Household Organization Tips with Simply Spaced
It’s more than just a junk drawer. You can’t find your tax forms, you lost a novel that your trusting but naive coworker lent you, and you can’t seem to get rid of that collection of vegetable-shaped salt and pepper shakers your late grandmother gave you. It’s time to admit it: you could use some household organization tips. While you may appear cool, calm, and collected to everyone else, you can’t help but feel like your disorganized space is quickly taking over all aspects of your life.
Enter: Monica Leed, professional organizer, CEO and owner of organizing service and lifestyle company Simply Spaced, and author of Simply Spaced: Clear the Clutter and Style your Life. We recently caught up with Monica to learn more about her relaxed—but wildly effective—approach to organizing and left with some tips and tricks you can put to use today.
The path to organizational bliss.
Monica wasn’t always an organization and decluttering expert. After working as an art director and set designer on film and movie sets for more than ten years, she started feeling burnt out and exhausted by the industry.
However, it took one particular event to force Monica to really slow down and take stock of her lifestyle.
“In 2011, my husband and I were in a car accident with a drunk driver and that’s when things really changed for me,” she shares. “Although I had done some organizing in between film jobs, it wasn’t until after the accident that I started to let go of all the things around me that weren’t serving me.”
After recovering, Monica did a massive decluttering of her home and became acutely aware of what she wanted: simplicity and balance at home and in life.
“After some time, I made the decision to leave the film industry and start organizing professionally. I wanted to share what I have learned myself, with others,” she says. “Little did I know, I’d have more time and autonomy over my schedule and enjoy the added reward of working with real people to help support them to live their best lives.”
The biggest obstacle.
If organizing was easy, we’d all have immaculate homes. Whether you don’t have the time, or have sentimental attachments to your things, everyone has a different reason for organization procrastination. As somebody who has seen it all, Monica notices one key roadblock that pops up again and again.
“Typically the biggest obstacle is getting started. Time is our most valuable resource and most of my clients are short on it. Clutter creeps in slowly… so it takes time and commitment [to get started].”
If you can get over this initial hump, though, you’ll start to feel that energizing momentum.
“Once we get started, it’s amazing what we can do in a short time. This typically keeps the client motivated and excited to move through other areas.”
After getting over the mental block, you’ll quickly start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Ten-Minute Tidy.
“I just don’t have the tiiiiiime,” we all whine together. While everyone seems busier than ever, it only takes ten minutes to improve your organization situation. Think of this as your first step towards a more calm and clutter-free life.
“[Fellow organizational expert and media personality] Peter Walsh calls it the “trash bag tango,” I call it the “reusable cardboard box trot.” You can call it whatever you want, but the idea is to grab a receptacle and for ten minutes and go through a room or even your whole house to fill it up with donations. Simplifying is always the first step and this trains your mind to declutter first as a habit.”
This isn’t just for clutter, though. Consider other areas you want to improve in your life and think about how you can take just ten minutes to make a positive change. Monica sees her clients (and the general population) moving to make more environmentally-conscious and health-focused decisions—something that can be worked on with a quick ten-minute tidy.
“For an interesting spin on this challenge, you can do what I call the ‘toxic trot to remove anything full of harmful chemicals or expired food, medications, or spices.”
One last thing to remember? Make sure you dispose of anything toxic correctly. Search for local SAFE centers or hazardous recycling depots for proper disposal methods.
Okay, so you’ve got a little bit of time. Perhaps it’s the hour between your last client meeting and having to pick-up your kids from school. While it might be tempting to mindlessly scroll Instagram instead, an hour spent organizing and decluttering will have a much longer-lasting positive effect on your well-being.
“If you have an hour to organize, focus your energy on one space. For this time limit, it’s better to choose a smaller space within a space like a dresser, nightstand, bookshelf, sideboard or desktop. Sometimes organizing or even just decluttering something really simple like a purse can be incredibly cathartic and motivating.”
Monica knows that it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about a big undertaking. The trick is to break your tasks down into manageable pieces. Be realistic about how much you can complete in an hour by thinking about the time it takes to watch an hour-long episode of your favorite medical drama. Could you reorganize and sort through your sock drawer in that time? Would it be too much to try and get your office desk drawers under control in an hour? Set yourself up for success by starting small and building up to bigger projects.
“Don’t underestimate the power of just starting and completing one task,” Monica says. “Conversely, just getting one small thing done can make you go from feeling totally overwhelmed to totally in control.”
The Functional Shelfie.
Designers and homeowners alike have been sharing their beautifully-styled shelves, or “#Shelfies,” to the tune of millions of Likes and Comments.
However, if you do a quick search of the hashtag #Shelfie, you might be asking “That’s pretty and all, but where is all of their stuff?!”
“Most people just style their shelves, but forget about the shelf’s original purpose: storage. If you’re purely thinking about looks, you might end up short on space and your shelves won’t actually be functional,” Monica says. “Shelves are the perfect place to embrace form and function. I love adding cohesive boxes to shelves so to make the most of their functionality. ”
If you’re struggling to find ways to align the storage purpose of your shelves with your distinct style, consider how color can play a big part in building a cohesive look.
“Depending on your overall color palette, you can go bold or stick with all white storage boxes and files. I find magazine files are especially great for this purpose.”
We hear about the idea of balance all the time when it comes to interior design, but it also plays a huge part in organizational principles. For Monica, this means balancing a beautiful aesthetic with utilitarian function.
“To ensure your shelving is actually functional, choose one or two shelves to dedicate to storage,” she advises. “This will keep your shelves looking tidy and help you to learn to set limits (hello, magazines). Your key styling pieces will stand out and pack a punch—but never overwhelm the space. “
One Day at a Time.
You’re trying to sit and watch the latest episode of The Crown but your eyes keep wandering around your living room. Not only is your clutter collecting dust, but it’s distracting you from your programs.
When you have a full day to work on this, Monica suggests starting with something that’s not particularly wrought with emotion or overly cluttered—especially if you are just getting started along your organizational journey.
“The key is to stay in control and grow your confidence and not get overwhelmed. I like to use my Simply Spaced 3 Step Method to Simplify, Streamline, and Style Your Space.”
Here, she breaks down her proven process:
- Simplify: pull everything out, group like-with-like, and let go of anything you do not love, need, or use.
- Streamline: maximize space with optimal storage for everything you keep. Square and rectangular boxes or bins are usually more efficient than round containers.
- Style: personalize your storage space and consider adding labels to motivate the upkeep. You’ll be much more inclined to keep your space organized when it’s beautiful and styled.
For more organization help, you can find step by step processes plus worksheets, tips, category lists, and a guide to ‘15 Things to Let Go of Now in Every Space’ inside Monica’s book.
“The real key is to understand that organization takes time, so block off specific time periods for each step. Even if it’s only ten minutes, every step is a step towards a more organized life. Understand that you will not likely get to all three steps in one day so be okay with just doing day one of the Simplify steps listed above if clutter is a big issue for you.”
Even if all you get organized in a day is one drawer in your closet, that’s one less cluttered drawer taking up precious space in your mind.
As Monica says, “Remember: the only way to eat that elephant is one bite at a time.”