q + a: how do you create homes for things


labeck asks “I no longer live in a big city (was living in Chicago and San Francisco), so am blessed with extra space in my 1BR that has vaulted ceilings and a long walk-in closet. Because I had so much space, I was lazy at creating homes for belongings and just tossed things on various shelves in various places. So my apartment appears relatively clutter free but I know that the piles and items without homes are everywhere. How did you create homes for things?”

Sort your things into categories; sports equipment, personal memorabilia, travel items, misc household (like extra decorative pieces), etc. This key. Grouping things of the same category makes it easier to remember when you need to retrieve and put things back.
Once sorted, you can see how much space each category takes up helping you figure which closet or room it can easily fit and be taken in and out when needed. Make sure you put heavier things on lower shelves or the floor and lighter things on upper shelves to avoid hurting yourself or damaging anything when moving. Label boxes so you don’t have to remember what’s in there.
When applicable, keep things nearest to where it will be used, like off season clothes on the upper shelves on your clothes closet, and infrequently used kitchen items/appliances on the upper most shelves in the kitchen.

getting ready to move again


I’m very happy to say I’ll be moving at the end of the month AND my birthday is in three weeks so I am doubly excited. The year in this apartment was a bit rough so I have a real desire to clear out as much as possible to help me start the new year fresh, focused and healthy. 

I’m moving myself (with the help of a friend) and don’t want to carry any more than I have to. But even if I hired someone, why would I pay to move stuff I don’t love and use? Since I don’t have much to begin with, people have asked what I could possibly be going through:
  • Clothes: I haven’t done a major edit of my wardrobe for a few years now (since I am very conscious of what I buy) so it’s time. I’m selling a number of things on ebay, other things like sweaters and t-shirts have been downgraded to pajamas, the rest are being donated.
  • Socks, bras, underwear: I normally buy some new sets to replace anything that needs it for my birthday. What better gift for yourself?
  • Books: The ones I’m ready to admit I’ll never finish reading are going to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in soho.
  • Paperwork: I cleared out last month when I prepared my taxes.
  • Change: Seriously! I have a few bottles full that I have counted up and deposited in the bank. It has to be done sometime and I’d rather only carry it out once.
  • And the rest of the things I haven’t used for the year I lived here and will admittedly never will.

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 edit and build your wardrobe step 2: edit with purpose


you need: full length mirror, large bags or boxes, marker, pad and pencil, and digital camera.
If you have a friend who understands the image you’re trying to project, will be honest about how you look, and is knowledgeable about tailoring (bonus), invite them to help you through the process. If you don’t, then do it on your own.
Go through your closet, piece by piece and ask yourself in the following order:
  • Does this fit my desired image? If yes, continue
  • Does this fit my lifestyle? If yes, continue
  • If no: Can it be styled in a new way to fit my desired image and lifestyle?
  • How do I feel in this? If positive, continue
  • Does this fit, or can it be altered? If yes, it’s a keeper

  • Pull Everything out at once. Go thru piece by piece pulling anything out that you know you want to sell, donate, recycle, or bring to the dry cleaner or tailor, leaving the keeps and maybes in the closet.
  • Feel bad about wanting to dress better. You deserve to feel and look your best.
  • Let guilt make you keep something based on the amount of money you’ve paid for it, or because of who gave it to you.
  • Keep anything that you don’t feel comfortable wearing.
  • Rush the process. If you are unsure about something keep it until you can decide for sure, once it’s gone, it’s gone. This is a process that can take time. It’s ok!
  • Make immediate decisions first. Get rid of anything you know without a doubt you don’t love first, leaving anything you’re unsure about in the closet and keep moving.
  • Try everything on!! Your body changes over time, something that may not have fit properly the last time you wore it may fit nicely now (and vice-versa). Why you haven’t worn something is more important than how long it’s been since you’ve worn it. You’ll learn more about this in step 3.
  • Downgrade. work shirt is now for whatever reason, not appropriate for work anymore but still fits and you feel good in it. Designate it for weekend or to wear around the house.
  • Have something tailored or altered in a way to make it wearable. Shortening a hem or having sleeves shortened to 3/4 length, or having a dress made into a top or skirt.
  • Separate out sentimental pieces that you’re keeping but won’t wear again. These pieces need to be properly stored away, not taking up valuable space in your closet.
  • Keep in mind that not every piece of clothing needs be worn all the time. Those special pieces that you love but only wear once a year or two years can be kept.
Take inventory of what’s left. Go back to what’s in the closet (keepers and maybes) and organize by category (shirts, skirts, pants) in color order light to dark. Put a colorful wardrobe in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You can also break it up further separating work, casual, and dressy. The purpose is to make it easy to see what you have and what you may need. Once it’s in order, go thru the process again, trying things on to see how things look and fit and can be styled in a way that works for your lifestyle and desired look.
Go through bags, shoes, accessories, and undergarments last. Anything that doesn’t fit, has holes or stains should be discarded. Some things can be repurposed; cotton socks are great for polishing or as rags for general cleaning.
Find the holes in your wardrobe. Look to your inspiration file to help you experiment combining colors and pieces you may haven’t in the past. Take pictures of the outfits you put together – believe me, you will forget. Write a detailed list of anything that will supplement what you have left. Example: “This outfit would be great if I had a light cropped fitted black cardigan.”
Before you go shopping, you must learn from the previous mistakes you’ve made… That’s Step #3…