Husband

Reveal: My Husband’s (More or Less) Organized Closet

If you’re just joining us, you can also see a reveal of my own organized closet here.

When we moved into the upstairs bedroom that is now our guest room, my husband got the smaller but more traditionally laid out of the two closets. It looked like the space would be a pretty good fit for him, but he quickly learned that there were some key elements that were off for his lifestyle. He had more shoes than shelves to store them, and the entire concept of neatly folded stacks of, well, anything on a shelf is pretty much beyond him.

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The old closet system may have worked for the previous owner, but for my husband it just' wasn’t the right fit!

The old closet system may have worked for the previous owner, but for my husband it just' wasn’t the right fit!

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You see, my husband is a relatively late but extremely enthusiastic convert to the concept of organized living (and also very supportive - he’ll tell anyone who asks that he was my first client!). So, he has the desire for and appreciation of an organized space, but he also has less bandwidth than someone with more experience might have for maintaining an organizational scheme on a day to day basis.

In addition to having a lower tolerance for ongoing tidying, my husband is also an out of sight, out of mind kinda guy. When I say that, I mean that for him, things that he can’t see basically don’t exist. Everything has to be visible and accessible, otherwise he forgets about it.

Both of these things are just the way he is, and it’s far beyond my ability to change them! So, when we went to design his closet in our new master suite, we laid out the space to work with the way he thinks. Our closets are exactly the same size and dimension, but there are a couple of key differences in them that actually result more from the different ways we operate than the different types of items we own.

Image by  Kelly Vorves

Image by Kelly Vorves

The most obvious difference is that instead of opaque drawers, my husband’s closet has wire basket drawers. This means that he can see all of his t-shirts, workout clothes, and underwear at a glance. It also means that he doesn’t have to maintain any sort of folding scheme (as you can kind of see here, he does more of a roll method).

Another key difference is that he doesn’t have any glass doors built into his closet. It may seem like a small thing, but for some people the few extra seconds it takes to open a door to put something away may prevent them from putting that thing away altogether. For my husband, less friction is best!

If I were designing an idealized man’s closet, it might not look exactly like this. But you know what? That’s totally irrelevant. A closet should be designed for the belongings, preferences, and patterns of the person who uses it. The space should enable that person to fully use and appreciate their wardrobe, and maintain the organizing system indefinitely. 

So no, my husband’s closet is not the most aesthetically pleasing solution that could be created. But that’s not the point! The point is that it works for him, and because it works for him, it works for me.

LMW

Organizing A... Marriage?

One of my major pet peeves is when people say that a marriage or long term relationship is “hard work.” This declaration is usually made by a married person to an unmarried person with widened eyes and a serious tone, and carries the mental weight of a thousand marital spats.

It’s not that I think that long term relationships are easy. In fact, I find it pretty obvious that when people coast along in relationships and don’t put any energy into maintaining them, bad things happen. And, uh, I’ve certainly had my share of marital spats!

It’s just that the phrase “hard work” seems so unjustly onerous. To me, a relationship is like a lot of other things in life: you get out what you put in. So, if you pay attention to your relationship and your partner, and put in effort at maintaining it, you won’t put yourself in a position where you need to dig yourself out of a deep hole with “hard work.”

Still, it’s not as though maintaining a great relationship is easy or effortless. It does require a plan, and follow through on that plan. Which means that, just like most other things in life, relationships require some organization! There are as many ways to organize a relationship as there are people on the planet, but my husband and I have found a process that works for us: we set and review our goals once a year.

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Like all the good things in life, the process of goal setting is as important and rewarding as the outcome. So, to make the process feel special, we carve out a specific time in a specific place each year. Said time and place is during our anniversary getaway and usually involves martinis, to be honest.

To get down to the nitty gritty, we have a shared Evernote notebook with a note for each category: things like health, philanthropy, finances, travel, work, and family. We go through each category one by one and review each item within the category. Sometimes we get to congratulate ourselves on a goal accomplished, sometimes we have to re-evaluate a goal or the timing thereof, and sometimes we add more plans for the future. The process reminds us of the things that are important to us - and at the same time reveals the things we’ve been dealing with that are just distractions.

Still, the thing I find most fun about our goal setting sessions is that it puts me right back into that feeling of discovery and possibility that we had at the beginning of our relationship when we were first getting to know each other. You know that time: when you’re starting to share your hopes and dreams for the future, and you get unbelievably excited when you find out that you have some of said hopes and dreams in common. You’re madly in love and the future feels limitless, no matter how cheesy that sounds.

Yes, I realize this seems somewhat implausible: a regular, systematic process of creating and benchmarking against goals sparks a romantic renaissance. But it’s true! I always leave the conversation feeling renewed, connected, and excited about the future.

Organizing: it can be for your long term relationship too!

LMW

On Long Term Love

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a relationship expert. I’m a professional organizer, which means I’m much more qualified to tell how to store your sweater collection than how to recognize true love.

What I can tell you is that I’m lucky enough to be living in a truly fulfilling marriage, one that just turned eight years old today. I can also tell you that the first indication that I’d found the love of my life was so simple that at the time I didn’t think much of it.  

It’s ridiculously simple, in fact: when I told friends and family about my relationship, the phrase “it just works” came out of my mouth.

From the first time I hung out with my husband, he fit into my life. There was no worrying over whether or not he liked me, no strategizing over how to get him to commit, no counting of pros and cons.  I had spent my high school and college years striving and searching and pining for love, and then when I met my husband, it felt like, “Oh, there you are. That wasn’t so hard.”  It. Just. Worked.

Nearly thirteen years after we first met, we are still just two ordinary people who were lucky enough to find each other and smart enough to hang on to each other. No Great American Novel will be written about our love... and if you grew up obsessed with the great literary love stories, as I did, the sheer normalcy of a real, lasting love may at first feel like something of a come down.

Photo courtesy of  Timothy Teague Photography

Photo courtesy of Timothy Teague Photography

But I promise you: the love that just works is worth everything.  It will give you new depths to find in yourself where you least expect them, challenge you to be your best even when life is monotonous, teach you how to give more to another person than you thought you ever had in the first place, and give you a bedrock of security from which to conquer the world in your own way.

Thank you, AVW, for all of it.

LMW

My Favorite Mountain

I love Jackson Hole, you guys. For the second year in a row, my husband and I made the trek for a ski weekend, and this time we convinced my entire family to come along, as well as a few friends.  And I do believe we've made converts of them, too!

Most of my ski days happen at Alpine Meadows for one simple reason: that's where I work as a volunteer patroller, so I have a pass.  Pretty hard to pass up unlimited days, especially on a mountain that offers a wide variety of steep, interesting terrain - especially if you're willing to hike for it!

However, Jackson Hole has won my heart and I know we'll be returning again and again. Why?

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski  Corbet's Coulouir .

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski Corbet's Coulouir.

The terrain: it's unbeatable. Vertical for miles, plenty of steeps, lots of varied aspects, tree skiing, that great dry snow... it's really got everything you could want. Plus, there's a pretty impressive amount of beginner and intermediate terrain so a group with varied skill levels like ours can be happy.

Long steep blue runs for days.

Long steep blue runs for days.

The views: I mean, just look.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

The village: lots of hotel options (we absolutely adored the Four Seasons - even the smallest rooms are big and comfy with plenty of places to unpack your ski gear, the service in the boot/ski room is next level, and there's a fully staffed bar at the hot tub/pool after 3pm with tasty warm beverages), good restaurants, and an excellent apres scene (don't miss beers at the Alpenhof or roll the dice for a potentially disastrous shot/back/beer combo at the Handle Bar).

The simplicity: United has direct flights from San Francisco, making Jackson Hole more accessible than pretty much all the great Colorado mountains. And this year, no cancellations!

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

The bonus: you can do a day heli-skiing trip! My husband gave me heli-skiing for my birthday last year and made good by sending my sister and me for an epic powder day unlike anything to be had inside resort boundaries. It was total hero snow: 6 inches of light high mountain fluff on hard pack, and fresh tracks all day. And we completely geeked out climbing out of a helicopter on the actual top of a mountain!

Usually at this point in the year I'm pretty excited about the end of winter, but if I could I'd go back to Jackson this weekend. It's that good. That said, I'm always willing to try something new! Where else should we look at for next year's ski trip?

LMW

What I'm Organizing - Don't Leave Home Without It

We just landed this morning from an amazing trip to Asia, and I have never been more pleased about the medication stash we bring on every trip. 

You see, the final 24 hours were something else.  While my mother taught me to never have a drink with ice, eat a salad, or consume a fruit you have not peeled yourself when traveling in places with less reliable water sources than you’re used to, on this trip we were staying developed areas.  So, I did not have my usual guard up. 

No details are necessary, but let’s just say that the meds made the difference between a rather unpleasant day during which I was nonetheless able to travel, and what could have been an abject disaster.

I should mention that I generally don’t take a ton of medication.  The occasional Alleve for pain.  Perhaps some Sudafed on the worst day of a cold.  Cough medicine if it’s bad enough that I’ll keep my husband up at night.  That sort of thing. It’s not a moral philosophy or anything, but I wanted to put our travel stash in context!

So what do we bring?  In general, it's the stuff that will get us through in case of the things that immediately impact our ability to travel: pain and upset stomach.  

  1. NSAIDs
  2. Immodium
  3. Alka-Seltzer for the plane – my husband insists that we both down it before takeoff to ward against pulmonary embolism.  A friend of ours actually had this happen to him, he’s ok now, but yikes.
  4. Advil with codeine – this is available over the counter internationally and I highly recommend you pick some up if you can.  It’s a game changer when it comes to food poisoning – the codeine picks up where the Immodium leaves off, and it also takes away that nonspecific “I’m gonna dieeeee” feeling.

We also bring a couple prescriptions when applicable to the trip:

  1. Cipro for trips where we will be far from proper medical care – this is an all-purpose powerful antibiotic, and it literally saved my life in Africa in 1995.
  2. Ambien for trips more than a couple of time zones away – it helps me get a few solid nights of sleep at the beginning of the trip so I can actually enjoy the destination.

Fortunately for me, there was a happy ending to this particular episode: I woke up yesterday (this?) morning in Hong Kong feeling about 95%, and enjoyed a perfectly normal flight home.  Thank you, modern medicine, for letting me flit somewhat irresponsibly around the globe and come out none the worse for wear at the end of it all!

LMW

Organizing My Exercise

I found fitness in my 30’s.   Better, as they say, late than never.

To give you some background, I danced all my life, which kept me in decent shape.  However, I was generally terrible at sports, hated running with the fire of a thousand suns, and had literally no clue about what to do in a gym.  I may even have been known to make fun of friends who were committed to their fitness routines…  So, when I graduated from college and my life as a dancer ended, things went sideways. I gained weight, I lost whatever strength I had, and I felt crappy. I tried to get into yoga a couple of times, but never stuck with it.

When I turned 30, my sister called me out.  She had became a volunteer ski patroller during college, something we had both always wanted to do, and I was both in awe and extremely jealous of her.  She finally said, “If I can do it, you can do it.  So do it.”

If there’s one thing I love it’s a challenge, so I was in.  My parents put me in ski lessons at age 5 and took us on family ski vacations every year, so I’ve always been a good skier.  But I knew that to become a patroller, I’d need the fitness to back up the skills.

So, on my sister’s recommendation, I started working out with Shelby Jacquez at Diakadi twice a week.  In the most calm, even-keeled way, she kicked my butt.  But the funny thing was that because I was working towards a goal with Shelby’s support and direction, I felt empowered instead of defeated.  And as I stuck with it and started lifting heavier things, I even wanted more – more core strength, more endurance, more flexibility.  Please note – this feeling surprised the crap out of me and still feels really weird, since so much of my previous identity was wrapped up in being an anti-workout person.

Post workout: tired and pissed off tend to look like the same expression.

Post workout: tired and pissed off tend to look like the same expression.

These days, the absolute set in stone non-negotiables are personal training sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a pilates session on Wednesday.  During the fall and winter, I work on upping my cardio capacity for ski season by using the Nike Run Club app on three other days of the week.  During the spring and summer, I run much less often (ok, I still kind of loathe it) and instead fill in with a mix of cardio dance classes and long hikes with my husband and dog.

After my fastest 5K, on December 31, 2016.

After my fastest 5K, on December 31, 2016.

This schedule is sacred.  I have had the opportunity many times to work with clients during my previously planned workouts, but I’ve never taken it.   Not only does my fitness routine keep me in shape for ski season, but it also allows me to be a better organizer since I can lift and move things many people can’t.

Until I started weight training, I never thought of myself as a fit person.  I still sometimes catch myself thinking of myself as weak when faced with a new fitness challenge (like that time I tried Soul Cycle).  But to me the biggest benefit of finding fitness has been the confidence it’s given me.  Because I feel physically strong, I feel mentally strong as well.  Every time I do an exercise with a heavier weight, I finish feeling like I can take over the world.  It’s totally unlike my dance life, and still seems sort of alien, but the feeling is real!

Yes, I do wear a smaller clothing size than I did in my 20’s.  Yes, I weigh less.  Yes, my muscles are more defined.  But the thing I’ve realized is that those are just side effects, and they’re not enough to motivate me.  For me, my fitness routine has to have a practical reason and a goal that I’m working towards.

On that note, my husband and I have signed up to run the Napa Valley Turkey Chase 10K on Thanksgiving. Nothing gets me running like race fear! 

LMW

What I'm Organizing - Everyday Sparkle

I'm into fashion, but to be totally honest with you, I’m not very good at accessories.  Conventional wisdom says that accessories complete an outfit, but somehow when I try to incorporate them creatively I feel like I leap over the line into trying-too-hard territory.

I think part of the issue is that my taste in jewelry runs to the small and simple.  Not TOO small, because I am not a particularly delicately proportioned person, but I’ve just never been a fan of gaudier, bulkier styles.  For example, anything with pavé diamonds is my personal kryptonite.

So, instead of trying to keep up with the latest trends in jewelry on a daily basis, I usually wear a tightly edited set of simple, meaningful pieces.  It's only when I have more time to think things through that I bust into my small collection of inherited treasures and costume jewelry.   

I keep my jewelry in an undisclosed location, and it was becoming a serious pain  to pull out my standby pieces at the beginning and end of every day - because, of course, I am an organizer and I hate leaving things just laying around.  I started keeping them out on the bathroom counter, but that made me nervous - one false move and they'd go sliding down the sink drain, never to be heard from again.  I am, it must be said, a clumsy person.

Fortunately, the right answer arrived in the form of a stocking stuffer this past Christmas: a fun little china dish my mom found.  It's just the right size to keep my daily essentials, and looks cute out on my bathroom counter.  After a couple of months of incorporating this jewelry dish into my daily routine, I definitely think it strikes the right balance between a strategy that works and a decorative addition to my space.

Clockwise from top left: pink sapphire and diamond engagement and wedding rings, picked out by my husband; Cartier trinity bracelet, a gift from my husband; diamond solitaire necklace, a gift from my husband; Cartier trinity ring, a gift from my husband; diamond stud earrings, a gift from my parents; Omega Lady Seamaster watch, a gift from my parents

Clockwise from top left: pink sapphire and diamond engagement and wedding rings, picked out by my husband; Cartier trinity bracelet, a gift from my husband; diamond solitaire necklace, a gift from my husband; Cartier trinity ring, a gift from my husband; diamond stud earrings, a gift from my parents; Omega Lady Seamaster watch, a gift from my parents

You can see the theme here: my daily jewelry has been picked for me by the people who love me most, and so these pieces mean even more to me than their aesthetic contribution to an outfit.  When I put them on every morning, I'm reminded that I'm loved and cared for.  Of course, I do love the look of these simple, classic pieces, otherwise I wouldn't be so happy wearing them all the time!

For me, having my skin care, hair care, makeup, and jewelry routines dialed in exactly where I want them means I have more space in my brain to put together the things I have fun with varying, like clothes and shoes.  We all have those things we love doing and the things that stress us out - I recommend making a routine out of the latter so you can fully enjoy the former!

LMW

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you (somewhat belatedly, thanks to a temporary technological snafu)!  I hope you and your loved ones enjoyed your holidays.

We ended 2016 with a bang: hosting a NYE dinner party for some of our closest friends.  it's a tradition among my girlfriends that dates back to approximately 2007, when we couldn't really afford to go out on NYE and decided to make our own fun via potluck and cheap wine instead!  We've added friends (and courses, and pairings) over the years, but what stays the same is a relaxed good time with people we love, someone(s) staying over on an air mattress, and a bunch of hungover people in sweatpants eating whatever my husband can find in the fridge to fry the next day.

I'm starting 2017 on a great note both personally and professionally with some wonderful clients coming on board, interior design for our upstairs rooms really coming together, and major construction for our basement well underway.  Plus, the ski season is off to a great start (quoth the avalanche report: "snowfall now being measured in feet across the forecast area") and we have a couple of fun trips planned.  

At the same time, outside my bubble 2017 threatens to upset current stability where it exists and intensify problems that already plague our world.  The human rights of each person on this planet - regardless of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, religion, or any other identity that can divide us - are extremely important to me and I intend to use that principle to guide me in thoughtful action this year.  

I hope 2017 is getting off to a great start for you, and would love to hear about your dreams and goals for this year!

LMW

Organizing as a Couple

Most of my clients are women. For what I’m sure are myriad and complex reasons, women feel pressure to have organized homes, that they are responsible for said organization, and that they need to research how to do it best.  Men, on the other hand, tend to fall into two camps.  Either they are self-professed neat freaks, or they don’t really seem to care.

Home organization can be a huge pain point in a relationship, and mine is no different. I’m, well, me, and my husband is the second kind of guy. 

Things came to a head early in our marriage. We had purchased our first home, decorated it as best we could on our budget, and were enjoying entertaining as often as possible.  And it was driving me absolutely nuts that my husband would leave stuff everywhere and stall when I would ask him to take care of it. Getting mad wasn’t working, so I started asking some questions, and the answers were seriously illuminating.

Question 1: Did you have to pick up after yourself as a child? 

The answer: no.  My husband had chronic health issues as a child and his mom took care of him the best way she knew how, which included cleaning up after him.

Question 2: Do you want to live in an organized house? 

The answer: yes!  My husband was incredibly proud of our home and actually rather hated when it was messy. 

Question 3: Who should be responsible for organizing our home given that we both want it that way?

The answer: ohhhhhh…

I’m not going to tell you that my husband was cured of his messy habits overnight, because that would be a total lie.  But he started to realize that the more effort he put in to creating organizing habits, the better our house looked and felt to live in.  That was also the point at which, as he says to anyone who will listen, he became my first client.  He realized he didn’t actually know how to get organized and he wanted to learn.  To this day, he will periodically come to me and ask for my help organizing his closet or home office.

Last year, on the West Highland Way in Scotland

All that said, let me be 100% clear: just because I’m more organized doesn’t make me a better person than my husband.  I mean, if we’re talking intelligence, drive, integrity, listening ability, and a million other things that make a wonderful person, he’s way ahead of me.  Organizing is a skill, not a value judgment, and I can teach it to you!

LMW

Efficient Packing His Way

My husband has been traveling quite a bit for business this spring.  He’s not a true road warrior like the management consultants out there pounding the pavement to sites weekly, but he has been away Monday-Friday 4 out of the past 6 weeks.  As you might imagine, he’s gotten pretty good at packing light.  I thought I’d give you a peek at his process, since it’s a bit different from mine and honestly even more successful!

I got him this checklist as a stocking stuffer a couple of years ago.  It was mostly a gag gift, but as with many gags there was a grain of truth there: he would always start packing by making a list, but he would inevitably forget something major – socks, underwear, bathing suit for a beach vacation.  Never again!

Packed as shown (including worn shoes, jeans, and blazer) for 4 days, 5 nights including 3 major client meetings

Packed as shown (including worn shoes, jeans, and blazer) for 4 days, 5 nights including 3 major client meetings

He starts packing the day before and goes through the list crossing off anything he doesn’t need for this particular trip.  Then, he goes down the line and pulls out everything he needs, being careful to make sure each piece can work with all the others.  He rolls each item to reduce wrinkling, and stacks them in the bottom of the suitcase.  The toiletry bag and any accessories like belts and pocket squares go in on top.  He keeps his toiletry kit stocked and ready to go at all times with duplicates of everything he uses regularly.

Get ready for this: he brings one bag.  Not a rolling bag plus a carry on, just this quite small rolling suitcase from Longchamp for clothing, toiletries, electronics, and any other work stuff.  My dad (a former banker) once told him that the most powerful guy in the room has the smallest amount of stuff with him.  So, for work travel, when he’s usually giving presentations and looking to impress, my husband has pared back to the absolute essentials: laptop, notepad, pen.  These easily slide into a pocket in his carryon.

Aside: ladies, this applies to us, too.  Envision walking into a meeting with only a leather-bound notepad, pen, and smartphone (turned to silent, only present to check info or your calendar) vs. schlepping in with a big tote and rifling through it to find your writing materials, and you’ll see the difference.

Let’s be honest, a major reason my husband can get away with packing so light is that he can wear one pair of shoes for the plane, work, and evenings out – usually his trusty brown Ferragamo loafers shown in the first pic above.  I’ve been working on reducing the amount of footwear I travel with, but I just don’t think I’ll ever get down to one pair!

LMW