Lightening the Load

Once spring has sprung, it’s time to lighten the load.

We all feel better when we can shed a few layers from our bodies after a long winter, and the same goes for your overstuffed bedroom closet.

Spring streamlining the home is a specialty of Marge Anderson, owner and operator of Omina Designs (ominadesigns.com), serving Cheshire County. Anderson, who has a background in interior design, offers professional organizing and home staging services. Many of her clients seek her expertise to downsize, de-clutter and depersonalize because they are moving into a new home; others hire her simply to re-organize their existing homes.

“Organizing has become more mainstream because of television shows [on the topic] on HGTV and TLC,” said Anderson, who has been in business for 10 years and is only getting busier.

The same basic principles apply to organizing and space in the home – closets included.

Anderson says she is a cheerleader rather than counselor in this organization process, which can be difficult for some.

“The key is to let go of things,” she said. “Some are afraid to do this. I ease their minds by telling them they called me for a reason.”

She starts by doing a needs assessment with clients to determine their goals as well as what works for them and what doesn’t in the home. She’ll ask where they would like to start and will also make suggestions.

“If you want to get a feeling for how this process [of organization] is going to go, clothing is one of the easiest things to start with,” Anderson said. “You can make a big change with clothing in a shorter amount of time.”

For those planning on tackling it on their own, the first step in any organization project is to take inventory of what you have to get ready to downsize and purge. Removing out-of-season clothing and shoes first will free up a ton of space in your closet. Go through clothing that is not in your closet, for example, in bins in the basement and dresser drawers.

“If you have six black short-sleeved shirts in storage and 10 black three-quarter-length-sleeved shirts in your closet, to have them all in one place helps you see it a lot better and make decisions basing on all of the information,” Anderson said.

Then make sure you have enough room on your bed, floor or whatever empty space you choose to make four piles from what’s in your closet: Items to keep, items to donate, items to toss and items to tailor. You’ll want to have a hamper handy for things to wash or dry clean, too, and a box for things to donate.

Set some parameters, like using the one-year rule – if you haven’t worn a piece of clothing or an accessory in a year, or if it doesn’t fit you, it’s probably safe to donate it or toss it. If you’re really struggling with letting things go, give yourself permission to keep a few sentimental items. Consider storing these things in a labeled archival box or weather-tight tote in another area.

Anderson works with clients to prepare, organize and set up a yard sale of donated items and also helps with donation and consignment.

“I try to align donation sites with my client’s passions,” she said. “If they have old bed linens and towels, I might suggest local animal rescues instead of throwing them in the trash, or donating to a church rummage sale instead of those big yellow [Planet Aid] boxes.”

When that’s done, it’s time to organize your closet.

“Usually space in itself is a limit. You can’t make your closet bigger,” Anderson said. “You have to work within the space your floor plan provides.”

That means maximizing all of the available space, including vertical space from floor to ceiling and the often-wasted space behind the door.

“You can get a shoe organizer that hangs on the back of the closet door and use it to store belts, socks, scarves,” Anderson said. “Or install coat hooks inside a deeper closet to hang bathrobes, jackets and purses rather than piling things on the floor.”

Adding a vertical tiered shelf or labeled plastic stacking bins with similar items grouped together is also a helpful organizational tool and space saver to have more room, for instance, to hang clothing. Items that aren’t in heavy use can be stored on a high shelf.

“You can get dressed in 20 minutes rather than in an hour this way,” Anderson said. “You have a much more effective wardrobe when you can easily pair items together.”

She urges clients to use what they have to organize their space before going out and buying anything. Don’t have plastic storage bins, but do you have milk crates? Use them. Have any bungee cords? They make a great cage when attached to the top and bottom of a shelf to secure items. Use rolled-up magazines to prop up boots and keep them from creating a heap on the floor. There are countless ways to be organized, maximize space and save money. Under the bed is another great storage space, whether you want to use options with wheels for easy sliding in and out or risers to elevate your bed and create more room underneath to store items.

A final touch would be to add cedar blocks or sprays or other natural herbal products in with your clothes to repel fabric-damaging pests. Whatever you do, do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the task of organizing, which can be both physically and mentally (and emotionally) draining.

“Set realistic goals,” Anderson said. “Start with something small like a junk drawer or cabinet, it gives you a limit. Put on an album and when it’s over, be done for the day. Also, give yourself breaks. Drink water, have some snacks. Set your phone alarm and take a five-minute break every hour. Walk away, go outside and get some fresh air. It keeps you motivated because you know there’s an end in sight.”

Often, she added, the solution to a challenge you’ve been pondering will present itself during one of these breaks.

A great way to get the family involved in home organization, according to Anderson, is to pick a nice spring day and organize the basement or garage.

“Pull out all of your camping gear and beach stuff,” she said. “Look at everything before putting it back. Don’t think about making decisions, but when you put it all away, think about what you need to keep and what you can leave outside to donate or sell at a family yard sale.”

Organization can also be contagious.

“Often people are encouraged to organize their home by a family member,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you might be organizing your own things and you can inspire others to do the same.”