8 things I learned about organizing in 2015

This was going to be the year I broke the chain.  I wasn’t going to continue the tradition of my “things I learned about organizing” post simply because I was too busy to pause long enough to reflect on such a fruitful year with clients new and old.  Well, last week while driving to my client’s house in the rain, these 8 insights came to me all at once with crystal clarity.  At the next stoplight, I grabbed a piece of paper and captured them.  Apparently these little stories wanted to be told! I’ve been a professional organizer since 2001, and continue to learn so much each year, gleaning deeper insight into why we struggle with our spaces, and how to transform them with a change in perspective.

Here’s what I learned about organizing in 2015:

1. Rooms in Architectural Digest don’t always look that neat.

This year I had the pleasure of being welcomed into a NYC office that had graced the pages of Architectural Digest just months prior.  Much to my surprise, there were things strewn on the desk, huge planning boards leaning against shiny bookcases, and true signs that a hard worker was creating things in there.  It wasn’t cluttered, but it was delightfully lived-in!  I was beside myself to literally be standing inside an AD page, but even more pleased to see that she too has more important things to do than clear her desk at night.

2. Sometimes you simply need more storage. 

Nic, my fiance, moved in on September 1.  My goal: seamlessly incorporate him without buying or building any additional storage.  This was a lofty, if not arrogant goal.  I just couldn’t do it.  Week after week we shuffled our things, but still had piles of shoes, clothes, outdoor equipment, books, etc. strewn about.  My motto that makes my clients chuckle, “There’s always room for one more thing” just wasn’t the case.  There simply was too much to store. I had to admit defeat.

Our solutions:

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1. We bought a huge vintage pine trunk at a thrift store for Nic’s bulky outdoor equipment and some electronics.

2. My sister gifted me a day with her contractor.  I used it to build out storage in my walk-in closet. I can’t recommend floor to ceiling 6” shelves enough!  It was a risk.  They’re shallow and not adjustable, but allows us to store plenty of items without putting them in boxes.  We’re all so accustomed to stacking boxes, but no need with a shallow shelf.

3. People like seeing experts struggle too.

A much more minimal friend recently said, “you’re like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes.” This was during a conversation about a pit-stained shirt that had been sitting on my bedroom floor for six months.  My reason for leaving things out is usually the same as yours: it represents an unmade decision.  It was one of my favorite pieces of clothing: 100% gauzy cashmere, hand dyed in a vibrant pink and green.  Even though it was rendered useless by unsightly pit stains, I couldn’t get rid of it, but knew it couldn’t go back in the closet.

If you have anything “sitting out” in your home, you can relate.  This year I learned that I can relate to my clients an readers more than I had preciously realized. My struggle is the same as theirs (albeit, my threshold is a bit lower), and it was time to get real and voice it.  The result, my minimalism video series on YouTube.

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4. Focusing on what must stay helps to let go of what mustn't.

This year I got called out by someone on YouTube who didn’t agree with how I was letting go of some beautiful, (formerly) sentimental items from my past.  She pointed out that I was sitting against a white wall, so my home must be stark and heartless.  What I hadn’t made clear in my video was that my home is full of cherished items.  Between my fiancé and me, every piece we have tells a story.  Giving full appreciation for our unique things (many, one of a kind) and the experiences that brought them about makes it easier to let go of the things that no longer matter - no matter how beautiful.  Full house tour coming in 2016!

5. The message behind many of your saved articles is to live better, so stop letting them hold you down.

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One of my new clients this year grew leaps and bounds in her journey towards organizing her office and beyond.  On day one, she made it clear however that the Oprah magazines will stay.  Knowing when to pick my battles, we worked around the stacks. Message understood.  On our last session of the year, she said, “Kacy, I’m ready to talk about the Oprahs.” She was right on the edge, so I had to make my case passionately, on the spot.  My reply, “Why do we love Oprah so much?  Because she teaches us to ‘live our best life.’  A lot of these articles are specifically about letting go, right?  So, what would Oprah want you to do?  Live your best life by getting rid of her magazines!”  DONE.  We marched out to the recycling bin together, making Oprah proud.

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6. Meditation is the best tool for organizing my thoughts.

I’ve been a regular meditator for a few years now.  Sometimes it’s profound, but most of the time it’s not.  On average, I feel like my brain has had a shower, and I can take full deep breaths again.  I shouldn’t have been surprised when I turned to it one afternoon and was blown away by the immediate results.  I had been struggling with starting to plan a talk I have on the calendar.  I had set aside a few hours that day to work on it but for the life of me, could not sit down.  Afternoon rolled around, and I had nothing to show for it.  Feeling crunched for time, I sat myself down to meditate. Twenty minutes later I opened my eyes to crystal clear focus, knowing exactly how to outline the project.  In addition, I found a media request in my inbox, as well as resolve to some tricky scheduling issues I was having.  Lesson learned: meditate before you feel you have no choice but to.

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7. Hold an image as your organizing muse.

Nothing inspires me to live a more beautiful life than my Pinterest feed. Specifically, I’ve discovered some Scandinavian design blogs that I hold as my gold standard for how I want my home (pictured here) to look.  I took leaps and bounds this year towards attaining those clean, organic, whitewashed vignettes in every room - though I still have a ways to go.  Once you find an image or tightly curated collection of images, ask yourself what exactly you love about that space.  What do you see?  What do you not see?  Be very specific, then be very, very disciplined.

8. Encourage interaction when giving organizing workshops.

It took me dozens of talks over the years to begin to get this right.  I knew that the best talks I had attended were heavy on interaction, but didn’t quite know how to execute it myself.  I have ways of asking my clients if they already know the answers to their greatest organizing challenges, and they usually do.  This year, I had talk attendees write down lists, fill in the blanks, shout out answers and more, resulting in a handful of talks that made me proud.

What did you learn about organizing in 2015? Please share in the comments!

Click below for inspiration from years past:

7 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2014
7 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2013
4 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2012

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.