonMari method and said “Thank You” before discarding it. And magically, it came to me at the right moment and changed my life.

Books are very difficult for many people to let go. It’s as if we are throwing away knowledge, or might disappoint whoever recommended the book to us, especially if we haven’t read it. There’s the fear of what if I need to reference it again. Or the guilt of not able to find time to finish or even open it.

According to Marie Kondo, timing is everything. And the time to read a book is right when you get it. Think about your favorite books, were you excited to open it and couldn’t put it down? And the ones you were not so sure about from the start, tried many times to read, but easily got distracted and lost interest?

In this week’s Before & After, my client was motivated by having a donation pick up in a couple weeks to go through her books.

Before: Bookshelf

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It turns out she had more difficulties discarding books than she expected because many of them had sentimental values to her. This is very common because people like giving books as gifts. However, the purpose of a book is to be read, or even just a cover that you enjoy to look at. If a gift book doesn’t bring you joy, it’s time to say thank you to the book for teaching you that’s not the kind of book you like to read. And in your heart, thank the person for being thoughtful before donating the book to give it to someone you know will really enjoy it.

After: Bookshelf

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We tidy books the same way we do with clothing. Take everything off the shelf and pick up the book one by one. The key is to not open the books, which clouds your judgement. You want to just hold the book and allow your quiet mind to feel whether it sparks joy for you. For the books that you bought but never read and feel bad about, if you haven’t made time to read it by now, that “someday” will never come. From Kondo’s experience, she said the information will come back to you when you need it. It sounds a bit out there, but I’ve got to believe it based on my experience with her book.

When placing your books back, I like lining them up by size. If they are in different categories, then I start out with the tallest book of that category again. I have always been fascinated that somehow the spines just look prettier, and often like in this After image, the colors just creates a nice gradation. Don’t they look more inviting?

How about creating a bookshelf of only the books you love?

 

 

Before & After: Clothes Drawer and Closet

Most of us don’t realize the volume of how much clothes we own. One of the key step when tidying using the KonMari Method is to take everything out of the drawers and closet and create a mountain. And very often my clients will find many items they’ve forgotten they had, many still with the labels on. Or they are surprised by how many items they’ve purchased without really knowing why they bought them in the first place.

In this Before & After, my client didn’t have messy drawers. However by laying her tee shirts one on top of the other, she couldn’t see the ones on the bottom. Also, they took up a few different drawers without clearly defining what belongs where.

We started out by removing everything from the drawers and made a big pile. It was daunting to see 6 drawers of clothes all together from a client who declutters periodically but haven’t used the “Spark Joy” KonMari Method. Usually this first step is when clients start to feel anxious and freeze up. One trick to ease into decluttering is by asking them to pick up 3 items that they really love and definitely want to keep. We set those aside in the keep pile in subcategories (ex: long or short sleeves, tank tops or sweaters). Repeat the step and find more and more items to keep.

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Not a messy drawer, but the clothes took up space and difficult to see everything.

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Sorting the keep pile by sub category

During your tidying, think out loud and talk about the item as you contemplate whether or not to keep it. Pay close attention to what you are feeling as you touch the fabric. Sometimes you’ll sigh, or say to yourself “why did I buy this?” or just simply “I don’t know”. These are the times when we naturally start to come up with reasons why you should keep it. Maybe it’s never been worn or still in great condition. However, is that reason enough to keep it if you never wear it? If you start to say, I can just wear it around the house, but do you already have clothes for that purpose that you love?

Your closet should hold all the clothes that makes you feel good about yourself. Focus on the vision of your ideal life, then ask yourself if the item in question fits into that vision. (Always start with a vision before tidying, read about it here.) Do you feel guilty for not wanting to keep it? Where does the guilt come from? Every item deserves the time and thoughts to determine whether it stays or goes. By meticulously going through each piece, your decision will affect your behavior the next time you make a purchase. And you will not bring in any more items that has any negative feelings attached to them.

Take a look at the finished drawer. I showed my client how to fold the KonMari way. We went from 6 drawers down to 3, separated by the subcategories.  “It’s so pretty!” my client reacted. And not only that, the newly organized drawers will also make getting ready and finding what she wants to wear easier and faster.

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Tops are in top drawer, pants and shorts in the bottom drawer

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Pajamas, lounge wear, and bedding

Next we moved on to her closet. We repeated the step by taking everything out, removing the clothes from their hangers. Why? Because you want to touch the fabric and check to see how you feel and not just look at it on the hanger. This also gives you the opportunity to sort your hangers and group them by color or type. A simple change by having uniformity in the hangers can make the closet look more organized.

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Again, my client was surprised by the amount of clothes she had or have forgotten. However this time with more confidence in her decision making, she was able to conquer the mountain of clothes much faster. Then we hung them back in the closet, putting the longest dresses on the left and shorter shirts and skirts on the right. This KonMari tip creates a visual baseline that leads your eyes up. Like in a line chart, going up brings positive feelings. From a practical stand point, this also opens up the space under the shorter items for more storage.

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Once you have tidied your clothes, you may find new combinations for outfits you never thought of before. You may realize one style or color you love that you will look for when shopping for clothes next time. You will definitely save money by avoiding what doesn’t feel or look good on you. Tidying your clothes isn’t just about organization, it allows you to walk out the door with confidence in the clothes you love. And the comfy clothes that waits for you to come home and relax in at the end of the day.

Do you have any clothes you know you don’t want to keep but have trouble getting rid of? Share your story and I’ll be happy to give you some advice.

Make Room for Joy

You feeling ready to start tidying. Do you roll up your sleeves and get right to it? Not so fast. To successfully achieve the organized space you want, you first need to envision your goal. Picture your ideal lifestyle. What can you make more room for in your life? How do you create a home that supports who you are today or who you want to become?

When I tried this myself, I envisioned a well it a place to sit and relax with a cup of tea. A cup of finger citrus tea in my favorite ceramic cup given to me from a good friend to be specific.  I pictured my bedroom to be a tranquil escape with a calming color bedding bedding. And a kitchen that has pretty plates to hold favorite dish on an open shelving.

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Your home should be the one place you can truly relax and free be yourself. It is the place that rejuvenates you and gives comfort after a long day of taking care of life’s responsibilities. We long for taking a vacation to get away from our daily stress, but how about creating a respite right at home? Think of decluttering as making room for more positive energy in your life. Allow your vision to become the motivation behind your decluttering decisions.

Begin by asking yourself some of these questions and answer them with vivid details:

What are my favorite things to do at home when I am free?

Who do I enjoy spending time with in my home?

What are my hobbies?

Is there something new I’d like to try?

Express yourself by making a collage, a list, create a Pinterest board, or write a story. Include as much details as possible so it’s exactly how you see it. When you are done, take a look and ask yourself “why” with each answer. For example, why do I want a place to sit and drink my tea? Because I want to have some quiet time. Why? Because I function better when I have some peace and quiet. Why? Because when I don’t have some time to myself, I feel frazzled and I lose my patience with my children. Why? Because I want the time with my children to be filled with laughter. By repeatedly asking why, you connect with your emotions. It wasn’t just about having tea, it’s so that I can have a moment to decompress from the busy day so I can enjoy more of what I love. Now that I know the deeper reason, with that goal in mind, I am ready to start tidying.

To be honest, in all of my years of organizing, I didn’t do this step until I read The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. Without a goal in mind, I repeatedly organized the same space that got messy again and again. Without imagining my ideal lifestyle, I was only shuffling things around without actually thinking if they still served a purpose in my life. Meanwhile the number of junk drawer grew, and so did my level of stress. Taking this step has allowed me to create a home that reflects the vision of my ideal life. And I now get to enjoy it every day.

Before & After: Entryway Closet

One of the most used, and often the messiest closet in our home, is the entryway closet. It’s the first stop when we drop everything off at the end of a busy day, and the last stop to gather what we need to rush out the door. Part of the reason it’s difficult to keep this space in order is because we are juggling too many activities and responsibilities. We neither have the time nor energy to focus on keeping this closet organized. However, a disorganized space can be cause a lot of frustration and set the tone for the rest of the day. And by taking the time to create a joy sparking entry closet, it can be a welcoming sight to let you know you can feel confident going out the door, and offer you the comfort of knowing you can finally relax at home.

In this Before & After, the entry closet belongs to a family with 2 kids who love to play sports. They needed a place that they can easily store and access the jackets and shoes they wear daily, and all the equipments for their outdoor activities. As always we want to start fresh by emptying out the closet. Make sure to remove anything that doesn’t belong in this closet. Depending on the size, some families can keep their entire coats and jacket collection in one closet. Others with more limited space should only keep the ones you wear the most frequently. Same goes for shoes. The idea is that you can easily get in and out of the door with the least amount of time searching for what you need. And if you have properly tidied your clothing and shoes, then you should only have the ones that spark joy left in your closet.

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Because this is a communal space, we organized each person’s items and placed them in their own section of the closet. Hang your coats and jackets using the KonMari “rise up” method with the longest on the left and shorter as you move to the right. This visual trick of seeing the bottoms of the jackets lined up going upward is not only visually pleasing, it’s also very calming. This will also save you time when selecting a jacket to compliment the length of your outfit. Keep your empty hanger in the same spot helps you to return it to the same place. (Also, having uniformed hangers will make your closet look a lot neater. Wire hangers from the dry cleaners can’t support the weight of most coats and jackets, it also ruins the shapes of the clothes. It is best to return those to your dry cleaner for reuse.)

If you store reusable bags in your entryway closet, fold the bags so they are shaped like a rectangle. File all the folded bag vertically inside of one larger reusable bag. Folding the bags takes up a lot less space than just shoving them away, and stay neatly stored even when you take a few out to use.

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For the kids, they each have a section of their closet with their name labeled on the shelf. Here we have a space for their lunch bag and bike helmet, caps, and even included a fun little bucket for their sunscreen. Their most frequently worn jackets are hung next to their back pack that is also on a hanger. We used their existing blue and pink hangers to designate each of their space.

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Small basket was used hold their accessories such as hats, gloves, sunglasses.

We utilized the pull-out wire drawers in this closet for keeping their balls and baseball gloves neatly stored away. If you don’t have a built in closet like this, you can use any large basket (laundry baskets are great, especially one with wheels for easy access).

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I do need to mention that I only worked with the mom on this project, so other than her own items, everything else that belongs to the other family members were kept but only organized. A closet like this will take the whole family’s participation to maintain. It requires being on top of putting things back each time for a week or two for it to become a habit.

How does your entryway closet greet you?

Before & After: Clothing Closet (No Hangers)

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to how they’d like to store clothes. Some people love to hang everything. Others such as this client, only fold them. According to the KonMari method, folding clothes into neat little rectangles offers many benefits:

  • It saves you space when the clothes are folded then stored vertically in the drawer.
  • You can easily see the clothes you are looking for, and take them out without messing up the rest of the pile.
  • Clothes don’t get wrinkled when you smooth them out first with your hands (and infuse them with positive energy as you touch the fabric). Storing them vertically instead of stacking doesn’t put any weight on the clothes, which prevents more wrinkling.
  • You can easily spot stains, missing button, or holes when you spread out your clothes before folding them.
  • Your drawers will look so neat and visually pleasing when you are finished (especially when you sort them by colors from dark to light, or by color in the order of the rainbow), your drawers will spark joy every time you open them.

For my client, the trouble is not being able to see or access the clothes in the back of the closet. Her morning routine was frustrating because she’s not able to find what she wants to wear without making a mess of the closet.

BEFORE: Clothes Closet (No Hangers)

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We started out by taking everything out of her closet, separating them by sub-categories for t-shirts, tank tops, long sleeves, pants etc. Then she picked up each piece to see if it sparked joy for her. One thing I started to notice was that she had multiples of the same top, sometimes in different colors, but most of them are exactly the same. The reason was because when she finds something she likes, she doesn’t want to not have it when she wants it, or not be able to buy the exact same design again. So even though she knows what sparks joy for her, she didn’t have enough storage space to comfortably hold the amount of clothes she had.

Early into our session, I sensed my client was getting increasingly anxious. This is a normal reaction when we confront things that maybe subconsciously triggering our fears and guilt. As mentioned above, having multiples of the same item gave my client a sense of security. For many people, these negative feelings are what stops them from decluttering and getting organized. And often, the biggest value in having an organizing consultant is to support and guide you through these obstacles and get the job done. The practice of repeatedly checking each item for joy allows us to learn to take control of these feelings. When someone thoroughly tidy up their home, surrounding themselves with only the things that spark joy, the magical transformation will start to have a positive affect in all areas of their lives.

After taking a few breaks in between the joy-checking and folding lessons, we placed the clothes in separate boxes by categories. I generally like to use any existing boxes in my clients’ homes, then make suggestions for what type of containers to purchase if the client chooses to.  In the phase one photo, we used filing boxes she had at home. In phase two, she purchased boxes that sparked joy for her and transferred the clothes. For the socks and underwear drawer, the boxes we found around the apartment fit so well, she decided to keep them as is.

AFTER: Clothes Closet (No Hangers) Phase One

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AFTER: Clothes Closet (No Hangers) Phase Two

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I also suggested that she only keep 3 of the exact same items in rotation, and store the “back ups” in a separate box. By doing so, those pieces in her every day collection will get worn out, giving her a chance to replenish them with the back up ones, and plenty of time to look for replacements when those wear out. This solution allows her to keep the duplicates that spark joy for her, while not over packing her closet. Most importantly, this stockpiling habit manifested from her insecurities and fear has been brought to light. With the new closet organization, she’ll able to start each day feeling more positive. And without the anxiety and stress she used to experience daily, she may start to feel more confident in herself in other areas of her life.

Because of her busy lifestyle, I also showed her how to easily take the washed and folded clothes from the laundromat and make them work with the KonMari folding method without completely re-folding them. I reminded her that when she gets too busy with work, it’s best to just leave the laundry in the stack instead of quickly shoving them away in the closet. It is better to set aside the time to put them away neatly.

My client emailed me the next day expressing how easy it was for her to get ready in the morning. She even had fun showing her husband while standing in front of the closet acting like “hmmm…what should I wear today?”  What a big change from her previous morning experience! I also checked in with her a week later about putting away the clean laundry, and she said she is able to put her clothes away and maintain the closet without much extra time or effort.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Before & After. If you need a quick lesson in folding the KonMari way, here’s a video.

 

 

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.