One Space, Many Options

Sometimes a client will say to me: “Just tell me the right way to do things.” Seems like a perfectly reasonable request, right?

But that’s the funny thing about organizing: it’s so specific to each individual person. There is no one strategy that works for everyone!

This is because a good organizing system doesn’t just contain stuff: it nudges your brain into patterns and behaviors that will make it easier for you to retrieve and use your stuff. In order to create an organizing system for you, I have to know more about how your brain works and what nudges will get you moving in the direction you want.

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So I thought I’d show you a concrete example. Here is my upstairs linen closet. It stores the extra bedding and towels we keep for guests (we have this much because if we get creative with air mattress placement, we can sleep 7 additional people - and yes, it’s happened!).

This system totally works for me for specific reasons:

  • items are grouped by set, then item type, in a way that makes intuitive sense to me,

  • everything is neatly folded so that I can see it and easily retrieve it,

  • this is a rarely used space, so it didn’t make sense to invest a lot in customizing it,

  • the layout is straightforward enough that my husband, my weekly housekeeper, and I can all use and maintain it.

You may notice that this closet is missing two very popular things in the organizing world: labels and bins! But you know what? I personally don’t need those things to keep this space neatly organized. At this point, it’s pretty second nature for me to fold everything the same way I always do and put each item back where it came from.

That said, for different types of clients, I might recommend labels and/or bins in a very similar space.

Labels are super useful for people who are trying to get used to an entirely reconfigured space. They’re also good for people who are not familiar with living with any sort of organizing system at all and need visual cues about how to train themselves to use things and put them back where they belong. I also recommend labels for spaces that are highly trafficked by multiple people - they just help everyone get on the same page.

Bins are great for people who are easily overwhelmed by options. In this closet, instead of a face full of linens, they would only have to mentally process each item type. Bins are also good for storage spaces that are somewhat open (my closet has a door on it, so everything is neatly out of sight). And of course, the aesthetic of rows of clean, neat bins can also be really appealing!

So, I'm sorry to say that there is no one system that works for everyone! But the good news is that with over five years of experience, I’ve seen enough spaces and clients to be able to quickly and efficiently get down to business, learn about people’s needs and preferences, and build organizing systems that work and last.

Curious about what I could do for you and your home? Book your free in-home consultation here.

LMW

Never Forget.

Sometimes you just have to write about what moves you.

18 years ago today, sometime just before 9am, a friend knocked on the door of my dorm room. I’ll never forget the sound as long as I live. I’ll also never forget what I was wearing (pink tank top and white pajama pants with little embroidered flowers on them from The Gap), the unfinished wood of my lofted bed on my hands as I scrambled down, and how wide my friend’s already big eyes grew as she relayed the news: “Someone blew up the World Trade Center.”

I don’t remember anyone screaming or crying, just doors opening all up and down the hall and low voices and people moving as if magnetized to the only place with cable and enough room for all of us: the dorm TV room. The carpet was stiff under my bare feet. We watched the towers fall live. It was horrible.

I do remember being singularly focused on my family, still asleep in California and planning a trip to the Middle East the next week. I called on my roommate’s Star-Tac flip phone, begging them not to go. Of course they wouldn’t go! Nobody went anywhere.

Classes started as planned two days later. According to Princeton University, postponing the start of classes was akin to letting the terrorists win.

Patriotism was suddenly for everyone, and everywhere. My roommate and I drove for hours in her Mercury Mountaineer, looking for someplace that had an American flag left to sell us to decorate our dorm room wall. Every bridge across the highway was hung with homemade signs on sheets and poster board.

I had completely blocked out, until my mom reminded me last year, that I spent days in a cubicle in a Red Cross office somewhere in New Jersey, entering data in a giant spreadsheet. Name, company, phone number, floor, last seen wearing.

I flew home for fall break 8 weeks later, from an echoing Newark airport populated only by very intrepid travelers and very comprehensively armed National Guard officers. It was the first time I had seen an M-16 in person. My roommate and I were brutally hungover (turns out you party a lot when it feels like the world is going to end) and terrified.

Thank you for letting me share my memories of that day with you. If you feel so moved, please share yours in the comments below.

LMW

Organize or Containerize?

A friend of mine called me earlier this year, all in a tizzy. “I need your expert advice!” she exclaimed. She went on to explain that she was watching her sister-in-law try to organize her home, and felt like something wasn’t clicking. “She keeps buying all these pretty matching boxes,” my friend puzzled, “and putting stuff in them. But it doesn’t seem to be making a difference for her. What am I missing?”

I knew exactly what was up - I’ve seen it so many times before! And it’s a really common misconception, so please don’t beat yourself up if you’ve done this too.

“You’re right, something IS missing,” I told my friend. “But what she’s doing isn’t organizing. It’s containerizing. And it’s just a short term fix for the organizing issues she’s having.”

Sound confusing and/or somewhat ridiculous? Let’s break it down. 

This space is containerized, but not organized. At this point, the client and I still needed to edit her items and store like with like in containers that made sense to her.

This space is containerized, but not organized. At this point, the client and I still needed to edit her items and store like with like in containers that made sense to her.

Organizing makes life easier. The way it does this is by making sure you can efficiently find and use the things you need to accomplish life tasks, from getting ready in the morning to paying bills to completing home renovation projects. Common tactics include storing like with like and keeping most frequently used items most accessible.

Containerizing is just what it sounds like: placing stuff in containers to make a space look nicer.

You can absolutely organize effectively without containers. It might look a little sloppier than you’d like, but if you’ve set up the system correctly, it should work for you. I went into this in a little more detail earlier this week, and you can see actual pictures there of closets I’ve completed for happy clients that involve fewer containers than most organizing inspo photos on social media.

You can containerize without organizing, but it will not make your life easier in the slightest - and might even make it more difficult! How? Well, visualize a cluttered space in your home. Now imagine that instead of crowded shelves and surfaces, there are matching baskets full of all the stuff that currently occupies that space. Sounds amazing, right? Ok, now imagine that you need to find one single item: a Sharpie. Where is it? If you just put stuff willy nilly into containers to make the space look nicer, you are going to have no actual idea where the Sharpie is, and you’ll have to ransack each and every basket in order to find it. Not so amazing after all!

Now, there’s no shame in liking to put stuff in containers. I definitely use wire baskets in my laundry room, drawer dividers in my closet, and canisters for dry goods in my kitchen. But in order to use containers of any kind effectively, you’re going to need to organize the stuff that goes in them first.

This is why, when people ask me if they should buy bins or tubs before they start working with me, I say absolutely not! There’s no way to know how we should containerize your stuff until we organize it first.

Got lots of containers and still feel overwhelmed in your space? Get in touch, I can help you get organized AND containerized!

LMW

Perfectly Imperfect

For the first few years of my business, I operated in a bubble of my own making. I served my clients, I learned from them, and I deepened and refined my own ideas about organizing. I did this rather intentionally: I wanted to develop my own voice, rather than glom on to someone else’s ideas.

This is an organized closet. The client can find and use everything. It’s just not a picture perfect closet, and that’s ok!

This is an organized closet. The client can find and use everything. It’s just not a picture perfect closet, and that’s ok!

And then I gained some confidence in my skills, got on Instagram and started following other organizer accounts and… hoooooo boy. The extreme precision and decoration on a lot of organizing layouts, sometimes seemingly to the detriment of actual usage of the system, really threw me for a loop. (Want to know what I’m talking about? Search #organizinginspo on Instagram.)

I’m glad I spent that time in my bubble, because it didn’t cause me to question my own work or become jealous of others’ success. Instead, I was able to approach this very powerful (and very pretty, it must be admitted) organizing trend from an inquisitive place. Why did I have such a visceral reaction to some of these pictures? Why did I instantly know on a gut level that this was not the kind of work I wanted to do?

It comes down to the whole reason I started my business in the first place: I fundamentally believe that the point of organizing is to make life easier. And organizing doesn’t have to mean custom labels ordered off Etsy, rainbow order everything, or matching baskets for days. Organizing means a system of dealing with stuff that works and lasts.

I was explaining this with no small degree of passion and hand waving to my business coach last week, and he looked and said, “besides, if something looks too perfect, you don’t want to use it and mess it up.”

This is also an organized closet. Using boxes for the sweaters on the shelf would actually have discouraged this client from using them!

This is also an organized closet. Using boxes for the sweaters on the shelf would actually have discouraged this client from using them!

I mean, he really hit the nail on the head there. Imagine setting up this big, beautiful organizing system in your closet… and then you wake up the next morning and need to get dressed. What do you do? Are you comfortable with taking down baskets to get out a pair of underwear, flipping through hangers, unfolding knits? Or are you so bummed in advance about the idea of this system getting messed up that you just grab what’s closest to the front and leave everything perfectly in place? I have to tell you, I don’t rainbow order my clothes, because I know I’m not going to maintain it. And I have a lot of practice with using and maintaining organizing systems!

It’s kinda like what I talked about last year regarding using things up and wearing things out. Of course, we shouldn’t treat our belongings carelessly, but we should also actively use them if we love them so much! As much of a bummer as it is to totally thrash a pair of shoes, all the joy taken in wearing them is irreplaceable, and the vision of them sitting perfectly untouched in the closet couldn’t ever come close.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that organizing is for real life. And real life is imperfect! That’s why I focus so much on the actual function of the systems I set up for my clients, and when I do consider the aesthetic of a setup, ensure that it blends seamlessly with the client’s existing home and style.

Later this week… what happens when you put the aesthetic first, rather than the system? Hint: it’s not actually organizing!

LMW

Organizing Is For Everyone

I have had clients who are men, women, children, adults, black, white, Muslim, Mormon, gay, straight, trans, cis, couples, singles, parents, DINKS… and the reason I tell you this is not to enumerate the rainbow of human diversity but to emphasize that organizing is for literally everyone. If you are a person who is just trying to get through this thing called life, organizing can help you!

Often when I tell people about my business, I get a funny reaction: “Wow, that’s so cool! I mean, I don’t need an organizer, but I’m sure lots of people do.” Sometimes, this is probably because those people are actually pretty freakin’ organized. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of the time, it’s a defensive reaction - they feel like organizing is not for them. And reading between the lines, I find that it’s usually for one of these three reasons.

It’s not that this teenager didn’t want a made bed - she just didn’t know how to do it while keeping all the elements she wanted involved.

It’s not that this teenager didn’t want a made bed - she just didn’t know how to do it while keeping all the elements she wanted involved.

1) I’m just not an organized person.

For better or for worse, American culture reveres hard work and achievement. Not only that, but we seem to have been indoctrinated to think that a high level of achievement is more than result of hard work: it’s an actual personality trait. Here’s where the danger lies. If aptitude for organizing is a personality trait, then you’ve either got it or you don’t. 

How depressing is that?

Fortunately, there is no such thing as “an organized person.” Organizing is a skill. Some people are taught it and some aren’t; some people find it easier and some find it more difficult. But everyone can learn organizing principles, and use them to live an easier, simpler life.

2) I don’t really care about being organized.

Apathy is a funny thing. After all, if you don’t care about something, then you don’t have to think about it or consider the way it may be affecting your life.

My challenge to those who profess not to care about whether or not their home is organized is this: have you experienced life in an organized environment? My guess is either you haven’t, or the way in which that environment was organized didn’t work for you. And I predict that if you can create organizing systems and patterns that work for you, you will see a significant improvement in your quality of life.

3) I don’t have time to get organized.

This single guy knows what he likes in his home - he just needed help figuring out the details of how to make it all work.

This single guy knows what he likes in his home - he just needed help figuring out the details of how to make it all work.

Speaking of time… man, do I have a whole lot of empathy for people who are short on time. This world is tough and people are run ragged. Sometimes, even to me, it seems the height of absurdity that I ask someone to stop their life cold for three hours and focus on their stuff.

And then, every time I finish an organizing session, I remember why I do this. Whether it’s the woman who says she instantly feels ten pounds lighter, or the couple that finds joy in home cooking again, or the dad who finally feels like he’s regaining control of his life after his divorce, my client see real, tangible results even from the first organizing session.

In a way, you don’t have time NOT to get organized. The time you invest in creating an organized home will pay you back huge dividends of time in the future: time that you won’t be spending hunting for things you need rightthissecond or bickering with your partner.

More than anything, I want you to know that not only is organizing most definitely for you, but also that you deserve a beautifully organized home that truly works for you. You’re worth it!

LMW

Ask A Professional Organizer #2 - Is my home as organized as you think?

I introduced my video series to you a couple weeks ago, and the second installment is here! Please enjoy my dorky self answering another question - or really, a statement - that I hear a lot. If you like the video, I would so appreciate it if you would subscribe to my channel, click the thumbs up to like it, and potentially even share with friends you think might also like to peek inside the world of professional organizing.

I Don't Go It Alone... And Neither Should You

For the entire history of LMW Edits, I’ve been a one woman show.

I’m a smart person. I have the talent and skills for the service I provide, I have real world work experience, and I even have a couple of fancy degrees including an MBA. It would stand to reason that you’d assume I could start and run a business all by myself.

You would be wrong.

Of course, there are the intangibles that help, like having a supportive husband, family, and friends who will listen to me expound at length about my business and offer helpful suggestions. And I consume an awful lot of content on a regular basis about entrepreneurship and business strategy. But that, my friends, is not enough.

When you operate solo, you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off in order to problem solve or grow. You don’t have anyone to prevent you from having to reinvent the wheel every. single. time. And you definitely don’t have anyone to tell it to you straight if you’re heading down the wrong path.

Planning exercise with Leo from January - pretty crazy to see how far I’ve come in less than a year!

Planning exercise with Leo from January - pretty crazy to see how far I’ve come in less than a year!

Well, guys, I believe in practicing what I preach, and I’m always telling people that if they need help, they should have no shame in hiring it. So a few years ago, I hired a business coach.

First, I did a six month individual program with Debbie Hoffman. Debbie gave me the basic structure I needed to level up from an idea that was kinda working to a real business taking in actual revenue. One example: this MBA didn’t realize that she needed to implement a CRM (customer relationship management) system instead of trying to keep all her clients and their needs stored between her head and a simple to do list!

Then, I signed on for a more long term coaching relationship that could grow with my business. Leo Manzione was recommended to me by another entrepreneur, and he’s been making a concrete difference from our first meeting. Leo has helped me refine my business practices so that I can deliver my best work to each and every client. And most important for me, he continually helps me focus on what needs to get done now so that I can keep moving forward without getting overwhelmed by my larger vision for my business. I’m doing better work, for more clients, and earning more money in the process - so I’d say coaching works!

There are a lot of coaches out there, just like there are a lot of organizers, and you find them in pretty much the same way: asking friends and contacts, doing a little research online, and ultimately going with the person who fits best with your needs and personality. It can feel like a giant leap of faith to pay another person to help you with things you technically could do yourself - but it’s also a shortcut to the places you really want to go.

LMW

Is There Hope For Teens' Messy Rooms After All?

You guys, I’ve discovered a secret super power. I love working with teenagers to organize their rooms, and it seems that they like working with me too!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

There could be a few things going on here. For one thing, I think it makes a difference that I’m not a parent. I have a lot of friends who are parents, and I hear from them about their struggles, so I can definitely empathize with parents’ frustrations with their teens’ messy rooms. At the same time, I’m not a parent myself, and so in some way I still self-identify as someone’s daughter rather than someone in charge. This allows me to relate directly to my teen clients.

In addition, from the very beginning of my business, I have maintained that my client is the person who lives in the space I am organizing. This may be the person who is paying me, but not always. This means that when I’m working with a teenager, I’m talking directly to them, and listening to their needs and desires for the space. 

Here are a few things I’ve noticed when working with teens and their parents - perhaps these observations might inspire you to approach your teen and their room situation from a new angle!

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

  1. No matter how messy a teen’s room or how long it’s been that way - they may hate it as much as you do! Just because someone lives in a disorganized environment doesn’t mean that’s their preference, they may just not have the resources or energy to change it. So often a teen needs help getting started and tools to keep going, rather than discipline.

  2. Teens learn how to live in a home from their parents over the course of their lives. So, if your home has perpetually disorganized areas, it should not be surprising that your teen’s room follows suit. And as a result, they’re going to be pretty resentful if you ask something of them (a clean room) that you don’t ask of yourself. Think back to your teen years - didn’t you hate hypocrites like none other?

  3. The teen years are all about the struggle for control. Teens feel like they’re ready to be adults, and parents are totally freaked because they know decision making skills have not yet been… refined. The good news is that a teen’s room is a pretty safe space to give them practice with taking ownership. If you let them organize their room the way they want to - even if it doesn’t map exactly to your vision - you very well may get a tidier space and a happier kid.

Above all, if you are the frustrated parent of a teen with a messy room, I beg of you: please, please, please DO NOT declutter and organize the teen’s room without their participation. It will totally backfire on you. Why? By doing so, you’ll break their trust. And trust, as we all know, is a really hard thing to get back.

 If you have questions about how to help your teenager get started on organizing their space, let’s talk!

LMW

Don't Believe Everything You Read...

…but I’m totally cool if you believe this!

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted my blog to Feedspot for consideration to be listed as one of the Top 100 Organizing Blogs. Lo and behold, I made the list at #63! From what I understand, the list is always growing and changing based on discovery of new blogs, how often the blogs publish, and what their blog and social media audiences look like. So, it’s not as if this is The Definitive List. But it’s something!

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One thing that I think makes me stand out from the rest of the pack is my approach to blogging about organizing. I believe that every useful organizing tip that exists is already out there on the internet. There’s no use in my reinventing the wheel by continuing to post the same old content as everyone else. Plus, that stuff just doesn’t interest me much - I don’t organize because it’s pretty, I do it because it makes people’s lives easier and better in a simple but meaningful way.

So, I’ve taken the approach of going a bit deeper. I want to ask the questions and bring up the topics that often get glossed over when people talk about creating #organizingporn. What lies beneath our desire to acquire, our tendency to get overwhelmed, our sense of peace when a space is clutter free? What’s going on that we’re trying to fix with stuff? What does organizing really make room for in our lives?

I also want to get more personal, because that’s the way I truly connect with my clients. You have to trust me before you’ll let me into your home, after all! So, I want to show you how I actually organize for the real life I live every day.

Ultimately, I stand for common sense organizing for modern urban living. If that’s your jam, you’re going to love this blog!

LMW

Choosing The Right Type of Professional Organizer For You

Many people don’t even know that professional organizing is “a thing” - and yet, there are tens of thousands of us, working in more ways than you could imagine! Some organizers work as a side hustle, and others do it full time. Some organizers ride solo, and others build large companies. Some organizers work with families, others specialize in estate sales. There truly is an organizational fit for every person who needs help reclaiming their space!

Something else you may not know about the professional organizing industry: just because you meet and hire the business owner does not mean that said business owner will be in your home working on the project - or even that the organizers on your project will be employees who have been trained and supervised by that person! It is extremely common in the industry for professional organizers to hire other organizers on a contract basis for jobs they can’t handle on their own.

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

There are upsides to this, for sure. This strategy ensures there are enough people on your job to get your project done in a reasonable amount of time. It brings the overall price down because the going hourly rate for independent contractors is well south of the value of the business owner’s time. It’s also a professional development mechanism - it’s very common for organizers just starting out to do different contract gigs to learn the trade. I did it myself - and still do for organizers I really like working with when they come up short and need a hand!

There are also downsides. As a contractor, I have shown up to a gig for an organizer I have never met in person and been directed into a room and told to start sorting. The only filter applied was a phone conversation and a contract I signed with the organizer’s company. What’s more, on a multi-day job, the team might have been different every day! So just when the client starts getting comfortable with me, I’m done for the day and an entirely different person might show up the next morning.

The downsides are why I will never hire independent contractors. I would sooner refer you, a potential client, to a larger organizing company I know and trust, than I would take on the burden of sending unknown, untrained people into your home and hoping that it all turns out well. My service is built on a strong personal relationship between me and my client, which allows me to create organizational systems and setups that are specifically tailored for them.

That said, my style of service is certainly not for everyone! Many people prefer handing off the job to an efficient team and marveling at the end results. So, if you’re contemplating hiring a professional organizer, consider the following.

An larger organizing company or service might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a gorgeous “after” photo that looks like it’s out of a magazine.

  2. Your space is a large and/or tightly cluttered home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is the exact aesthetic featured in the organizing company’s photos.

  4. Your main concern is pricing.

My kind of individual organizing consulting might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a system that works and lasts.

  2. Your space is a smaller home/apartment, or a discrete project area within a larger home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is custom tailored to you, your needs, and your existing home style.

  4. Your main concern is security and trust.

If you think my style of organizing might be a good fit for you, let’s talk! You can schedule your free in-home organizing consultation here.

LMW