Getting Unstuck! What Are Friends For?

I recently returned from a trip to New York City. I lived there for about seven years and try to return often as I love energy of the city and always feel inspired when I visit. In addition, one of my best friends from childhood lives there so it’s always great to spend some time together. A few years ago she got a really cute brownstone apartment in Brooklyn with a guest room that has become my New York abode since I moved to LA.

Anyone who has lived in a New York City apartment knows that rents are high and space is limited. Closet space is particularly precious and my friend’s home is no exception. Being a designer she’s fashionable and has quite a large wardrobe that is stuffed to overflowing in a small 3′ x 4′ closet. The only other closet in the apartment is in the kitchen and it does triple duty acting as a pantry with food, olive oils and spices as well as a bathroom/linen closet with shampoos, makeup and towels and finally a utility closet with vacuums, tool box, etc… It’s packed!

So when I asked for a Band Aid—after making the mistake of wearing new shoes for hours of walking the Brooklyn and Manhattan streets—I had to spend about ten minutes rifling through the multi-tasking closet to find one. In that moment, I knew I ‘d found my hostess gift. Clutter clearing her closet!

Sounds like a strange gift I know, but it’s become a bit of a tradition. Sometime during my visit we’ll either Feng Shui her home or clutter clear. Bottom line is I love to do it and sometimes people just need a little push to get inspired. And because I know she’ll read this blog, let me just say here, her home is by no means messy or cluttered! It’s a lovely, beautifully designed, meticulously clean home, but like everyone we tend to have our blind spots—parts of our home we just ignore or tune out because the idea of clutter clearing, repairing or dealing with it in some way seems overwhelming.

Identifying Your Clutter Blindspots

Think about your home, are there any “blind spots” that you’re ignoring? Blind spots are usually spaces we use so often that we just get used to how messy or disorganized they are, like the ever-popular “junk” drawer so many people have in their kitchen. Or sometimes, blind spots are places we rarely use and are therefore easily ignored, like a hallway closet you never open or “storage” under the bed. I write about clutter clearing and yet I admit to having a closet that I just can’t deal with! My sister teases me about it all the time, because I know it’s a mess and try to organize it, but for some reason, I’m just stuck when it comes to that space, but that’s another story…

With my friend’s permission, I tackled the pantry/bathroom/utility closet. I put aside a bag for her to go through later of things I thought she could toss and then organized what remained.

A week later she called to report that clearing out that one closet inspired her to tackle her other closet as well. And soon her boyfriend, inspired by her clean closets, was clearing out his closets… Sometimes all we need is someone to help us get “unstuck” and start the process and then we can take over.

So if you have a trouble spot in your home that you can’t bear the idea of cleaning out, here are a few tips to get you unstuck:

– Consider hiring a professional organizer for a few hours to help you start the process. Or if that’s not in your budget, ask a friend if you could take turns helping one another.

– Same applies if there are repairs that need to be made in your home. Make a list of all that needs to be done and hire a handyman for the day. Or if you have handy friend ask him/her if they could help you for the day in exchange for something you can offer your friend like cooking dinner, babysitting, decorating, etc…

– It’s often particularly helpful to have a friend (or if it’s in your budget, a professional closet organizer or stylist) present when going through your clothes. You can try things on and someone can tell you if they still look good or not. Someone with a good eye can even help you put together new outfits you may not have thought of yet. I’ve found I can save a lot of money on clothes by going though what I already have with someone who has a “fresh” eye. I usually end up with lots of new ideas about how to wear what I already own. And with a trip to the tailor to shorten a hem or remove a funky sleeve—I can make lots of out-of-style clothes, stylish again for a small amount of money.

– If you can’t find someone to help, get a timer and commit to five to ten minutes of clutter clearing a day until you get into a groove. Take out the timer and set it to whatever time you can spare, and then for the allotted time tackle just one drawer or just part of your closet… soon you’ll get inspired and want to find more time to clear the clutter, but even if you don’t, small spurts of clutter clearing will eventually make a difference.

To find a professional organizer near you, try the National Association of Professional Organizers Directory. If you live in the Los Angeles area, Laura and I love organizers Josef Consegni and Andrea at Girl on the Go.

We also love our friend Gail, a fantastic stylist who will come to your home and sort through your closet. When she’s done helping you put together great new outfits, and gently encouraging you to let go of what no longer works, she’ll take what you don’t want and bring it to a consignment shop—I was pleasantly surprised by how much money I made selling my old jeans! Learn more about Gail and VIP Closet Consultants.

5 Comments

  • Gabriele Wilson says:

    This is very inspiring! Thank you for getting me unstuck.

  • Terri says:

    GREAT suggestions Alison! I have often suggested to my clients to put on an upbeat cd they love and clutter clear for the length of the cd! Thanks for an inspiring post!

    • Laura and Alison says:

      Thank you for the tip Terri! I LOVE the idea of creating a clutter clearing playlist. I’m going to think about what songs will inspire me to clean…

  • Dane Findley says:

    I agree! Last weekend, after 6 months of procrastinating, I organized our master closet and put all of the winter pieces (vest, wool slacks, and Italian shirts) into garment bags so that they wouldn’t become dust-covered moth food.

    The entire project took about 2 hours (why would I procrastinate a 2-hour project for 6 entire months!) and when I was done, I felt completely accomplished and energized!

    The master closet had been my blind spot. Afterward, I was so inspired, that I reorganized our cleaning-supplies closet and our pantry. The law of momentum!

    • Laura and Alison says:

      I know what you mean Dane! I had been putting off cleaning out the trunk of my car for weeks – when I finally did, it took less than an hour and it felt great when I was done! What was I waiting for?

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