No, I didn’t sneak into your home or office to take these before pictures! These are photos from real life clients I’ve worked with over the years. You can see what the situation looked like before I showed up, and how a little cleaning out and re-organizing improved their environment. I’ve also offered a brief description of each project, so you know what we were dealing with and what kinds of tools/techniques I used…
This client was storing lawn-care items and large tools in the basement — but they were all just strewn about the floor, with no real system or sense of order. She was baffled about how to proceed, not sure what to do with an unfinished basement that has no “real” walls. In this case, we installed a peg system that could be firmly attached to each wooden support with a heavy-duty screw. This sturdy space-saving solution now holds all of this client’s gardening tools and cleaning supplies.
This client’s laundry storage was wasted on a bunch of stuff that belonged elsewhere, half her laundry tools were scattered around in other cabinets in the house, and all the cleaning supplies stored in this area were just thrown into the cabinets so they tipped over and spilled. After moving all the “homeless” items to other parts of the house, we could consolidate all of her cleaning products in one area. We assigned each section of the cabinet for a different purpose (laundry detergents in one, bleaches and stain removers in another, household cleaners in the third, and bug sprays and specialty items in the fourth.) Finally, we installed special rubber-coated trays in each section, so bottles wouldn’t slide around and tip. Now she doesn’t have to waste time cleaning up spilled cleaners!
This client converted a bedroom into a home office, but she didn’t want to spend a ton on storage furniture. There was one decent-sized closet in the room, but it only came with a hanging rod and high shelf — not necessarily the most appropriate space for the items being stored there, but we made it work. We created a more efficient storage area by going vertical — using an extra shelf from the garage, some spare stacking trays, and a labeled cardboard drawer unit to divide and containerize all of her extra supplies and papers. The resulting solution worked out beautifully, because everything is right at her fingertips, but she can shut the closet door when she is done with the work day.
This client’s desk drawer was a dumping ground for every small, loose office supply and scrap of paper he didn’t know what to do with. The business cards and notes all got entered into his contacts/calendar and thrown away. And the addition of a drawer tray helped to create a specific and logical place for each of his office supplies. Now he can actually find his stamps and stapler and tape!
This client was plagued by too much paper and not enough room! We brought in two lateral cabinets to provide more filing space than his small “standard” cabinets — but not everything needed to be stored away out of sight. This client was a realtor, and a lot of his fliers, forms, and contract papers needed to be easily accessible, stored at his fingertips. So we placed a document sorter on top of one cabinet — each section was clearly labeled so there would be no mistake about what was stored where. This not only makes his work day much easier, but allows him to see when he’s running low and needs to print more copies of a particular document.
This client was cramped for space, using a small one-sided desk that was clearly piled way too high with “stuff”. We went shopping for a good used “L” desk that would give her room for her computer, enough storage space that she would have a place to put away her current projects when she wasn’t working on them, and plenty of room to spread out.
This client kept her home office supplies in a cabinet — but because she could shut the doors and not have to look at it, she had a tendency to just pile everything on a shelf (not a particularly good solution for piles of paper and loose pens/clips/staplers/etc.) It’s amazing what kind of order you can create with just a few labeled containers! We put her envelopes in a stand-up rack, found some colorful photo boxes that were perfect for stationery, put the computer paper in stacking trays, and stored the file folders in big open cardboard boxes so she could get at them easily.
This junk closet was really junky — stuff piled on every shelf, a mish-mosh of cleaning,repair, and recreational items with nowhere else to live. However “junk” doesn’t justify clutter — even “miscellaneous” items can be organized! We hung the brooms and mops from the back of the door, and set up a series of small baskets and lidded tubs to hold loose items — lightbulbs, batteries, cleaning supplies, you name it. The result is less junk and more easy-to-find-when-you-need it.
This client needed to find a home for a lot of office supplies in a small cubicle with almost no built-in storage. Since she didn’t have any other option, she had simply filled a bunch of bookcases with all her work “stuff” — but the back shelf was falling apart, it looked like a mess, and she couldn’t find anything. We bought a cabinet with doors to hide away the smaller items. The lateral drawers on the bottom also provided additional filing space for her loose papers (which she desperately needed!) And the one remaining bookshelf was then freed up for notebooks and handouts, stored in stacking trays.
This client was afraid she would have to spend a fortune on fancy containers to tame her office. However, we found a plethora of unused organizing paraphernalia (baskets, plastic drawer systems, shelving, Tupperware tubs) just lying around the house and put them right to work! I honestly had never occurred to her that we could take items being used for an entirely different purpose and put them to work as organizing tools. All it took was a little bit of creativity and a label maker — voila!
This client could never find anything in her closet, and no wonder! The biggest problem was that she had no real shelving space, just a rod with one high shelf that was hard to reach — so everything that needed to be folded just ended up on the floor. We swapped out the single rod and put in two short-hanging rods — then arranged her clothes by color, type, and season. Rarely-worn items were moved out of the way to the high shelf and we installed a series of tiered shelves along the side wall — plenty of room for storing folded items within easy reach. Finally, we added stacking drawers for accessories and lingerie. Now it takes her less time to get ready in the morning and she can see everything she owns.
Sometimes you just have more stuff than will reasonably fit in the space you have available! This company’s only archive storage area was just ridiculously crammed with junk — worse yet, they kept buying duplicate supplies that they didn’t need because no one could find the right item in the “the closet” (as it was referred to in ominous tones) when they went searching. We sent 7 years’ worth of old financial paperwork to a records storage facility. We then sorted a jumbled mess of supplies into categories — which were then stored in easily accessible labeled boxes and stacking trays, keeping “like items” together in the same area.
This client never had enough room to store food in her kitchen cabinets — but the problem was that her pantry was entirely underutilized, holding just a little bit of junk and the rest of the space wasted. By returning the pantry to it’s original use, setting up stepped shelves for small jars and cans, putting bulk items in stacking containers, storing loose serving-size snacks and packets in open bins, and creating some additional storage on the back of the door — she now has more room in her cabinets for cookware, dishes, and Tupperware. She is more likely to cook (instead of ordering out) now that everything is within sight and easily accessible, and her kids can pack their own lunches and fix their own afterschool snacks!
This client’s bedroom was buried in years of accumulated clutter — she had a bad habit of just piling everything by her bookshelf to put away “later”. So we sorted everything into piles according to what purpose it served in her life, gave the “keepers” that needed to stay in the bedroom a designated home, cleaned out “unwanteds”, and relocated things that didn’t belong in her room to the correct spot (like her kid’s Legos, her gardening tools, and the new sheets she bought 2 years ago for the guest room!) Now, my client can actually get to the books stored on her shelf, her bedroom is a much more restful place, and she’s actually getting a good night’s sleep again!
It took this client nearly two hours to get ready each day — no surprise there, when you take a look at her bathroom counter! She had too many items sitting out, so we removed anything that wasn’t used on a daily basis and stored it on lazy susans under the sink or in divided sections within a drawer. We then organized this jumble of toiletries on the counter using a “stepped” shelving system — allowing her to see everything at once, and have a set place for each item to live when she was through with it.
This client simply had all of her silverware thrown into a drawer — knives, forks, and spoons all in a tangle. But it’s amazing how much space you can create in a kitchen drawer if you group like items together! In this case, we simply separated the different types and sizes of silverware using custom drawer dividers. THis not only makes dinner time easier, but also putting things away after washing the dishes.
This client loved to “tinker,” but could never find the tools she needed. The problem was that she had them all piled together in an overflowing toolbox — hardware, tools, and everything mixed in. She also didn’t have a space in which to spread out and actually work on a project. We hung a pegboard, set up a workbench, and separated small hardware like nails and screws into labeled clear plastic drawers. And the toolbox is now reserved for just those items she regularly uses in other parts of the house.
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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.
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