Clients often come to us with the same symptoms: stuff is everywhere, I can’t keep it clean, I can’t find what I need, I don't even know how to get started. But even with the same symptoms, the reason for them—the diagnosis—can be specific to each client and each space.
For this project, my client tried and tried to get herself organized. She’s still in the process of moving boxes from storage into her new home, a two bedroom/two bath space that she shares with her two kids, an 11 year old girl and 8 year old boy. Toys and games and crafts were constantly on every surface, but putting them away never seemed to happen. She was stuck in the midst of the same cycle lots of us get into—searching for and rejecting various storage solutions, none of which quite work. She couldn’t get unstuck, and so she asked for help. The first problem was that almost nothing had a defined home where it belonged, and therefore nothing could technically be considered “out of place.” There were also no defined spaces for the kids to be, and no defined space for Mom to be, either.
When home is in disarray and there’s no structure for anything, the best prescription is to think of home as a container:
Everything you own fits in the container of your home.
Each room has a label and a purpose, and things that do and do not live inside it.
Each room has containers called closets or shelves or cabinets, and each of those holds actual containers.
Each item in your home belongs inside this structure.
In the case of this client, the problem was primarily how they chose to use each of the rooms. The two living spaces seemed nice, but in practice, the front room was underutilized, encouraging backpacks to get dumped and clutter to hang out permanently. The 8yo’s bedroom nook in the living room might have worked, but the bookcases used to define the space also blocked lots of light from getting to the rest of the room, and since most of his clothes and some of his toys were stored in Mom’s room, he barely spent any time there and Mom had no space to herself. All their belongings wound up on every surface in every room, making it clear that the home needed space where toys live, and where toys only come to visit.
Here’s how we changed the space. The 11yo stays in her big girl bedroom with her things. The 8yo gets the larger bedroom as his own room, but also as a shared play space for both the kids when they feel like playing or reading together. All of the toys live in there. And with the addition of some curtains across the pony walls, the front room becomes Mom’s bedroom! Not only does she have a more established space of her own and a bathroom to herself, but by limiting the common spaces available, they are also able to limit the mess that can develop. Here are the two formerly cluttered common spaces now!
I want to point out that all of this is done even before any decluttering begins. This client still has a good deal of work to do! She asked for help with getting through a major project, culling everything from the clothes to the toys to the Christmas decorations in the attic, but she couldn’t figure out how to even get started. It turned out the diagnosis was the way the space was used in the first place. After rearranging the rooms, defining their purpose, and seeing the difference that makes, she finally feels like she can see her way forward. <3