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Lived-In Design

Lived-In Design

The Lived-In Design

The Lived-In Design: What she wanted to know about when she asked how anyone could live in a beautifully designed home.

A client once asked me how some people can have “cute things and display them.” She wanted to know how some live in such a way they have space to display décor items and make them look good.  From her perspective, this was impossible.

The question does not surprise me, given that some people engage a Professional Organizer because they don’t want to live in a chaotic environment any longer. That means they call an Organizer because they do live in chaos.

 But I have thought about this question for a long time and realized the answer lies in that inverse relationship between clutter and design.

What A Stylish House Doesn’t Need

Look at this picture (@flamingos.home).  What do you notice? Or rather, what do you not see?

@flamingo.home  244x300 - Lived-In DesignYou can appreciate this design due to the absence of elements that pull your attention somewhere else, like clutter. 

And clutter happens for two main reasons: 

(1) Owning excessive stuff  – Renders even the best storage space incapable of containing and concealing all the stuff.

(2) The lack of decision-making about things at any given moment – Causes stuff to land (and stay) anywhere in the home.

Although most people would not consider their homes magazine-worthy, as long as we have four walls and a roof, we can make the space as beautiful and incredible as we wish. Elegance, style, and luxury have less to do with money and the size of your home and more with taste, simplicity, and attention to detail.

But it seems challenging for many to envision the possibilities in their homes. Could this be because their homes’ clutter prevents the imagination from visualizing what they desire?

What Happens To That Magic?

Clutter prevents us from seeing the beauty of the home’s potential. But clutter also physically occupies the space that should be left available for new and better things to come into our lives. 

I have extensively discussed the model home magic Vs. the nightmare of moving day. We fall in love with a beautifully designed, perfectly appointed model home, but somehow the magic disappears on moving day as quickly as it came.

Why does it feel so different even when we selected the same model home, building choices, and décor? This probably happens because:

(1) It is our stuff there now. And our stuff seems less than exciting in contrast to our new home.

(2) We see all our stuff together while moving in. It makes a big difference. This wonderful space now seems overcrowded and will be for a while until we get it under control. 

 (3) With the moving process as messy and disjointed as it usually is, stuff seems even messier and uglier than ever.

 Puff! Magic gone.

Where The Stuff Is

Add to this scenario the prospect of living out of boxes for a while (there’s no time to put things away, and life is hectic anyway). 

And at some level, we also recognize that wherever and however things land in the home on moving day, they will remain for the next three years or so.

Things might quickly improve if we engage some help, like a professional organizer, designer services, cleaning personnel, and such. The new home will probably thrill us again soon. And this better happens soon. A home is one of the most important investments we will ever make. So, we should care how we feel about it.

Life After Moving In

Everyone gets crazy about model homes, HGTV shows (the reveal is grand, right?), architectural digest magazine, and all those amazing home designs on Instagram and PinterestHowever, only a few make the connection between a marvelous design they love and the reality of the day-to-day living in that space. 

No one talks about what happens after people move into a new home or back in with their belongings after a renovation. Having this conversation requires people to confront their mess demons and out-of-control buying. But, of course, nobody wants to go there.

Enjoying the beauty and style of a new home does not happen automatically. After moving in, we must work on it. Even the best design might get drowned in clutter. Clutter is the noise that distracts our senses from the beauty of the space and interrupts how we experience our home. 

The Role of Empty Space

And aside from speaking of design, it is essential to honor space in the home. So many have issues with unoccupied space and try to stuff things in best-left-empty areas (“because I have some space there”). 

However, a house should be a living space, not storage. Space is our friend, and it is best to make peace with it. Space is to the home like a white mat is to a piece of art – it enhances its beauty by isolating it.

It is possible to have a lived-in design. Clutter just has to go.

#elevateyoureveryday

How Much Does It Cost to Work with A Professional Organizer & Why

How Much Does It Cost to Work with A Professional Organizer & Why

How Much Does It Cost to Work with A Professional Organizer & Why was copied with the permission of Samantha Pregenzer, author of the blog and owner of Simply Organized

Well, this may rock a few boats but that’s not the intention behind this one. It’s not directed to my professional organizer community. Its sole purpose is to reach people who need help decluttering or getting organized and have been hesitant to hire (or even contact) an organizer because the main obstacle though is money.

Here’s the disclaimer…so we can get this out of the way. ha! For years in this business, I’ve heard it’s a no-no to talk about pricing. Every professional meeting I attend includes a reminder about it – at the top of the meeting agenda, it’s mentioned as “housekeeping” or “rules”. I’m not sharing pricing details to rock our industry’s boat…because I absolutely respect what everyone in my field does….and really, each of our charges VERY differently based on the type of organizing we do. So as a simple disclaimer, what I am sharing is being explained to help those who may be interested in hiring an organizer and wondered how much it costs, how the process works, and explain ALL the things we do from the point you complete that contact form to the end result of a beautifully organized space….in essence, how we justify that invoice at the end of the project.

My job is interesting in that people sometimes think I’m a cleaning lady or an interior designer. I’m sure others in my field can relate to that. An organizer is something totally different – we deal with your stuff, not your floors, toilets, sinks, counters, etc. BUT some of us do in the process of working with you end up doing design work OR cleaning. Personally, in my business, I do both services. We clean the space we are organizing and the spaces directly surrounding us as well. I am sharing this because often times I’ve heard people try to compare our pricing to that of a housecleaner. It’s a very different job.

I’m able to discuss this topic in detail and with confidence because I’ve been an organizer for 10+ years. I have decluttered and organized hundreds of homes. All sorts of residential spaces. For all sorts of people and situations. I’ve been a member of NAPO for 6 years and have positive, collaborative relationships with countless organizing colleagues. I’ve been “in the trenches” for a long time doing the hard hard work and have seen the industry change in this amount of time…especially over social media. I’ve been asked to speak to my organizing community multiple times – honored, humbled, grateful for each invitation. What I am sharing comes from MY experience as a seasoned organizer so you can bet it’s going to be real.

You can also bet I’m not perfect with everything and even running my own business is tough. I’m a much better organizer than a business owner. I’ve had to learn pricing models and tested out all sorts of pricing methods all by my lonesome. Why? Because no one in my industry will talk numbers, remember? lol! Anyway, I’m simply sharing from my personal business experience and pretty sure it’s on point after all this time!

And after you’re done reading, I hope you DO reach out for help! It will be well worth your investment!

With all that said, let’s get into it!…

A professional organizer’s pricing first and foremost is going to depend on a few factors:

  • EXPERIENCE
  • HOW LARGE THEIR COMPANY IS
  • THE SCOPE OF YOUR PROJECT
  • WHERE YOU LIVE
  • HOW THEY STRUCTURE THEIR BUSINESS / CONTRACTS

Experience is the top reason pricing can be low or high. Lesser experienced organizer rates range anywhere from $50 – $100 per hour. Seasoned, well-experienced organizers can range from $125 – $500 per hour. That rate comes from experience and skill. Think of this as similar to a great interior designer or contractor. Someone who is efficient and highly skilled/connected will charge a bit more but will be worth every penny. While you may think opting for someone lesser-priced will be sufficient, I’ve seen many cases in which a client ended up paying more, in the end, to have someone else come in to repair gaps or issues.

One little side story – I am always a cheerleader of new organizers. But one time I had the terrible experience of having to tell a client the shelving they paid $xxxx for wasn’t going to work with their end goal. We had to start from scratch. The shelving was limiting, not adjustable, and free-standing. It stood only 6′ tall in a garage that was about 15′ tall. Total waste of space and they had 4 children with a TON of garage contents to organize. They ended up investing 2 fold what they would have had they hired someone more experienced from the get-go. Again, not to shoot down that organizer by any means, but it certainly cost this family a lot more money than planned. Sometimes paying for experience is well worth it!

When I was starting out, I charged $50 per hour. After about a year and 50 or so projects under my belt, I raised that to $75 per hour. Since then my hourly rate has increased. (Won’t share my exact rate but it’s over $100 per hour) The last time I raised my rates, which was about a year ago, I felt I was at the top of my industry niche in terms of pricing. Pretty sure I am still there. It’s rare someone questions the hourly rate I quote because I can back up that fee with experience. One look at my portfolio or just a few minutes into a consult, a potential client knows I am experienced, can deliver an end result they will love / it’s sustainable, and they want to hire me and my team.

Specialties can also affect pricing. For example, my dear friend and colleague, Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office, only organizes office spaces. It’s a specialty and she should charge a special rate based on that. There are organizers who only organize photos or papers or home computers / digital devices or even estate sales.

Depending on an organizer’s experience and specialties, you can see how hourly rates will differ. It’s also going to depend on the factors outlined below too…for example, where you live; big city, more rural small town. But this gives you an explanation right out of the gate that pricing can vary and in general is due to experience.

HOW LARGE THEIR COMPANY IS

I worked alone for many years and was happy to do so. There are still projects today I choose to work on alone. I enjoy the solitude and get hyper-focused….barely talking while I work. But if I’m ever going to realize bigger dreams and goals for this business and scale it, I have to hire people. Rates will go up when more team members are on the project. So if you are quoted for a team of 3 organizers, the price could be $250 per hour or more. Again, this all depends on the experience of those team members as well. Seasoned crew members can make up to $100 per hour…sometimes more. Or they can make as little as $35 per hour if in training.

THE SCOPE OF YOUR PROJECT

The scope of your organizing project is a factor. If we are doing a whole house declutter, the invoice may be high due to the number of hours and team members. If you are designing a custom closet, organizers generally charge a consulting fee to work with you and interface with the closet company to help you design the most efficient space…and then you may hire them to help organize it once installed. This is a HUGE range in pricing because of the scope of work in a pantry vs the scope in a custom walk-in master closet or decluttering a large 3-car garage – it’s a vast difference in space, how many team members, and honestly….how quick you are to make decisions when it comes to decluttering items.

An organizer’s niche also matters in pricing. If you’re organizing papers in an office or photos on your computer or you’re unpacking a 1 bedroom or 10 bedroom home…organizers specialize in many different categories. Personally, I am a residential organizer for families and I am heavy into stuff. Lots of stuff. It’s a physical job that moves quickly. I don’t spend hours upon hours sorting through papers. Or photos. Maybe one day when my body can’t do this anymore…but point is, an organizer’s niche could be a factor in pricing as well.

WHERE YOU LIVE

Rates for organizers in metropolitan areas are higher than in small towns. That’s not to say there aren’t small towns that compete with the big cities. I used to live in Little Rock and it’s a VERY sophisticated city. It’s small but there are high-end designers I came to know while living there. They are charging what a lot of designers in my current SF area charge. But I have seen a big difference in pricing for organizers based in NYC vs in SF. Just something to keep in mind when you are hiring an organizer.

HOW THEY STRUCTURE THEIR BUSINESS / CONTRACTS

Like any small business, owners choose to run their business how they see best. For a long time, I tried flat-rate pricing. I felt like it took the guessing out of how many hours I would be there – clients occasionally gave off a vibe of worry that I may be there for hours upon hours. So if I felt confident I could complete the project in 6 hours, for example, I quoted them my hourly rate x 6. It worked pretty well for a while, but once I hired team members, hourly was easier.

Organizers also sometimes operate their business as if they are interior designers. I mean, really – everyone should have a client contract. I do and it took me a while to get on board. For a long time my thought was “I’m just an organizer – what I do is so black and white. I’m not an interior designer with big custom furniture purchases, freight charges, etc”. Anyway, sometimes organizers ask for a retainer if they are working on a large project that could go on for a while. Especially if it’s a design project for a custom closet…if they are doing any work from home they may discount their hourly rate, but this could drive up costs.

Some organizers charge a consultation fee…some don’t.

Some organizers charge a travel fee…some don’t.

Again, depends on how they run their business, and hopefully, the organizer you connect with is clear and upfront with any pricing so there aren’t surprises at the end. Nothing worse than a surprise on your invoice you weren’t expecting.

Sam space planning 225x300 - How Much Does It Cost to Work with A Professional Organizer & Why

HOW THE PROCESS WORKS

The reason I want to share a quick view of how the process works is because you’ll then understand our pricing even better. There is MUCH more involved than simply showing up to help you declutter. A good organizer will also teach you how to maintain the space, how to declutter another similar space on your own so they don’t have to come back and how to work through emotions when letting go of items. There’s work that happens before we arrive AND after we leave. It’s definitely a relationship and it gets intimate. That’s one of my favorite parts of this job!

A good organizer also spends time reading books, attending conferences and seminars, maybe working with a business coach, and definitely investing in more education. And staying on top of current trends in the industry.

In my business, I can share how the process works (which will soon be in video format – yay!) but it begins when you complete the contact form. The first steps are always the same:

  1. Contact form is completed
  2. I email you to set up a phone consult
  3. We have a 20-minute phone consult (complimentary)
  4. If after the call we feel it’s a match, we schedule an in-person 45-minute consult (fee included). During the consult we narrow down your hot zone and where I’d begin working with you.
  5. I come home to pull together a quote
  6. Once the quote is approved, we schedule a day/time to be there

From there the process can go in a few different directions. If it’s a simple declutter of an office, I schedule myself to be there. But if there is design or material involved, I have more work to do from home prior to our appointment. And I may also need to come back for a deeper dive into your volume of stuff, to take measurements and photos, etc.

Could look like this:

  1. I get to work on a game plan – my game plan is key to the timeliness of our projects. Everything is scheduled and structured before we arrive. If team members need to join me, I schedule them accordingly. If my haul team needs to be on stand-by, I make them aware of the day, possible time, location, and even the size of the truck needed for haul away.
  2. If a product needs to be sourced, I spend time in the office pulling options I then share with my client for approval.
  3. When approved, we place orders and pick up materials.
  4. If we are designing an Elfa space, I schedule myself time to go to TCS to design, and then there is a phase of going back and forth with the client for edits before purchasing.
  5. Once these are purchased, we need to have material delivered and maybe our painter is scheduled beforehand (demo and touch-ups)…
  6. Then we need to schedule the installer. I do some installs myself, but recently hired our own great installer who works a bit quicker so I can work behind him getting the space organized.

As you can see, it’s not as simple as decluttering and organizing. There’s a lot more. Don’t forget my time in the office at the end of a project reconciling product receipts, invoicing, following up with the client, paying team members, etc. It’s a big job and each and every client needs the best service so I take great care in delivering a full-service experience.

I spend a lot of time planning organizing projects from right here…not necessarily in a client’s home…Sam home office before e1573254358692 225x300 - How Much Does It Cost to Work with A Professional Organizer & Why

And like any business, there’s a cost of doing business. Some of that affects pricing too.

PERKS OF WORKING WITH A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER

Had to share some of the fun perks of working with a professional organizer! From special discounts to the intimate, fun relationship you will build – I promise you won’t regret having hired one.

SPECIAL TRADE DISCOUNTS

Most experienced and seasoned organizers will have connections to special discounts. Personally, I am a trade member with The Container Store – this gives us special discounts all year long, which I always pass down to our clients. I never up-charge (some organizers do!). Since design and making spaces beautiful is also at play in SO | Home, I became a trade member of all the Pottery Barn brands, including West Elm and Williams Sonoma. I’m a trade member with Wayfair. And a trade member with Restoration Hardware. And a trade member with Studio McGee.

I stay on top of sale trends. The Container Store, for example, pretty much runs the same sales cycle each calendar year. I plan for these in advance (even their friends and family event…I have employee friends who hook us up each fall) which gives me a chance to follow up with Sally about that pantry she wanted to organize last fall, but nothing pantry related was on sale at that time.

One of my goals is always to save a family money. Families grow and change and it’s inevitable that a system I set up in 2017 may not be working the same in 2020. It’s normal but I plan for it in advance and follow up with them. I’d like that done for me too if I was working with a designer-type.

EXPERTISE & SAVING MONEY

When you hire an organizer, they will know exactly which product works in your space… depending on your habits. This means you won’t be buying containment over and over because it is failing you. Expertise in this area matters.

LEARNING NEW TECHNIQUES AND HABITS

You’re going to learn how to declutter and organize in a way that works for you. New systems, new habits…organizing is a great skill to have. I also work with clients on time management and goal setting as well. They go hand in hand with organizing.

HOW YOU’RE GOING TO FEEL!

You are going to feel incredible when the process is behind you! All of those items that were previously taking up space or inducing bad memories/reminders…with them behind you and a fresh new space you’re going to feel inspired and lighter. Happy and content. Motivated. You will love opening that garage to see the entire floor and pull your car in. You will feel excited to open that cabinet or closet door or drawer. You will know exactly where to find the scissors or that photo or that shirt you wanted to wear last summer but forgot about.

A little of what the Internet says…

Just for the heck of it, I did a quick google search to find out what the going rate is. It was all over the map. Anywhere from $30 per hour to $375 for a 3-hour session.

According to Angie’s List, members reported paying as much as $1,500 to $5,000 for major home organization projects, such as unpacking and organizing an entire home after a move, or tackling multiple rooms including the living room, bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, basement, and spare room.

My sweet friend and colleague, Geralin Thomas, wrote this great article in 2018 breaking down costs based on where you live in the US. She polled many many organizers around the country who were pretty open with their rates – nice to see!

I’d love to hear any questions you have and am more than happy to answer it here – so leave them in the comments or send me an email if it’s something more personal. Hope this answered some of your questions or is encouraging you to take the leap and contact an organizer to finally help you with a space or two.

Sam

What You Give When You Give A Gift

What You Give When You Give A Gift

The holiday season is usually the time of the year when we give and receive the most gifts. It can become overwhelming, not only in the buying process but also in receiving gifts. But this practice is not limited to the holidays, as we well know.

Among the top reasons people find it hard to get organized is their guilt about letting go of items that they receive and for which they have no use, purpose, appeal, or storage space.  

Although those guilty feelings are frequent conversations between Organizer and the client, it would be fair to look into the other side of this dynamic – the gift giver. Have you ever thought about what you give when you offer a gift?

More Than A Gift

When you give someone a gift, you might do it with the best intentions, out of a perceived obligation, or maybe without a specific reason: you give someone something you like.

Regardless of the reason, you give that person responsibilities that might be more than what the person wants or can handle. Has this ever crossed your mind?

So, what do you give when you give a gift? When you give a gift, you are passing the responsibility of another possession; one they did not necessarily choose for themselves. They will have the burden of finding this item space in their home, storing it, cleaning it, and maintaining it. 

What About Unwanted Gifts?

An unwanted gift exerts negative pressure subconsciously on the gift receiver. The mind recognizes the item’s presence and why such an item is stored somewhere.

If someone receives a gift from a person they dislike or the item brings sad memories, that gift brings compounded negative energy.

No Strings Attached

Offering a gift should be without strings or obligation from the recipient. Whether it is to display, use, store, regift, donate, recycle, or trash the item, the outcome of the present should not become a reflection of the relationship between the giver and the receiver.

When you feel slighted if you don’t see the beautiful crystal vase that you gave to your niece in her home, or if you’re hanging on to the pink fuzzy throw blanket from your sister because you don’t want to hurt her feelings, then the gift is no longer a gift, but an emotional burden. 

Appreciate The Act of Giving Instead

Both parties should recognize that the gift recipient appreciates the gesture and the gift giver. But the best gift we can offer one another is the freedom from becoming a hostage to an unwanted gift.

It is only human to feel hurt when others do not fully appreciate our gifts. But if we genuinely care for the person receiving our gift, the last thing we should want is to burden that person with an additional problem or guilty feelings that will haunt them.

Let’s be mindful of the gift-giving process and less sensitive about the gift’s destiny. Then, when we finally understand this concept, let the gift recipient know how we feel about the whole process.

No Clothes In Your Laundry Room

No Clothes In Your Laundry Room

The Laundry Nightmare

The laundry room and the process of “doing the laundry” are recurrent household nightmares among people who feel their homes are messy. It might seem like a mistake, but no clothes should be in your laundry room. Keep reading to understand how to make peace with your laundry process.

Laundry never ends, and that room is constantly in chaos. Many homes have this area as the entrance to the house from the garage, and this complicates matters. The space becomes the dumping grounds for bags, sports equipment, briefcases, papers, lunch boxes, shoes, shopping bags, and everything else we bring into the house from our day out. We are tired when we get home and whatever we dump at this entry point usually stays there indefinitely. But add to the mix piled up shoes, coats, clean and dirty clothes from everyone, plus the cat litter box, the dogs’ supplies, and the Costco bulk purchases. Not pretty.

Where The Clothes Are

If we could at least remove the clothes from the scene, things would be more straightforward. But isn’t the laundry room the place to gather dirty clothes to wash and clean pieces of clothing to hang dry? Not necessarily! Here is why.

Clothes should be:

  • on the person wearing them
  • in the hamper
  • inside the washer or dryer (in the process of washing or drying)
  • hung in the closet or folded in the drawer where they belong

There are two exceptions to this: clothes air-drying and pieces waiting for ironing (only if the ironing happens in the laundry room, which is not typically the case). 

In any instance, these clothes should remain in this space only for a short time. We should manage the whole laundry process on the same day, meaning that clothes should end up where they belong by the end of that day.

To Be Clear

There are two concepts that people often confuse: hamper and laundry basket. These are not the same.

The hamper holds dirty clothes and lives where we change clothes. Laundry baskets transport clean clothes from the laundry room to the clothes’ storage place (as in the closet or drawers). It lives (empty) in the laundry room.

Also, know that the washing machine, the dryer, and the laundry basket are NOT approved permanent storage for clothing! (And you know who you are!) It might be the easy way to use them as such, but eventually, this creates the chaos you loathe.

The Process That Helps You

Crush the laundry room mess by assigning each person in the home their hamper. Place this hamper where they change clothes. It also helps to individually wash each person’s load. This eliminates the need to sort the clothes for each household member.

Here is the process you might want to follow to keep the order in your home.

• Designate a laundry day per household member.

• On laundry day, bring the hamper to the laundry room (this should be only one load).

• Wash that load of clothes. Then dry it. Pay attention to that end-of-cycle chime to avoid wasting time.

• Return the empty hamper to where it belongs (it does not stay in the laundry room)

• Once the load is dry, place it in a laundry basket (empty baskets live in the laundry room)

• Take the basket full of clean clothes to put these clothes away. Do it immediately.

• Return the empty basket to the laundry room (where it lives).

Plan For It To Happen

Try these steps and place the laundry process in the calendar. Leaving the laundry halfway done signifies that it interferes with your schedule. When you include this chore in your calendar, plan for it, and make it part of your household life, it stops intruding upon your time.

Need some help with your home systems? Contact My Space Reclaimed, LLC. We specialize in developing strategies to simplify your life.

All That Packaging!

All That Packaging!

What the deal with all that packaging! Medicines and supplements come with an extraordinary amount of packaging that they no longer need once those items get home. Remove all that at once and make the product part of your home.

Medicines and supplements are usually found all over the home. New bottles, half-empty bottles, expired products, OTC stuff… Medicines and supplements take a lot of space in our home. It is hard to account for the meds and supplements on hand and even harder to track them for expiration and re-ordering.

Here are a couple of suggestions about the medicines and supplements we take and keep at home. Specifically, how to make more space when storing them and how to better track your supply and reordering process.

Simplify

Whether you get your medicines and supplements by mail or you pick them up at the store, you probably have an excess of bottles and extra packaging complicating your space.  

Many medicines and supplements come with excess packaging. It is unthinkable having to go through it every single day to get your medicines. 

Thus, it makes sense to strip your medicines and supplements from all unnecessary packaging as soon as they enter your home.  Better be done with that at once!

Consolidate

Most supplements and medication bottles come half empty. How about consolidating all that product? Do so when the product is the same type, with a similar expiration date.

I have consistently decreased the number of bottles I get by half, by consolidating their contents. The amount of unnecessary packaging I remove is considerable.  I gain amazing space in my cabinets just by doing this. 

Allocate

Store ingestible medicine and supplements in a single place in your home, preferably in the kitchen.

The bathroom is a suitable space for therapeutic and medicinal products that are not ingested. These are products we apply to the skin, hair, nose, mouth, and teeth (both OTC and prescribed). This group includes items contained in a first aid kit, for example.

Having these two distinct categories of medication properly allocated and stored allows you to better track the product on hand. This also facilitates the management of prescription reorders with the pharmacy.

Finally…

It boils down to how diligent can you be at managing packages that enter your home and what you do with them, medication or otherwise.


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