The Hottest New Organizing Trend?

This past fall, I noticed a PR blitz across major media outlets for the hottest new trend in home organizing.  It had all the elements of a runaway hit: a universal struggle, a controversial angle, and foreign (even better, Scandinavian!) origin.  So of course, I pre-ordered the book on Amazon, eager to find out what all the fuss was about!

IMG_0078.jpg

My copy of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I spent a leisurely hour and a half with a mug of coffee enjoying it one morning.  I can’t decide if I want to be Margareta Magnusson or become her new best friend, but I can tell you that I was not expecting to shed a happy/sad tear over an organizing manual and I’m weirdly glad I did!

Margareta is a self-described grandmother and artist “between the ages of eighty and one hundred” and her voice is practical, warm, and deeply authentic.  She’s the wise Swedish grandma you never knew you needed to bake you cheesecake, mend your old clothes, and teach you how to tend a garden.  She’s also surprisingly up to date, waxing philosophical about the pace of change and decrying her contemporaries’ lack of engagement with technology.

Oh, and she’s direct.  My favorite quote?

“Many young families have to schedule their lives down to the smallest increment to have time to d what they consider most important.  Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish - or be able - to schedule time off to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself.”

There is so much reality, struggle, potential offense, guilt, and love wrapped up in those two sentences. And they distill a concept that is by definition hard for me to communicate to older clients.  After all, I’m 35, I can’t possibly understand what they’re going through!

But at the same time, my clients need to hear Margareta Magnusson’s message: that organizing while you are still alive, both for your own benefit and that of your children, is important and valuable work.  I know from experience, both my own and my clients’, that the burden placed on children by parents who don’t “death clean” is significant and incredibly draining.

So, I’ll be recommending this Swedish grandmother’s wisdom to pretty much everyone! After all, as she says, not one of us will make it out of life alive.

LMW

P.S. If you’ve read a book about organizing and wondered what a professional organizer might think about it, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my list!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of lithub.com

Photo courtesy of lithub.com

Anne of Green Gables: Patron Saint of Girls Who Ask Too Many Questions

The depth of my love the Anne of Green Gables and her world knows no bounds. I've read the entire series many times over and wholly identified with her from the start. As a kid, I read pretty much any historical fiction I could get my hands on, and there was lot of prim and proper behavior and bonding with horses and stuff,  but Anne was always real to me. To this day, I use the term "kindred spirits" and look for them everywhere.

Me as a debutante with my grandma in 2000.  We bought the dress in the bridal department of Saks, which was... bizarre.

Me as a debutante with my grandma in 2000.  We bought the dress in the bridal department of Saks, which was... bizarre.

The Curious Plight of the Modern Debutante

So, uh, fun fact: I was a debutante. Twice: in Ventura, where my dad's family has lived since the 1880's, and in LA, where my mom grew up. Even eighteen years ago I found it weird, dated, and irrelevant. I agreed to do both balls because they meant a lot to my mom and grandparents, and because I got to wear a poofy dress with lots of hair and makeup and force a boy I had a crush on to hang out with me for a night. I mean, I was 17!

13 Things You Should Know About HIV, But Probably Don't

As a teenager in the 90's, I was absolutely petrified of AIDS. It was finally publicly acknowledged but it was still basically a death sentence. I remember the AIDS quilt and Ryan White, and Pedro on The Real World, and scary sex ed. I'm glad we've come so far, but AIDS remains a global health threat and we should all be informed about how the disease is currently impacting our world.  Spoiler alert: it's not just for men who have sex with men anymore.

Image courtesy of thecut.com

Image courtesy of thecut.com

The Other Women's March on Washington

It's not enough to march, we need to run and vote, too.  I'm looking forward to participating  in the political process in 2018.  And I happen to love this author, Rebecca Traister - check out her book All The Single Ladies if you haven't already!

How French Girl Style Works

Simple, minimal style can be as visually compelling and fashion-forward as it is timeless.  Think of classic “French girl” style, which gets fawned over every few months by fashion blogs (for the ultimate primer on the current state of French girl obsession in our culture, see Eliza Brook’s piece at Racked: How To Sell A Billion-Dollar Myth Like A French Girl).  You can instantly conjure an image of what this looks like in your head and it’s an image you likely want to see yourself in… imagine, if you will, a pair of straight leg jeans, smart little booties, and a slouchy sweater topped with a classic leather cross body bag.

I have a theory about how “French girl” style evolved... and you’re not going to be shocked that it all comes back to organizing.  I suspect that the ability to create a simple, timeless style à la Parisienne stems, at least in part, from a basic fact: French girls have small closets!

When I say that European apartments have small closets, I mean they are SMALL.  In the very lovely one bedroom apartment my husband and I inhabited for a few months in London, the entire closet space for the two of us consisted of a wardrobe from Ikea that was less than four feet wide.  No one I mentioned this to found it in any way out of the ordinary. 

When your storage space is smaller, you’re forced to make more careful decisions about what you buy.  You’re prevented from purchasing in great quantity or frequency because there just isn’t room for haphazard shopping! And if you have to buy fewer things less often, you necessarily find yourself getting pickier about the things you do buy and how they fit into your personal style.  This situation also means that you can probably afford to spend a bit more on each piece, rather than dividing your budget among a plethora of cheap stuff.

IMG_0050.JPG
IMG_0061.JPG
IMG_0153.JPG

Above and below: the same cream cashmere Theory sweater (not currently available), a bunch of different ways, from my Instagram!

IMG_0350.JPG
IMG_0360.JPG
IMG_0695.JPG

Imagine how a tiny closet might change your shopping habits, and in turn, your style.  French girls might have one Saint James striped shirt instead of a pile of them from Zara.  They might wear a single pair of the perfect worn in jeans on repeat instead of rotating through twenty different washes and cuts.  They may have chosen the perfect slouchy cashmere sweater instead of stocking up on trendy acrylic copies.  In a way, French girls are living with enforced capsule collections. 

A cruel irony of fashion is that it’s often easier to refine your style and express it when you have fewer options to choose from.  So, if you want to cultivate your own particular flavor of “French girl” style, consider downsizing your wardrobe to its true essence.  And if you’re considering a wardrobe overhaul, I’m here to help!  Schedule a call with me today and get started on your own dream closet.

LMW

Welcome, Gilt City!

If you, like me, are a subscriber to Gilt City San Francisco, you received a deal from me in your inbox this morning!  Exclusively through Gilt City, I'm offering 40% off your first three hours of organizing, plus as always the initial complimentary consultation. This is truly an amazing deal, one I haven't offered before, and I encourage both my existing and prospective clients to jump on it!

IMG_0072.PNG

How can you make these three hours with me work the best for you?  The way I see it, there are two approaches.  First, we can treat this special 3-hour session as the start of your total organizing project.  We'll begin work on the area that's bothering you the most, and at the end of the appointment schedule future sessions in order to get that perfectly organized and functional space you've always wanted.  The second option is to treat the 3-hour session as a tutorial for you on how to continue your organizing project alone.  I'll walk you through the basic steps, and try them out on a small area of your space.  And of course, I'll continue to be available via text/email, and we can always schedule another session if you're feeling stuck!

IMG_0073.PNG

I know many people resolved to finally get organized this year, and I also know that a goal without a plan is just a wish.  If your goal is to organize your home so that you can stop feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and start spending your precious time on the activities and relationships that matter most to you, a good plan is to work with a professional organizer.  Don't miss this great opportunity to work towards your goal and save a little money in the process!

Limited quantities of this exclusive Gilt City deal are available (I am, after all, but one woman), so don't wait!  I'm looking forward to working with you.

LMW

 

 

 

Weekly Peek 1/5/18

Happy New Year!

26167047_10156201398518109_2143647620712840343_n.jpg

In the grand tradition, friends of ours hosted the annual New Year's Eve dinner party.  There was champagne, there was caviar, there was a sous vide machine, there was a kale salad and a gluten free dessert (because after all, we live in San Francisco), and there were dear, dear friends I am so lucky to have in my life.  There has been both great joy and tremendous loss for people very close to me in 2017, and I'm just grateful to be there with them through it all.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

IMG_0035.jpg
IMG_0038.jpg

About two and a half years ago, we bought our house.  A bit more than two years ago, we moved in.  Renovation plans were ready about a year and a half ago.  We broke ground a year ago.  And if you've ever done a home renovation before, you probably know what I'm going to say next: the project is still very much underway! I'm super pleased with how everything is going, but as they say, it just takes a long time.  "Twice as long and twice as much" is the saying, I believe.

...Make Lemonade!

IMG_0012.jpg

However, there's always a silver lining!  Or in this case, two.  First: we got our washer and dryer hooked up again, which means no more trips to the laundromat for me every Saturday.  I always try to be grateful for things like running water and appliances but man, I am dancing a jig while folding my towels these days.  And second: I decided to turn a piece of plywood blocking what will no longer be a doorway into a place to display our holiday cards.  There's no big secret: I just cut some ribbon and used push pins and clothespins, all of which I had lying around.  I don't keep holiday cards year to year, but I love sending, receiving, and displaying them during the festive season!

Think Snow

IMG_0066.jpg
IMG_0065.jpg

Last January gave the Sierra Nevada mountains a month of snowfall so epic that Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows had t-shirts made for all the staff emblazoned with "Janu-buried!"  This year... not so much.  Snow is pretty thin on the ground as I get ready to start my patrolling season.  Here's hoping for some of those famous Sierra storms to start rolling through!

How to Spot a Great Professional Organizer

There are approximately nineteen zillion articles published about how to organize your home this time of year.  I try to read as many as I can because I want to know what kind of information my clients have been taking in, what ideas I can use myself, and what silly myths or hacks I’ll have to dispel!

The article I want to talk about here is actually a year old, but I find the content evergreen: How-to: Declutter Your Home in the New Year.  It’s from our friends at goop, which might make you suspicious (I am… strongly ambivalent on the entire concept of the site), but I can tell you that the organizers profiled in it are the real deal and are sharing great tips you can really use.

Photo courtesy of goop.com/The Home Edit

Photo courtesy of goop.com/The Home Edit

How do I know?

1)   They’re thorough.  Some organizers don’t actually want to go through every single piece of everything in the space they’re working on, whether it’s to save time and effort or to avoid stressing out the client.  Those are both worthy aims, but in the end the main goal is to leave the client with a fully organized space that they can maintain on their own.  If the client hasn’t seen absolutely everything they have, this just won’t happen.

2)   They tailor solutions to each individual client.  Everyone loves the idea of a beautifully curated pantry a la Gwyneth Paltrow’s as shown at the end of the article.  But decanting everything you buy into labeled boxes and bins only works if… you’re willing to take the time to decant everything you buy into said boxes and bins!  For some people this is realistic, and for some it’s not.  A good organizer will find out what works for the client and tailor their solutions accordingly, rather than imposing their idea of what an organized space should look like.

3)   They focus on simplicity.  People who struggle with organization need less, not more, of everything: less stuff, fewer places to stash it, fewer types of containers, fewer steps needed to complete a task.  Simple organizing solutions are the ones most likely to last.

4)   They understand the intersection of stuff and habits.  This intersection will be at a different point for each client.  Some clients are so excited about a new organizing scheme that new habit formation easily follows.  Others need the organization tailored to the habits they already have – even if that solution isn’t the most aesthetically elegant.

After working with a great professional organizer, your space will work for you… and it will look beautiful!  See for yourself: schedule a complimentary phone consultation with me today.

LMW

What I'm Reading

Wrapping up a few holdovers that stuck with me at the end of 2017...

We Might As Well Talk About Taylor Swift's New Single

The Fug Girls are some of the smartest pop culture critics out there, and their take on Taylor Swift both resonated with me and brought up points I hadn't even considered.  I doubt Taylor will ever read this... but I sincerely hope she does.

Elaine Welteroth, Teen Vogue's Refashionista

I wasn't the only one who noticed that a lot of the best written, most intelligent articles bubbling to the top of my social media feeds in mid-late 2017 came from Teen Vogue.  It's all due to their excellent writers and this woman, who I greatly admire.

Why I Finally Gave Up My Nightly Cocktail

There's a strong argument here that hits home with me.  The concept is being taken under consideration in the LMW household!

How the Sandwich Consumed Britain

I'm actually obsessed with the type of sandwich this article discusses: individually packed, cut into triangles, fillings generally mayonnaise-based.  So of course I greatly enjoyed this deep dive into why these particular meals became so popular and how they're made and distributed.

5 Reasons to Hire A Professional Organizer

“Getting organized” is one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions to make.  If this is something you’re thinking about at the dawn of 2018, I applaud you!  An organized home streamlines routines, cuts down on stress, and makes everyday life more pleasant.  I want you to experience the small miracles of a well organized space for yourself!

There are so many tips, tricks, and resources out there that it can be tough to distill what will work for you and your family.  Unless you already have a game plan in place, I’d strongly recommend hiring a professional organizer. These are the concrete reasons why:

1)   Speed

 Yes, you can absolutely organize your own home. But like most of us, you’re probably busy and feeling stretched thin already. A professional organizer can help you accomplish more than you ever thought possible in a much shorter amount of time.

I never go anywhere without my measuring tape and label maker!

I never go anywhere without my measuring tape and label maker!

2)   Tools

Professional organizers arrive ready to work, meaning that you don’t have to add yet another errand to your schedule before you start organizing. Each organizer carries a different toolkit based on his or her working style, previous experience, and organizing philosophy, but rest assured that you won’t be asked to hunt all over your house for a pair of scissors or a Sharpie!

3)   Recommendations

Getting organized often brings up other tasks to accomplish, from buying new furniture to disposing of hazardous waste. Professional organizers are part of a network of service providers and have great recommendations for how to get these often mysterious tasks taken care of quickly and efficiently.

4)   Empowerment

Decluttering means making tough decisions, which can induce self doubt.  A professional organizer will empower you to make the decisions you want to make, and help you feel confident every step of the way.

5)   Follow through

Organizing inevitably generates to-do items, from paper that needs to be filed to donations that need to be transported to your charity of choice.  Professional organizers can take care of many of these tasks for you, meaning that once they leave, you’re really done with your entire organizing project.

Now that you’re convinced to hire a pro, start with the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and their Find an Organizer database.  And if you’re in or near San Francisco, you can book a complimentary half hour phone consultation with me right now and get started on your organizing project today!

LMW

 

 

 

Thoughts on Natural Disaster

My home town is burning.  And that's in every sense of the words "home town:" I grew up in Ventura, CA; went to high school in Ojai, and my parents have lived in Montecito for 20+ years.  If you're not from Southern California and those names are sounding familiar to you, it's because of the Thomas fire, an epic blaze engulfing huge amounts of land across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. 

Yesterday morning, my parents packed their cars and put the silver in the pool.  (Yes, really – this is a good strategy if you’re short on time or transportation because pool water will not damage silver, and you can also do this with oil paintings although frames may be ruined.)  By the time the mandatory evacuation area included our house, they had already left.  They of course texted my sister and me to ask if there was anything specific we wanted them to save.

My response today is very different than it would have been a few years ago.  You see, I was always a pretty materialistic person – I liked nice things, and I preferred more of them than less. I was also really attached to my stuff, especially the higher value things and those from my childhood.

My work has really changed my perspective on stuff.  As I watch my clients grapple with their possessions and space, it continues to impress on me that what’s important is not the stuff but the memories and relationships the stuff represents.  I’ve also realized that it’s easy in our culture to form an unhealthy connection to said stuff, and to let that replace more meaningful connections to people.

I still love nice things, but I know I don’t need very many of them, and I also know that they are replaceable.  So, when my parents asked if I wanted them to save anything, my answer was no.  Everything I need is with me in my home in SF, and I will always have lovely memories of my childhood, my family, and my friends from across the years.  Of course, if the house is damaged or destroyed, it will be sad.  But practically speaking we will be ok.

Another reason I’m so calm about this is that we’re both mentally and logistically prepared for fire.  We know our house is in a risky area and have prepared to evacuate before, so we know what to pack and when.  Our house is insured and has a spray foam protectant system in place that can be used by the fire department if they have time.  My dad even recently had every single family photo digitized, so we don’t need to take up space in cars with albums and boxes of pictures.

As I said, we’re prepared, safe, and fortunate enough to have the resources to recover and rebuild if necessary.  Many people had much less warning and are less lucky, and will need help from their communities.  If you’d like to pitch in, there’s great info on how to help here: #venturastrong

And don’t wait: prepare for disasters likely to strike your area today.  Coming soon: a post on organizing our earthquake preparation strategies.

LMW

What I'm Reading

Image courtesy of wired.com (Getty Images)

Image courtesy of wired.com (Getty Images)

Why Men Don't Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science

If you, like me, have ever been frustrated by interacting with a man who prides himself on his pure, logical mind and yet seems to be completely ignorant of the realities of prejudice, this is news you can use.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Jessica Pons)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Jessica Pons)

My Super Sweet 15

Growing up in Southern California, I always knew about quinceañeras, but I didn't know they had become this much of an industry.  This is another fascinating look into one of the ways immigrant populations add to the cultural tapestry and diverse economy of the US.

Photo courtesy of vulture.com (Sergi Alexander/Getty Images)

Photo courtesy of vulture.com (Sergi Alexander/Getty Images)

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About "Despacito"

Given that this article is now over two months old I would have thought it would have lost relevance... but based on the pop radio station in San Francisco, "Despacito" is still going strong.  To me the song seemed to come out of nowhere, but this article explains in depth how clueless that perception is.

Photo courtesy of newyorker.com (Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty)

Photo courtesy of newyorker.com (Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty)

What Le Cirque Will Be Remembered For

Almost 20 years go, I ate at Le Cirque in Vegas with my parents, and I remember thinking it had to be the pinnacle of fine dining.  I never knew the real scoop on the NYC original!  And if you didn't already think Ruth Reichl is a badass, you will now.

Declutter Your Digital Life

In my work and here on the blog, I focus primarily on organizing tangible stuff.  However, even though it’s less obvious, it’s just as important to organize your digital life as your physical space.  For insight into the reasons you might want to overhaul your digital storage strategies, I particularly loved Daniel Cooper’s take on the topic: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Computer).  The dirty little secret his experience reveals is that while the stuff is different, the issues involved in both digital and physical organizing are pretty much the same!

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

As Cooper discovers when he sets out to tidy his own computer, it’s never really about the stuff.  If organizing really boiled down to a simple game of Stuff Tetris, it wouldn’t be so difficult or overwhelming!  Instead, it’s about what the stuff means, why it means that, and how to extract that meaning in a way that’s productive instead of letting it hold you back.

To organize your digital life, just like in the physical world, setting up systems in advance is just as important as doing the work of organizing after the fact.  What do I mean by that?

For one thing, I don’t organize my email in the traditional sense of filing messages once they come in.  There’s a good reason for this: I’ve been using Gmail since 2005 and the search function is so good I’ve literally never found myself unable to find something I needed.  And anything I want to do with my email is so easily automated on the front end that there would be literally no time saved or functionality gained by trying to file my email in folders after reading it.  So, I’ve set up the rules that make my inbox work effectively (for example: send all email addressed to an old address I never use to one folder and mark it as unread), and carry on!

A peek at my actual hard drive/iCloud backup

A peek at my actual hard drive/iCloud backup

Still, when it comes to organizing digital storage, I do have a system. To keep it easy, I utilize a common naming convention when I create files and drop them in the appropriate folder the first time I save them.  It’s a virtually automatic process for me, because my folder architecture has been pretty much the same since I started using my 1996 Powerbook my freshman year in high school!

Lately, there’s one more step I’ve added: cloud backup.  I used to back everything up periodically to an external hard drive, but recently transitioned to a dual backup to both Google Drive and iCloud.  Frankly, iCloud is a bit easier to use because I can just save things to it directly from my MacBook, but Google Drive’s ability to upload whole folders at once and auto-replace any duplicates is pretty sweet too!

If your desktop is covered with icons or your browser is stuffed with bookmarks and it’s stressing you out, consider taking the time to organize your digital life.  And if you need support through the process, contact me - I can help!

LMW

What I'm Organizing: Working Remotely

For all its flaws, the startup culture that’s taking over the world is making my life a lot easier.  There’s one simple reason: most places I go, there are cafes and co-working spaces that cater to people like me who can work anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection.

Recently, my husband and I went to London for a week.  We lived there for a few months in 2011 for his job, made great friends, and have made a point to visit at least once a year since.  It’s an easy and relatively low-stress trip for us due both to that familiarity and to the fact that his company has an office there, so he can go into work and as a result have to take fewer vacation days.  

I cannot lie and say that I got a particularly early start each day that we both decided to work, but I can truthfully say that I did get up at an undisclosed time, work out, and then get ready and pack myself off to one of the many work-friendly cafes close to our hotel.

Kale caesar, spiced carrot soup, a slice of crusty bread, and fizzy water: the perfect lunch.

Kale caesar, spiced carrot soup, a slice of crusty bread, and fizzy water: the perfect lunch.

At the risk of becoming a total hipster (or hipster wannabe), I have to say that I found one of the best working environments at The Hoxton.  All day, every day, the lobby of this hotel, restaurant, bar, and coffee shop is packed with tech workers and freelancers on laptops.  The food is great (I had the 2 for £10 soup and salad combo), the servers are completely unbothered by you having your nose stuffed into your screen, there’s plenty of natural light, and comfortable seating and outlets abound.

Photo courtesy of thehoxton.com (I posted up at that gray chair closest to the camera)

Photo courtesy of thehoxton.com (I posted up at that gray chair closest to the camera)

The vibe of a space like The Hoxton works for me because the dull roar of people around me feels like pleasant white noise, and I work better when I have slight guilt about the possibility of someone seeing my screen and judging that it’s not actual work.  The only thing I need in addition to my laptop is my glasses - for some reason, wearing them helps me focus even better even though they don’t improve my actual vision all that much.  You wouldn’t want to set up camp in a place like this if you needed to make phone calls, though!

Where are your favorite places to get a little work done while traveling?

LMW