Home organization projects, even small DIY ones, can provide big life change. This is especially true when the COVID-19 pandemic has us home more than ever. FamilyApp recently spoke with professional organizer Jen Harman to learn simple tips on reducing clutter and living in an organized home.
Jen Harman of Harmanize Consulting believes that organization is about more than decluttering and space-saving. Every day she acts as a guide for clients as they make the choice to step-by-step organize a room or even a pantry, cabinet, or junk drawer. She witnesses how organization can empower her clients. They begin with changing a space and then gain the courage to make bigger life changes.
"What keeps organizers in this business is the chance to help someone make a positive change in their life and the life of their family. We all love the glossy magazine spreads, and my little heart gets a lift from a color-coded closet, for example, but that’s not really what it’s about."
"I get to come alongside people who are overwhelmed, stressed, grieving, even hopeless, and help them untangle the problem. Many people I’ve worked with have exciting developments after we organize and break through what’s holding them back – new jobs, new relationships, hosting people in their home again, weight loss, etc.
I’m just a tiny piece in the work they were already doing, but it’s fulfilling to help them break up the logjam."
When things first shut down, I think we all said “All right, I’m going to take advantage of this time!” and made a long list of DIY projects (myself included).
Then we realized it was about all we could do to keep the basics of life going. The emotional strain of this season is huge, and I hope people have let themselves off the hook if they haven’t been incredibly productive.
But Jen does see this time as valuable in what we learn about our spaces, and gain information on what we do and do not need. And this type of reflective work must happen before we begin to organize.
"I do think all this time in our houses has made us reevaluate what we actually use and how full we want our houses to be. A lot of people have been able to go through closets, attics, cabinets, drawers, and the pantry and tackle those 'delayed decisions'."
"And, of course, so many people have had to adapt spaces to become home offices and/or schoolrooms for remote work and learning. "
The busy pace that has become the American norm doesn’t allow for much pausing. You have to pause in order to reevaluate how you use your house and how your life and your family is evolving.
The items and materials that are in your house should be there on purpose, not by default. This time has given us a chance to look into that.
Jen outlined three low-cost organization projects you can get done today. Not just for DIYers, these are ideas for areas and small-spaces you can organize right away, without even consulting HGTV.
"One thing I would say to the Moms is: Do not neglect your bedroom!" Jen begins. "So often mothers put themselves last and this is clearly reflected in the master bedroom.
You need a retreat that restores your soul so you have something to give the people in your life. It should not be the repository of projects and 'stuff we shoved in here when people came over'."
Jen emphasizes how important it is that parents do the work to declutter private spaces. No, the other people will not see our bedroom, but we see it. The spaces we see and live in shape how we live.
Start by collecting everything that is destined for the trash or donation. Then put things in a container, box, or basket by the room they should be in. When you get a chance to organize that room, you tackle the basket then.
Consider making the master bedroom a kid-free zone as much as possible. Start dreaming about the restorative practices you’d like to incorporate/increase in your life, such as meditation, prayer, drawing, journaling, fiction reading… and plan a part of the room to facilitate that.
Space allowing, you could bring in a comfortable chair or bookshelf. Maybe there’s even room for 2 chairs so that the spouses have a place to talk and unwind together.
Kitchen organization feels overwhelming. But Jen's tips for countertops provide a great start to creating an orderly space.
Clear surfaces are visually restful. If you have a lot of mail and papers on a counter or table, for example, consider wall shelves or a free-standing system with slots or folders for each action needed. The key is to label the folders or slots so everyone knows what belongs there and things don’t get lost".
If there are always loose coins, watches, receipts, etc., on the dresser, get a divided tray or box.
"The idea is that rather than trying to retrain our habits, we accommodate them. If shoes are always dumped by the door, add a basket, storage bench, or rubber tray, instead of fruitlessly cajoling the family to put their shoes in the closet across the house."
As we resume life outside the house, think about setting up tote bags for each activity and/or person. Everything needed for that camp, sport, board meeting, whatever, lives in the bag. After you do the laundry, put it back in the bag. Kids can take responsibility for the tote, with a laminated checklist tied to the handle or in a pocket.
Store masks near key stand or things you grab on the way out the door. Use a decorative basket to store fresh masks on a dresser or countertop. Add drawer dividers or trays to a dresser drawer, kitchen drawer, or console table to create a specific slot for them.
Another option I've seen work is to place damage-free Command hooks near the door, one for each person in the family. You can also designate a labeled basket or plastic bin for dirty masks where people come in the house or near the washing machine.
We cannot control so much of our circumstances. But we can make changes in the space that surrounds us. Consider how you can improve the space in which you continue to work and even teach your children. Contact Jen for a consult today, or follow @harmanizeconsulting, Facebook, and Pinterest for more do-able organization ideas.