KS contacted me shortly after moving into her Alamo home, feeling overwhelmed by the number of design, organizing and improvement projects on her to do list. We decided to take on one simple project at a time, beginning with the kitchen pantry.
A mostly vegetarian cook with a love for unique spices and ingredients, KS’s pantry wasn’t functioning for her in its disorganized state.
We started by pulling everything out of the baker’s rack shelves and lining them with plastic liners. Dried beans, nuts, grains, baking ingredients and other dry goods were placed into airtight glass jars and labeled. Teabags were moved into the kitchen closer to mugs and the kettle, while spices were moved to a drawer near the range for cooking convenience. Snacks were placed together in an open-top container for easy access when rushing out the door. All other ingredients were arranged according to food type.
The finished product was a much more streamlined and attractive pantry where ingredients are easily found and used!
AFTER: pantry items arranged according to food type and use
AFTER: frequently-used beans, lentils, and grains in labeled jars
AFTER: easy to find baking ingredients
Gift Wrap Supplies
Storing gift wrapping supplies can be troublesome. Rolls of paper, empty bags, tissue paper, ribbons and bows are often shoved into a box where they end up wrinkled, ripped and unusable. Such was the case for KB. Her supplies were haphazardly thrown into a small section of a linen closet. Tough to see what she had to work with in this state!
One of my favorite solutions is an over-the-door organizer from Elfa. It is customizable based on what you need to store: we chose the gift wrap holder at bottom, one basket for gift bags and tissue paper, one for ribbons, one for bows, and a place to hold scissors, tape and other supplies at the top. I love that the organizer hangs over the top of your door, so there’s no need to drill holes in it.
With the organizer now in place, KB can easily find her supplies when it’s time to wrap!
BEFORE: wrapping supplies shoved into linen closet
AFTER: Elfa system makes it easier to find paper, bags and ribbons
Art, Crafts and Games
My friend LZ is a fun-loving gal with great sense of humor and a knack for entertaining. She’s also a mother of two and the owner of her own medical consulting business. In other words, a busy lady with little time to keep up with organization.
Our first project involved a catch-all closet and children’s art and play area. LZ felt overwhelmed by all that had accumulated in the space over the years.
The first task was to cull through these items to determine what the kids truly enjoyed using and what was just taking up space. These images show how sometimes it gets worse before it gets better!
Once LZ and I had identified only the most loved games, toys, and art supplies to keep, we arranged them back into the closet in an organized manner: games organized, cards and dice together, and her husband’s cherished collection of vintage toys and games on the top shelf away from potential damage.
It was important for LZ’s kids to have easy access to their art supplies, so we utilized built-in desk drawers to house their pencils, markers, paints and watercolors. And most importantly, we put LZ’s artists’ best work on display!
DURING: sometimes it gets worse before it gets better!
AFTER: toys and games are easier to find and play with
AFTER: art supplies ready for use!
As a mom of three (with a fourth on the way!), KB was looking for help getting her busy family’s belongings in order. A good place to start was her oldest son’s bedroom.
His closet was a mash-up of clothing, books, toys, keepsakes and school projects: typical for a pre-teen boy but not very functional. It frustrated KB that her son couldn’t find his sports uniforms when needed and that school projects were being ruined by improper storage.
We started by taking every single item out of the closet and cleaning the shelves. Next it was time to decide what clothes, books and keepsakes should stay and what could be donated.
We found that the flimsy hanging canvas organizer he had been using to store clothing wasn’t really doing its job. Her son needed something roomier and sturdier. Elfa to the rescue! We customized their free-standing dresser drawer system to fit inside the closet and organize his shirts, socks and underwear, pants, shorts, sports uniforms and shoes. Ah, a place for everything!
Now KB’s son has a place for his swimming medals and ribbons, his cherished eraser collection, and his impressive assortment of novels.
AFTER: Elfa dresser replaces the flimsy canvas
AFTER: books and games organized, with room to spare!
Many of the parents I work with feel inundated with their kids’ JUNK (er… belongings). Of course it's a joy to provide our children toys and games, but without a proper system of organization, game pieces are lost, Legos are stepped on, artwork is damaged and — most importantly — kids get overwhelmed by the mess and don’t know how to clean up after themselves.
My friend CV felt this pain. Her daughter’s stuffed animal collection, Barbie clothes and various trinkets and toys had taken over a prominent space in her home. No matter how many times she cleaned the space, it ended up a wreck in a matter of minutes… especially after a rambunctious playdate. Enough!
In one quick two-hour organizing session, CV and I plowed through the piles to toss anything her kids didn’t love. We then sorted remaining items into categories to see exactly what we were left with. (Which brings up an important organizing tip: never purchase storage items before you purge. You need to see exactly what you have before you decide how to store it!)
Once the garbage was cleared, the toy kitchen donated (a bittersweet moment) and the toys categorized, we measured the play space and decided the Ikea Trofast storage system was an ideal solution. We loved the customizable shape and playful color options. Final step: the handy dandy label maker assured everything had a space, which is essential for helping young children learn how to clean up after themselves.
DURING: sorting by category
AFTER: organized, labeled, ahhhh....
I love this project because it’s a great example of my ideal organizing process:
1. Take EVERYTHING out (… of the dresser/closet/shelf, etc.)
2. Purge anything unnecessary/unwanted.
3. Group similar items.
4. Create a specific space for each category.
In this case, my client JS needed help with her bathroom. While she had plenty of storage space, her large vanity drawers and deep, open shelves were a mess of random medical items, make-up, jewelry… not to mention the random golf ball!
We started by pulling every single item out of the drawers and cabinets. While it made quite a mess on her countertops, we were able to wipe down the shelves and line the cabinet drawers for a fresh, clean start.
Next up: sorting and purging. After purging expired or unwanted items, we divided up the rest into categories. For make-up, we sorted lipsticks, mascaras, shadows, blushes, powders, etc. For beauty products, we sorted face washes, scrubs, moisturizers, sun screen, etc. For hair products, we sorted brushes, hair bands, volumizers, straighteners/curlers, etc. For medical items, we sorted by ailment: allergy, pain, cough and cold, digestive, etc. For jewelry, we matched earrings and detangled necklaces.
Lastly, and most importantly, we created a space for each category. The cabinet drawers were fitted with clear acrylic organizers, one for each category. For the deep shelves, we used clear bins of various sizes, each clearly labeled with the items it contained.