Our featured client this month is Samantha, the mother of three young children and the matriarch of a large extended family. This hostess extraordinaire often cooks for 30 family members and friends to celebrate Shabbat each weekend. In addition, Samantha maintains toys for every possible age group to ensure that even the youngest guest has appropriate entertainment. Over time, though, her home has become the self declared “weigh station” for toys, clothing, books, cookware, and furniture for relatives and friends with younger children, ones who have yet to have children, and even those who are not yet married.
Like many women who hire us, Samantha’s organizational skills are the envy of her friends (“why do you need an organizer,” is a popular refrain she hears). Yet, Samantha felt that she needed expert advise in how to streamline her life to entertain and function at a higher level. She knew it was time to take back her home – it could no longer be a proverbial ‘candy store’ for children and adults alike – and she needed our help.
We started in the kitchen because, for Samantha, it was the hub of her home. When we began opening drawers and cabinets, we realized there was no logical plan for where items were stored. Although the room was spacious, the drawers were jumbled and overstuffed with duplicates of most gadgets and appliances (a necessity for her kosher home). Her pantry was overflowing and nothing could be reached easily.
We first purged and categorized food and snacks in the pantry, eliminating those that had expired or that no one would eat. We moved all children’s snacks to the bottom shelves, so they could get their own snacks. Linus plastic bins were used to create separate spaces for each type of food and the Linus turntable was used for teabags. We decanted dry goods such as flour, sugar, and cereal in Oxo pop top canisters and Oxo cereal containers.
Samantha had every type of cooking appliance, spread randomly throughout her kitchen. Her pressure cooker, used infrequently, sat on her counter, while her blender, used almost daily, was hidden in a cabinet. We purged the appliances that Samantha no longer needed or used and removed all but the toaster, coffee machine, and blender from the counters. A narrow closet adjacent to the kitchen was repurposed to house her remaining appliances, clearing much needed space in the kitchen cabinets and shelves.
Samantha’s kitchen cabinets were cramped, making them visually unappealing and difficult to navigate. Even with an extensive purge, her cabinets were still overstuffed. To create space, we styled an open shelf over her sinks with attractive glassware, thus freeing space inside the cabinets for more functional storage.
Samantha’s daughter, the youngest of her three children, had the bedroom most crowded with items to be given to others. Everything “handed down” landed here. Baby monitors, humidifiers, toys, and clothes were in bags, stuffed in corners, and placed on shelves, all taking up space that was needed for current items. Once we eliminated these “give aways,” we were able to utilize her shelves properly, style bookshelves, and make the room look neat and attractive.
Samantha’s two sons shared a room that was large, but also cluttered. Here, we started by taking all of the outgrown clothing out of the closet, and taking a fresh look at where everything should be placed. By better utilizing the drawers and shelves, the clothes could be accessed more easily. And, because there were fewer clothes being kept, we were able to organize with space to spare, a necessity to keeping it neat.
Toys and Arts & Crafts
Samantha’s home was littered with old, broken and decrepit toys. These were easily eliminated along with most of the toys her children had outgrown (we kept only a few for guests). We then categorized the remaining toys by age and type. Most importantly, we devised a process by which Samantha would disseminate the outgrown toys, so her home wasn’t acting as a warehouse. A closet in the playroom was designated for arts and crafts and games. We utilized The Container Store clear drawers and labels so that everything could be easily accessed. We used bamboo drawer dividers and Linus plastic bins inside built in storage drawers. This created divisions for categories of toys.
When we approached the linen closet, Samantha revealed that changing linens or finding an extra pillowcase was a full time job. After a purge of mismatched, torn, or stained linens, we used white Montauk bins to separate sets of sheets by room and size.
When toiletries were ordered online, it wasn’t unusual for them to be stored in a random spot “temporarily” and then promptly forgotten until more were ordered and the previously stored items were rediscovered. Once the linen closet was streamlined, we could also store toiletries there, using white taper bins labeled by type. By designating specific places for toiletries, and then labeling them, we hoped to eliminate the purchase of duplicates. The end result was an organized, clean and visually appealing linen closet.
Samantha, as the matriarch of her extended family, was and continues to be responsible for storing family photos, documents and memorabilia. We emphasized that the manner of storage needed to reflect the importance of the items being saved. Toward this end, we replaced unsightly cardboard boxes (which can attract bugs and can easily mold when near moisture) with The Container Store Weathertight boxes which are waterproof and can easily be stacked.
A Happy Ending
After methodically purging and organizing each room of Samantha’s home, the chaos of searching for missing items has been eliminated, weekly Shabbat entertaining has become even more pleasurable, and her children enjoy spending time in their rooms and the playroom without being overwhelmed by toys. It took some time, but we were finally able to create the cozy and comfortable oasis Samantha had craved for so long.