Renovation

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

Reveal: My Organized Closet

I have been remiss for the last few years: I haven’t actually shared the inside of my own closet with you! What an oversight for a professional organizer!

The main reason is that when we moved into our home in October 2015, we planned to start a major renovation that included an entirely new master suite with a walk in closet for each of us. If you’ve ever done a significant remodel, you know what happens next: the process takes a lot longer than you think it will! The new master suite was finally finished in May 2018.

Yes, there’s a weird short doorway in there. No, I have no idea why!

Yes, there’s a weird short doorway in there. No, I have no idea why!

It’s only fair that I show you what I was starting with. Our house is over 100 years old and has been remodeled countless times over those years, so there are weird nooks and crannies and surprises everywhere. One of those was the larger of the two closets in the original master bedroom, which I took over when we moved in. The previous owners had some custom closet pieces installed to try to make it useful, but it is a truly weird space! And because I knew I wouldn’t be working with it for the long term, I didn’t want to do any modifications.

Shelving and long hang - you can also see bins I put on the floor as a stopgap measure.

Shelving and long hang - you can also see bins I put on the floor as a stopgap measure.

This cheap  shoe rack  got me through many years and apartments, and it works really well!

This cheap shoe rack got me through many years and apartments, and it works really well!

The nice thing about my weirdo closet was that it gave me a really good idea of the kind of closet I did actually want. The hanging space was actually pretty much the right amount, so I made sure to have that copied in the new closet. The shelves, on the other hand, drove me nuts - I like drawers for my knits and lingerie! And I really wanted a nice, pretty, protected place to store my shoes and bags where they wouldn’t get dusty and bumped around, but would still be visible so I could enjoy my collection.

We chose to do semi-custom closets with Bay Home and Window. We selected this product because it was higher quality than big box options but not as expensive as solid wood. And we chose the company because they are local, so we got better service than from the unnamed national company we had worked with in our old condo. I highly recommend them - if you get in touch, please let them know I sent you!

Voila!

Voila!

After having lived in my new closet for nearly a year, I can say that I’m absolutely in love with it. The construction has proved to be durable, the layout is perfect, and the experience of waking up to my dream closet every morning is honestly unbeatable.

My favorite little detail: built in velvet lined trays in the very narrow top drawer for silk scarves and sunglasses (and the sentimental touch of just a couple of my grandma’s old hankies).

My favorite little detail: built in velvet lined trays in the very narrow top drawer for silk scarves and sunglasses (and the sentimental touch of just a couple of my grandma’s old hankies).

Yes, I do the KonMari fold - it really does work well!

Yes, I do the KonMari fold - it really does work well!

 
Pro tip: arranging pairs of shoes toe-to-heel is the best way to get more shoes on one shelf.

Pro tip: arranging pairs of shoes toe-to-heel is the best way to get more shoes on one shelf.

I also want you to note a couple things that might surprise you about a professional organizer’s closet.

  1. There are no labeled containers of any kind. I’ve just never been a label or container kinda girl. I like everything to look unobstructed, and I personally am willing to put in the extra time required to fold clothing, place shoes, and generally keep everything looking neat. Plus, this way I can see my entire wardrobe at a glance, and not forget about anything!

  2. I had a lot of drawers put in. This is less common in closets these days, likely because drawers are not adjustable after the fact. However, I really prefer keeping knits in drawers - it’s easier to keep everything neat and tidy, instead of sloppy stacks on shelves! And for slipperier things like socks and lingerie, I use these fabric covered bins to corral everything.

  3. Other than a coat closet where I keep coats and rain boots, this is everything. The sum total of my wardrobe. And I cannot tell you how freeing this has been for me! Everything is right in front of me, all in one place, and I know that something has to be truly worthy for me to want to devote the small amount of space I have left to storing it.

A big thank you to Kelly Vorves, who helped me create the images in my new closet and gamely put up with my insistence that we keep everything looking real instead of further perfecting or styling the space!

LMW

Weekly Peek 1/5/18

Happy New Year!

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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...

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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!

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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

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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!

What I'm Organizing: How to Pick a Bathtub

I've referred before to the fact that we're currently renovating our house.  And after 8 months of construction, we've started to accelerate towards the finish and I'm finding that I need to keep my eye on more moving parts than I did during earlier phases.

Last week, for example, I picked out a bathtub.  My contractor was getting antsy to have specs (can't blame him), my architect was busy with other things (can't blame him either), and I knew the best way to get this done was to do it myself.  So, I drove on down to Excel Plumbing, sat down with consultant Irene Lee, and found the perfect tub in about 10 minutes.

This one: the  Liberty freestanding bathtub  by Hydro Systems

This one: the Liberty freestanding bathtub by Hydro Systems

That might sound like I'm exaggerating, but I promise you I'm not.  Add on about 5-7 minutes waiting for Irene to finish with her previous customer and another 10 minutes to peruse sinks and toilets (since, you know, I was already there), and I was in an out in under half an hour.  How did I do it?

1) I know what I like.  Note that I don't zero in on exactly what I want, because this can lead to a wild goose chase for something that doesn't exist - there is not actually infinite choice in the home decor space!  But I'm confident in our vision of how we want our home to look, and I trust my gut.

2) I'm willing to stop the search once I find something I really like.  This one is tough in our world, since there are so many options in every category of things to consume.  But I find that I can minimize stress and save everyone time by sticking to the first thing that really catches my attention in a unique way.  There's very little to be gained through an absolutely exhaustive search.

I honestly cannot recommend Excel Plumbing, and Irene in particular, more highly.  She is a total pro: she has encyclopedic knowledge about everything she carries (which is a lot), gives great advice, and tells you about potential problems before they even come up.  They carry a wide range of products, all of them mid to high end - think Grohe faucets, Villeroy & Boch sinks, Toto washlets - and give everyone who walks in the door very competitive pricing.

We still have a couple more months to go - all I'm hoping is to have a finished downstairs by the time the holidays roll around!

LMW

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What I'm Organizing

Or, should I say, what I'm failing at organizing!  I'm never too proud to admit when I go wrong, and I definitely did last week.

Our renovation means that our contractor has to periodically turn off water and power to move things around, and he wanted a week without us in the house to accomplish the latest round.  So, my plan was to spend the week at my parents' condo at Tahoe.  I'd have few distractions, so I planned to get some serious work done: set up my CRM system, do a lot of writing for the blog, start to work on some cool partnership ideas, take a new look at my social media presence.  Photo below was from Day 1...

If you happened by the blog last week, you'll get an idea of how much of that happened: pretty much none of it!

During the week, whether I was on the slopes or curled up on the couch, I got into that mode where I was happy with what I was doing, l was terribly guilty about what I WASN'T doing, and i was unable to snap out of it.  I had everything I needed in terms of resources, time, ideas, space, and I just could. not. get. it. together.

Looking back, I think it's because I was adrift from my usual work habits and hadn't set myself up for success.  At home, I've developed a series of rituals that make me feel like I'm in work mode and help me concentrate.  For starters, I work on a large computer monitor with separate keyboard and mouse.  There's something about sitting at a desk with that big monitor that deters me from general internet screwing around.  Of course, I only had my laptop with me at Tahoe, and I do plenty of screwing around on that so... 

I also do things like have a candle on my desk that I only light when I'm working (and usually only when it's cold outside, because apparently flame = heat = warm? WTF self?), only wear my glasses when I am actually butt-in-seat working, and only keep work related items on my desk.  At Tahoe there was no candle, I found myself wearing my glasses around constantly, and the small desk in my room in the condo was cluttered with my purse, various charging devices, and other random stuff I brought with me that wasn't work related.

These seem like really small things that a person should be able to overcome easily.  And maybe you're made of tougher stuff than I am and you can get work done anywhere, no matter what.  But for many (most?) of us, the small habits and rituals we create to nudge ourselves into doing the things we need and want to do are crucially important.  This is why I always say that organizing isn't just about stuff, it's about habits.

About to drop down and get first tracks in Counterweight Gully at Alpine Meadows, I'm closest to the camera (Photo by @xoxjulianne)

On the plus side, I spent great quality time with my parents and enjoyed an AMAZING powder day skiing with some of the coolest hard-charging ladies around.  So, instead of dwelling on the fact that I didn't get much done last week and now feel behind, I'm trying to be thankful for the great experiences I did have and start anew this Monday.

Have a great week!

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

What I'm Organizing

I've heard it, you've heard it, we've all heard it: when trying to do anything to your home (repair, remodel, repaint...) expect it to take twice as long and cost twice as much.  We moved into our dream house 13 months ago, and had hoped that our renovation project would be nearing its end by now, but as of this writing we have plans and permits... and not much else.  It's a long, sordid story involving tight spaces, soil engineering, and neighbors who just don't understand, and it's totally boring to everyone except me.  Suffice it to say, though, progress is just around the corner!

Since the remodeling process was taking so long, I decided to go ahead and start the interior design for our upstairs (which will be untouched).  In the spirit of hiring an expert when you realize your own ineptitude, I'm working with my friend Liz Curtis of Table + Teaspoon again.  We are SO excited about her designs, and can't wait for everything to come together!

And as luck would have it, carpet install, paint, and delivery of furniture is colliding headlong with Thanksgiving, houseguests, and the potential actual start of the renovation.  It's the ultimate first world problem, so I'm not stressed - it's just an interesting challenge to organize our home and time so that we can properly enjoy the holiday season.  For now, I've moved everything random (tools, cleaning products, spare lightbulbs and cords, still-unpacked boxes of silver and china) into our unfinished downstairs space.  We haven't hung any art, so that's all hanging out in the living room, along with the piles of delivered boxes for the upstairs.  And we've managed to totally clear out both of our future offices (don't peek in drawers, people, it's ugly) so that Liz and her team can get to work.

So for now, I'm going to leave you with the "before" pictures of the three upstairs rooms... stay tuned!

Upstairs Bedroom

This is currently the master bedroom, but will become our guest room when the renovation is finished.  The rug, chair, ottoman, and side table (with a new coat of paint) will be staying, the rest (which was all hand-me-down from various generous family members) will be leaving.

Husband's Office

This was a little boy's room under the previous owners.  My husband picked it because it's slightly larger and slightly darker, so better for a TV/gaming setup.  Priorities!

My Office

This was a little girl's room, and I am so excited to make it mine (just WAIT until you see the wallpaper/curtain combo!).  I have a feeling that a dedicated space will really help me take my business to the next level.

LMW

Living With What Doesn't Work

Let me state for the record that I’m in love with our new house.  It’s cozy, cute, and traditional, with everything we need and nothing we don’t.  It’s the kind of place where I know we’re going to be happy here for many years, and I can see a lovely future of family, friends, dogs, celebrations, and quiet moments unfolding within its walls.

Well… it doesn’t exactly have EVERYTHING we need!

You can learn a lot about your organizational needs by living with something for a little while, and that’s exactly what has happened with our kitchen.  It’s a beautiful, airy space, done in a traditional style I adore – and can you believe that floor?  However, we quickly discovered that the way it’s organized doesn’t work smoothly with our lifestyle and the way we cook.

First, my husband is a really nerdy cook – he likes to use the latest devices and we own all kinds of ridiculous machines and gadgets.  This works out well for me, since he’s always working on something new, inventive, and delicious.  However, we’re finding that there isn’t room in lower cabinets for all these fun toys, and not nearly enough counter space to spread out on.

Second, I’ve always had the feeling that I wouldn’t like living with transparent upper shelving and it turns out that I don’t.  Especially now, when I have to put things in upper storage that I’d prefer to hide behind closed doors like smaller appliances, baking dishes, water bottles, and food storage. This post was oddly prescient!

Third, I grew up with double ovens and a separate cooktop, and I have found the transition to a range with single oven to be cramping my style.  I know these gourmet Wolf ranges are all the rage, but for the way we cook (especially for entertaining) we just need more than one oven!

We had wanted to start our renovation project immediately after move-in, but I’m now grateful that the process has taken long enough for us to be able to live in our space and truly understand what works and what doesn’t.  I think we made a mistake in our previous place of waiting too long to do work we knew we wanted to do (we started after 3 years and moved at 5!), but I do recommend taking some time so that you get the best possible results once you do start making changes.  Our plans have gone through significant revision between move-in and now, so I’m already confident that time was priceless!

LMW