how to transform your home step 1: define your vision for the space

Being organized comes naturally to some, lucky for the rest it’s a learnable skill. Like with the series How to Build and Edit Your Wardrobe, this is about learning the tools to be organized for the long term. It’s about using your space in an efficient way that works around your habits and desired lifestyle. Most importantly knowing what you have and where to find it so you can actually use it! The following steps done in this order will help you achieve this: 

Step #1. Define The Vision For Your Space
you need: pad and a pencil
Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What do you like about your space?
  • What do you want to change about your space?
  • How do you want to feel in your space?
Example responses: I want my space to feel calm, comfortable and inviting. A space where I can relax after work and be more creative…
Then make a list of all the functions you would like your space to support. Some people think the can’t possibly do everything in their space they want so they don’t even try. (Remember I’m in NYC where 700 sqft is a lot of room!) But the point of this process is to help you figure out what’s most important to you and focus your space around that.
Example responses: trade my full size bed to a queen, space for overnight guests, home office with desktop computer, entertain; small dinner or cocktail parties, creative space to paint, write, or read, exercise, would like to get a cat or small dog… 

how to transform your home step 2: determine function for each area

rebecca omweg floorplan

(floor plan of Rebecca Omweg’s apt courtesy of Domino)

Step #2. Determine Function For Each Area/Room

you’ll need: pad and pencil

Now that you’ve written down all the things you would like to get out of your space it’s time to think about how you’re going to make this happen. In smaller spaces, things may have to do double duty like getting a large table that can be used for dining and as a work space for crafts or using a computer.
Keep in mind how often you will actually do something, like having overnight guests. Some think that having a pull-out sofa is the only option, but have trouble finding one that’s comfortable and looks nice, or they may already have furniture that they don’t want to replace. Aero Beds are a great alternative and can easily be tucked away in a closet.
This isn’t about planning things out completely, it’s just to get you thinking of your space in a different way. If you get stuck don’t fret, things will become more clear as you go through the next step edit and sort…

how to transform your home step 3: edit and sort

Step #3. Edit and Sort
you’ll need: bags or boxes for donations, garbage, recycling, selling, repair, return to owner

Many people get overwhelmed at this part because they don’t have an overall vision in mind to guide them through the process, they don’t know where to start, and they get stuck on the things they aren’t sure about keeping.

  • Unless you have a looming deadline, or it’s the only thing you have to do, don’t start out with paperwork since this takes the most time.
  • Start out in a small part of the home or room so you can see fast results to help keep you motivated.
  • Deal with things that are in plain site before going into closets, cabinets, or drawers.
  • At the end of each work session throw out all garbage and recycling.
  • Get everything else out as often as you can; don’t let bags of donations, repairs, etc sit around clogging up your space.
  • Finish the area you started before moving on to another. 
Only go through what is YOURS. It’s ok to sort things that aren’t completely yours, but you cannot make decisions about whether to get rid of something without consulting the other owners. It’s very important to respect these other people no matter who they are. I’ve had wives ask to go through their husband’s things saying “He’ll never know” to which I always say “and if you husband calls me tomorrow wanting to go through your things without your knowledge that would be ok with you?”. It’s not ok!! Another thing is maybe you have something from your family that you don’t want anymore. Take the time to ask everyone else in the family if they may want it. Don’t make the decision for them. Believe me, this can help you avoid nasty fighting or even a lawsuit.
Sort as you go, grouping like things together, all kitchen items, office supplies, batteries, books, cds, paperwork, etc, Sort further if you are going through a specific area. For instance, kitchen items can be sorted into prep, appliances, cooking, serving. The point is knowing what you have to figure out how best to store it afterwards. Also, once you get all the things together you can see where you can edit further; do you really need 7 wine openers? Also, group all bins, boxes or any other organizing pieces together.
Make your immediate decisions first.If you have anything you are unsure of, simply sort it and move on. Sometimes you can’t make a decision until you see all that you have. For instance, decorative piece like vases. Grouping them in one spot allows you to see them as a whole, then you can simply pick out your favorites if you have too many. When in doubt, keep it for now.
Tomorrow I’ll continue on this topic exploring the reasons to keep and not to keep things.

how to transform your home step 3: continued


You’ve made your immediate decisions and now your onto your maybe items (considering all things are in usable or fixable condition). I don’t believe in getting rid of something for the sake of getting rid of it. I believe in being honest about how and if you will actually use something. The main two questions to keep in mind:

Will keeping this help me create my vision for my space?
Will keeping this inhibit me from creating my vision?

  • It may be useful someday; there are people out there that would love to use it now.
  • So and so gave it to you and you don’t love and use it.
  • Personal memorabilia that you feel you should keep; keep only the things that you still have a positive reaction to. If you happen to have a lot and don’t have the means to store them properly, try taking a picture of the larger, bulky or delicate items and pass on the item itself. If you are nervous, take the picture, box up the item and see how you feel about it after a designated period of time. If this is family memorabilia ask other family members if they would like anything you are thinking of getting rid of.
  • You haven’t used it in a year (or two or three…); if it’s because you didn’t know you had it or couldn’t access it but believe you will use it.
  • You have multiples of something that will eventually be used up (as opposed to something like a utensil or tool); think about how much you have, how long it will take to use up and if it will stay good that long. Sometimes it’s just a matter of not having to buy something for a while.
The main thing is this process doesn’t have to be completed all now. When in doubt keep something and revisit it later. Most of my clients get through this process much easier after knowing they aren’t being forced into getting rid of anything. This releases their anxiety and allows them to think freely about how they really want to use their things and space.
Keep any furniture and storage items like bins, boxes, etc until the end of the whole process since you may find a different use for it.

how to transform your home step 4: reassess what’s left


Step #4: Reassess What’s Left

Bring all your sorted things to the area you would like them to ultimately be: all kitchen items in kitchen, office supplies in office area, etc. At this point you may have more things you can still get rid of (or donate) which is great, but do it as you go, don’t stop and start the whole editing process again. 

Look through your existing storage pieces to see what you can reuse to store what’s left. This may take some time to try different things to see what works best. If you got rid of a lot during the edit stage, the storage pieces you already have may work just fine now. If you find you need to get a bookcase or cabinet, keep the items that will be stored there in the area to keep your space from getting cluttered again.
Keep in mind that some people like their things out and other put away. I personally like my things put away which is why I have boxes and bins. Neither way is right or wrong it’s just what’s right for you. (Although, in your clothes closet, the more stuff you have out and can easily see, the more likely you are to wear it).
  • Use storage pieces in a way they may not be ‘meant’ to be or in a way you haven’t tried before; using votive holders to hold perfume samples.
  • Store according to frequency of use; most frequent within arms reach, least used on higher or lower shelves or back of closets.
  • Extras of things don’t need to be out; extra toiletries should be in a bin or box under the sink or in the linen closet, not taking up valuable space in the medicine cabinet.
  • Label boxes and bins as necessary.
  • Ziplock bags!!
  • Take advantage of adjustable shelving, especially in kitchen cabinet, to make things easily accessible.
  • Keep the number of categories of things in one area (box, drawer, closet) to a minimum to make it easy to remember where things are.
The next and last step is to figure out what if any new things you may need to fill in the storage gaps: new containers, cabinets, shelving…

how to transform your home step 5: design and installation


Step #5: Design and Installation

At this point you know if you need anything else to complete the process. If you don’t happen to need anything, congrats!! I hope you now have a space you enjoy. For the rest of you, chin up you’re almost done and hopefully you’ll enjoy this last part.
  • Take proper measurements before buying anything; height, width and depth.
  • To get an idea of how a potential piece will fit, mark the floor with masking tape or sticky notes.
  • Don’t rush to finish, hold out for the piece you really enjoy having since once you get it you’ll forget you ever lived without it. On the other hand, if you buy something you don’t really love you’ll be thinking about it everyday.
  • Search everywhere; you don’t have to love everything in a store to find the one piece that will work for you.
  • If you have things to install, hire a professional or get someone you know will do it right; large box stores like home depot or lowes have in house installers. Safety first!
  • Be cautious about having too much storage like multiple bookcases or shelves as we have an unconscious need to fill these spaces.