Oh hey, it’s September again! Did that sneak all the way up on anyone else?
Ok, so apparently the year took us on another run through summer like sugar-pumped eight year olds at a carnival, then abruptly woke us from that dream to the restart of school schedules, extra curriculars and bed-time restructuring. Rude.
We always feel a little punch drunk around the beginning of September, a little swirly from the abrupt change of responsibility structure, despite the actual change of season not arriving for another month or so. It’s a healthy time to reflect, look how far we’ve come, how much we’ve evolved and start planning for the wind down of the year in a few short months.
This year so far, we’ve had not one, but TWO “Full House” Projects both welcoming Zen Method’s comprehensive help and coaching in cleaning out, paring down and organizing their ENTIRE homes from top to bottom, every closet and drawer in-between. We also had some fantastic individual projects, a pack and move, a five day long storage shed clean-out and a bit of creative DIY solution finding. My clients really embraced the mission and spent hours upon hours (and I’m sure some extreme moments of processing anxiety) committed to giving their homes a Zen Method, a structure and order that simplified the chaos of daily life.
A “Full House” Project is not one taken lightly, this type of project requires a lot of self reflection and an absolute need for upfront communication between all household members and Zen Method, as the facilitator. Clients had to make hard decisions, collectively and individually, acknowledging that their things and the space they take up massively affects the other members of their living space. It took patience, consideration and careful emotional processing of the contents of some boxes, bins or bags and then sometimes five, ten or even twenty more of those boxes, bins or bags.
It can be overwhelming and easy to give-up, but no one did! In fact, one client and I even extended her session out an extra five hours to finish sorting and filing their shared office before their partner returned from a business trip at 10pm that evening! The amount of time and effort put in by my clients constantly makes me proud to see that with help, we can improve and expand our existing spaces to serve as both work and home, socially entertaining and intimately comforting, accommodating to our life needs while still pleasant to relax in. Watching my clients naturally relax into a feeling of hopefulness instead of overwhelm, confidence instead of embarrassment and future planning instead of feeling stuck is worth every minute.
I’ll be adding short blogs recapping Zen Method 2019 project sessions in the coming weeks to accompany the newly added before and afters on our portfolio page, so stop back soon!
Happy September and Be well!
Zen Method Philly
Copyright (c) 2019
Closets. We love them. We hate them. We always feel like they could look and function so much better, but HOW? The shelves aren’t deep enough and there’s never enough room for our stuff and why can’t I find my favorite shirt that goes perfectly with these pants and I KNOW is in there?!
At the end of most days, a large majority of people are unhappy with their closets, but the blessed things have doors (most of the time) so we can shut them and forget the problem until the next time we need to wear clothes, or store important things, or find the holy grail at the very back of the very bottom… Seem familiar? Once again, in Zen Method style, I am here to remind you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I am a closet junkie. I have been fortunate in my life to live in places, even small one-bedroom apartments, that gave you a closet for every need: kitchens had pantry closets, entryways had coat closets, bedrooms had clothing closets, bathroom and hallways boasted space for all associated things! It was a privilege I wasn’t even aware of - until now. Moving into our new apartment, my partner and I combined two households into one. We spent months searching for the perfect place for us to live and when we finally found it, we noticed it was a little short on storage space, but loved the rest of the apartment so much that we decided we would “make it work.”
Six months later, fully unpacked and settling into our comfy spaces, we realized that ample storage space will need to be more heavily considered in our next apartment search. Have we made it work? Of course. I insisted on being the only one allowed to structure where things are stored and how to adapt homes for each thing despite a sad lack of closet doors to shut them behind. I’m sure I’ll post a “creative storage” post soon, but for now, I’ll be focusing on closets, the best ways to clean them out, restructure them and maintain them.
Approach the closet you’re thinking about right now. What is it for? Where is it located in your home? How is it currently serving the needs of that space
Accept and forgive whatever it is now, that was then, this is NOW and now, it is completely realistic to work towards a Zen Method that makes your closets something to show off to your friends, family and perhaps even that one skeptical in-law that seems to give your house the white glove treatment (how dare they?!) at family functions.
Prep a space close to the closet, within the same room or an adjacent room, give yourself workspace to navigate in, put down a sheet or a tarp or something you don’t mind getting dirty to create your main sorting pile.
Then, empty that closet. Yes, THAT closet. All of it. Until it is EMPTY.
Spread its contents on your tarp/sheet workspace and with your favorite music blaring or a good friend sitting with you, sort through it. Allow yourself the space to see the things you hold on to and track why; sort them into categories that represent their sentimentality and usefulness in your life. Separate out things that are just clutter or junk and throw them out or add them to a donation pile; find like items that have use in other parts of your home, give them a proper placement there.
Finding things that belong to family members or friends? Take a picture!
Send the picture to the friend or family and inquire if they’d like it back and when you can get it to them. Sometimes, they’ll just say to donate it because in the time they’ve been without it, they’ve bought another!
Sentimental items are important to keep, and there are different ways to honor what something means to you:
Is this to be gifted to a child/handed down through the family later? Perhaps having it packed properly in an airtight/water tight container is the call.
Is it a memorial of someone you lost? Maybe you always wanted it in your home, but never found a place for it to be?
Now is the time, it shouldn’t be hidden in a closet , it should continue to give you that sentimental enjoyment. Find a good way to display it with your existing decor; whether it be a shadow box frame, picture frame or curio cabinet display, allow the item to bring you a sense of connection and happiness daily while storing it safely.
If it is a pile of clothing, identify when the last time you or a family member wore it, if you liked wearing it, if it fit you well and if your memory fails- try it on! How does it make you feel? If the answer is anything but great, it may be time to add to the donation pile.
Continue this sorting process (With breaks! Take a breather!) until your “empty that closet” pile is gone. Take things that belong in other parts of your home to those rooms and find them easy storage with like items. Discard of trash and put your donations in boxes and into your car/by your front door and commit to dropping them off or calling to have them picked up.
Check out your empty closet! It’s cavernous, isn’t it?!
Not for long… determine what the closet’s intended use should be: Coats and weather gear? Cleaning and home maintenance? Clothing and shoes? Declare how you would like the closet to work for you and your family and then make it so. Build the contents in the closet so that it serves you and makes that one function of your life simple.
When you have other time to spend, repeat with each closet in your home, by the end, see that you will have a less chaotic storage system and gradually adapt to where things live and their ease of accessibility.
The things we have kept will live best where they are most used, displayed where they will enhance and improve our space and once our shock of “how much stuff we had in that closet” wears off, hopefully not find their way back to our now emptier and more organized closets.
Be well and keep living in the light,
Zen Method Philly
Copyright (c) 2019
As I rejoin the workflow of the new year with a packed calendar and Christmas decorations begging to be taken down, my messages are flooding in with an overwhelming pattern: “Have you SEEN the new show on Netflix? It’s about ORGANIZING!” and “The woman who wrote that book you gave me has a show now! It made me think of you immediately!” The show everyone is so excitedly telling me about is the Netflix Original Show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” that aired January 1st 2019.
So, my weekend has become a bedroom binge watcher’s paradise as I digest all eight episodes of the “new” trend for people that will love the accessibility of a bingeable show about organizing their homes. It’s easy! It’s relatable! It has an adorable Marie Kondo “ching!”ing her way into your heart like a tiny meeping kitten of magical organization techniques! There are before and after montages, soothing transcendental musical intros and outros, modules of instructional techniques on how to fold laundry and store neckties. The show gives a calm, clean, yoga studio feel to the most cluttered and hoarded spaces and that provides us all hope that our messes can be tidied and our disorganization can be banished forever as we start the new year.
My Impression as a P.O. (Professional Organizer)
I am excited for this coverage! I am glad it is reaching people in mainstream masses and causing them to consider their belongings (and perhaps the excess or disorganization of their belongings) as part of their journey towards personal peacefulness and progress. This is IMPORTANT. This is what I do everyday. I also know, from working one on one with ALL of my clients that this movement towards simplicity is a daunting task and while some wonderfully hyper-focused folks will in a month or so declare their homes sufficiently purged and only full of things that “spark joy” and emerge feeling victorious in the war against clutter, others will have some questions. Some will need some help. Some will find themselves a little lost in the process and some will see it as a begrudging task bringing emotional turmoil and self judgement or even worse, the judgement of others, every time they pick up a sweater to see if inspires something positive.
In the long and often emotional sessions I have with clients, their sorted belongings range from the highly triggering to the most mundane necessity in their stationary drawer. For people with diagnoses of PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, depression and painful life experiences such as grieving the death of a loved one, divorce or downsizing living space due to an unexpected lay off, deciding if a thing sparks a positive emotion is often much harder. Emotions are a spectrum, they are as deep and connected as waves in the ocean.
We hold on to physical things because we relate them to important moments that we do not want to forget, sometimes it isn’t joy, but it is important. I experience this with clients regularly. The conversations that the sorting process leads to are just as important as the sorting process itself, they lead to a contemplation of how you view your belongings, how they impact you and how they make you view your life and your ability to live it.
“My house is a mess, so I am a mess.” or “I think I’d be better, faster, more focused on my life goals if my stuff was just more organized.” are things I hear most often.
Sometimes, that is all it takes: a quick sprucing of a room, putting things that have found themselves out of place back in their proper storage, but sometimes, it involves a deeper sorting and deeper reflection. A non-biased party to talk through it while you walk through it. A more mindful and considerate look at how or why the mess has accumulated and a careful double teaming of both the physical along with the psychological. We take each part of ourselves and what we extend ourselves to outside of our physical bodies (our stuff) and we project our identity from there; how we want to see ourselves and occasionally how we want others to see us. Realizing the correlation and sometimes the dysfunction or disconnection is where the change actually starts. This is how we heal. This is how we progress and evolve outside of our comfort zone.
As we grow, our things can hold us back as we visually and emotionally relate to things that are no longer part of our lives and don’t align with our current lives and identities in real time. It can lead to feelings of regret, resentment, unfair expectations of self or feelings that we don’t live up to others’ expectations of us. That is not easy! Letting go of the things that don’t “spark joy” but bring attention to unresolved emotions are often the hardest. Being left to that for a day, a week, a month at a time, on your own (even with family), is a LOT to handle! I applaud the people and families on this show for doing it with minimal involvement sparing check-ins from Ms. Kondo, seriously you guys are the real MVPs.
Does your stapler “spark joy”?
Yet, sometimes a thing is just a thing and it is a thing we need in our lives regardless of how we feel about it. Does your office stapler “spark joy” for you? Probably not- but you need it nonetheless and if you throw it out in the midst of a purge, you’ll more than likely need to get another one before the month is out. Being a Professional Organizer, I find that many times the usefulness of things is not considered enough in the purge, we are too concerned with the quantity of our things instead of considering its need for practicality. We get into the trash bag discarding excitement flow and think, “Just get it out, get it ALL OUT.”
The point is not to suddenly have a yoga studio minimalized or magazine cover worthy home, but a home that feels like Home. Getting rid of things in dozens of trash bags gives an amazing feeling of relief, accomplishment and cleanliness, but what comes next? What happens when both kids have the flu and your spouse is stuck working overtime all week and you just can’t manage folding the laundry into perfect little stackable squares? What happens when you get started and realize that looking at the last ten, twenty or thirty years of your life in a giant mountainous pile in the middle of your living room for the next few weeks while you still have to go to work, take care of your kids and somehow get more than two hours of sleep a night is just too much?
Ask for help.
Watch an episode or two of “Tidying Up” for inspiration.
Read Kondo’s books or any of the countless others out there that help compartmentalize the process into manageable modules.
Call a friend, a family member and/or your therapist for positive guidance and support.
You can also call us at Zen Method Philly, we’re always here, too.
*Ching!* Be well! ☺️
Zen Method Philly
Content in this post regarding the Netflix Original Show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” is intended solely as an expression of professional opinion of and reaction to the show, and Zen Method LLC gained no monetary incentive or any other benefit for doing so. Our mission is to inform, educate and improve our readers’ understanding of the principles and applications of organization and its usefulness in their lives.
Copyright (c) 2019
Chilly October has officially arrived!
It’s the time of year for blazing sunset skies and spicy hot drinks, but also, the best time to open the windows and air out the house while getting ourselves (and our spaces) ready for the avalanche of busy fall schedules, weekend trips to fall festivals, sports Sundays and family holidays to come. The last week of September was pleasantly filled with birthday projects- that is, projects that my clients wanted to tackle to celebrate their birthdays.
In the next few posts, I'll be sharing all that my clients accomplished and give you a bit of an insight into how Zen Method helped these birthday ladies start off their new year on this earth on the right foot! Hopefully I’ll also inspire you to take on a project you’ve been holding on the back burner!
The first project was a last minute move-in and house restructuring; the second was the purge and organization of a walk-in master closet - both yielding amazing results! This post will be a breakdown of the last minute move-in project, completed in two sessions.
The Last-Minute Move:
A lovely friend of mine recently decided to cut her solo lease loose to move in with her boyfriend and his two roommates in another part of Philadelphia. While the decision wasn’t entirely last minute, she also started a new job with completely opposite hours than her previous job and her boyfriend had a family trip across the pond scheduled for the day after the planned move-in date, so she simply couldn’t achieve a long-planned, super organized move. The priority was to get out from the old place and into the new place, period.
It was a huge undertaking, but they did it! In the two days before her boyfriend’s flight, they hauled boxes, bins, bags, furniture and armfuls of everything she owned into carloads and successfully relocated her life across town, filling every inch of floor, table and closet space available in the new house. This left quite the chaotic environment during a time that any sane person would need for adjustment to new schedules, new commuting patterns and her new job! Simply put, they needed a Zen Method. Badly.
So, this is where we started:
The rest of the house looked overwhelmingly similar, as she had only been able to unpack things that were immediately needed and able to be located. The upstairs laundry room, hallway and bedroom looked about the same and exuded a bit of a “bachelor” feel, after all, it had primarily been a bachelor pad until now!
During her project assessment walk-through and a french press of coffee, we discussed her needs (as I do with all clients):
First and foremost, making the newly combined bedroom space more fit for two people (and their puppy dog) with all of their needs and interests, which included:
* Making sure that there was enough space for both she and her boyfriend’s needs in the bedroom space
* Getting rid of old, unused furniture currently taking up space
* Arranging the bedroom to be bilateral while keeping electronic and wired hookups functional
* Highlighting the (gorgeous) brick wall elements in the room for more than just a laundry/hideaway corner
(Before pictures of the bedroom and hallway not included at client’s request. It’s OK lady, we’ve all been there, no judgements!)
Her secondary concern was for the downstairs living room/common area, shared by roommates and their guests, these intentions included:
* Unpacking and organizing the overflow in the hallway and downstairs common living space
* Creating a dedicated studio workspace in the common living room area while allowing ample space for the other roommates and their guests to enjoy a dedicated common living/entertainment space
Organization Session #1:
After agreeing that we should focus on one space at a time and split the projects into two sessions to give our full attention to both the bedroom space and the living room space, we got started.
A Quick Downsize:
We started in on giving the house it’s much needed Zen Method, starting with a quick downsize of things that were trash/unused/unneeded and collecting obvious things for a “to-go” donation pile, which started, to my surprise, with an entire couch!
Once depositing a trash bag in each room and trimming the immediate excess, we went to the bedroom to start breaking it down and emptying it out. With the express agreement and permission from her boyfriend (consent and respect is important people) and welcomed heavy lifting help from one of her new roomies, (thanks again Charles!), we began wiping down, disassembling and removing everything from the room except the bed and a sitting chair. What could be relocated to the “to-go” pile* left the room, never to return, and the rest took a trip out to the hallway while we decided how to rearrange the room for better flow and use.
A few words about “to-go” piles:
It is important during larger, more complex projects, to designate space away from the main project space for things that will be leaving the space entirely. Whether furniture, emptied boxes, donation items, etc., I choose an easy access point (such as next to exit doors or stairs as long as it is not obstructive) and always leave room for a natural walkway in case immediate removal isn’t able to happen until the next trash pick-up day. In this case, smaller items went to the “couch pile” downstairs, while the larger, heavier furniture was stacked neatly next to the stairs.
Always, always, ALWAYS ask for help to move anything you have trouble moving yourself. Adding unnecessary bodily injury to a house still being unpacked is the worst.
Clean your space before you start the organization/design process:
After a bit of tidying, dusting, vacuuming and unplugging of electronics, we gave the room a much healthier arrangement and began repopulating the fresh space for it’s needs while giving both she and her boyfriend their own sides of the room to function. By placing the bed at the midline of the room, instead of taking up an entire side of the room as it had been, they could each have access to a window, bedside table, lamp and place to set a glass/book/charging device/etc. without having to reach over each other. It also left room for a full sized trashcan to remove the need to walk to the bathroom to dispose of trash.
If you’re not sure if it belongs there, it probably doesn’t:
Relocating the things that didn’t belong in a bedroom (skis, sports equipment bags, shoe boxes, forgotten socks from years past) suddenly provided space for a bureau of drawers that could also house the entertainment and gaming systems, making the space dual functional. (Efficiency! Huzzah!) A sitting chair fit naturally next to the bureau and instantly, a sitting area separate from the bed was born! The two brick wall out-coves that had previously collected laundry, darkness and dust became perfect housings for a mirrored vanity (complete with his exercise ball for a seat, dual purpose everything!) and the other for her boyfriend’s musical instruments and cases, maximizing the small spaces and accenting the room instead of distracting from it.
Just a reminder: always measure spaces BEFORE hauling a piece of furniture into it, unless you like disappointingly hauling furniture back DOWN the stairs you just hauled it up, of course.
Once the bedroom was arranged, redressed and all electronics reconnected (taking pictures of how everything is connected BEFORE disconnecting is very helpful) we moved on to making sense of the smaller item unpacking.
(This is a very simplified example, but quick phone pictures of back of televisions, gaming systems and modems/routers can save you from a time consuming afternoon of trying to remember what connection goes where after the fact. You can also label wires by writing on painter/masking tape that's then folded around the wire and back onto itself. This is useful for scenarios where many of the wires look the same, many similar strategies exist)
Use common sense:
Since her belongings were packed last minute with no particular categorization in mind, it became a pretty steady game of “Where would a family of things of [this] nature live?”
Simply picking up each thing, one at a time, considering its purpose, need and specifically where it would be useful and most helpfully accessible eliminated the confusion of the clutter with each box unpacked.
Clothing? Easy! Bureau, closet or laundry.
Hair care? Bathroom or wherever it is used most often.
Art and design supplies? Take to the common area to be stored with crafting supplies.
Wall art? Decide where you’d like it to be displayed, place on the floor below that area on the wall and when you have an hour or so, simply go from one to the next with the appropriate hammer/nail/screwdriver/screw or command strip hardware and hang each until it’s all up!
By being able to quickly “common-sense” each thing that came out of a box or bag, we were able to not only keep strictly bedroom-related things in the bedroom and non-bedroom things wherever they belonged, but make sure that the new bedroom arrangement had enough free space to enjoy it without unnecessary distraction.
The result, while simple, was amazing and she and her boyfriend were blown away by the transformation and new functionality of their new, shared bedroom.
Organization Session #2:
For the downstairs living room/common area, we applied the same technique of removing obvious trash, removing the extra couch mentioned earlier and other unused furniture, clearing the room, doing a quick vacuuming and wipe down of surfaces to start with a fresh empty space.
During our walk-through consultation, she mentioned that she intended to set up her studio and workspace in a small section of the common living room, while allowing the majority of the space available for housemates to gather without one inhibiting the other. Since the room had previously been populated with more furniture than was needed or used, once removed, it was an easy game of measurement, placement and accentuation of the space with the remaining furniture. After choosing the appropriate space along a wall of the room for her studio workspace, we began to organize her studio supplies, computer set up and finished unpacking the remaining boxes. By the time her boyfriend and roommates began returning home, we had put the finishing touches on the living space and everyone was shocked at the transformation:
My client was a trooper and we managed to do all of this, start to finish, in just two 5 hour sessions, with obvious success!
With help, some good dedicated teamwork and focused time, my client’s Zen Method was achieved, impressing not only herself, but her boyfriend and all of the roommates, too! She plans on booking another session to establish an improvised extra closet space in the upstairs hallway, organize her clothing and accessories to put the final feelings of home functionality together.
I hope this story has inspired you to know that with Zen Method Philly, you can move mountains (of stuff, in this case) in no time at all and overcome even the most impossible seeming organization projects!
Be sure to let Zen Method Philly know if you need our help and be sure to check back for the next project breakdown!
Be well and continue live in the light,
Zen Method Philly
Copyright (c) 2018
Oh hello autumn, nice of you to pick this rainy, cooler-than-it-has-been-in-months Sunday to join us...
It is days like today that I get excited for the seasonal change: slow days, quiet days, days accented by the sound of the rain against the windows and can (finally) give the air conditioner a much needed rest. It seems like a stormy calm, a pause button that tells me to look up, to look around and start preparing for winter, which has that sneaky way of being just around the corner and months away at the same time.
This is a harvesting time, when we start to reap our year’s growth and preserve it to sustain us through until springtime, knowing that the break in heat will soon give way to chillier and chillier nights and heavier and heavier sweaters.
While many have just sent their kids back to school, returned from traveling and vacations and we are all slowly starting to adjust to the sun setting earlier each day, it is also a great time to take inventory of our lives. We’ve had nine months to make, break, remake and learn from habits and resolutions we may have given ourselves almost ten months ago when the calendar gave us a new year and now is the perfect time to reflect and use that experience to create something that better serves us.
While reflecting, there will undoubtedly be lists unfinished, piles we’ve ignored while on the go! go! go! lifestyle path and just haven’t been able to get to. Today is a great day to call a friend, put on the movie (or trilogy) you’ve seen a million times and take some "you time" to trim away the things that aren’t serving you.
Those things may be actual things, you can do a quick closet survey to start:
See anything that you absolutely haven’t worn in a year (or more)?
Let it go.
That pair of boots that probably won’t make it through the next upcoming winter?
Perhaps it is time to replace them.
More raincoats than winter coats?
Donate extra clothing to someone in need and get yourself something warmer while you are out, both will feel great.
However, this trim-down can be applied to more than just the clothes in your closet or the things in your home. Reflect on your schedule, your home habits, your work-social calendar balance, your time spent with family and friends. Autumn is a season of nesting, of counting your blessings and abundances, of gathering with your chosen people to share warmth and love that will radiate through the coldest days to come. That extends to all corners of our lives and deserves our attention and nurturing.
So nurture your life; take a slow, patient inventory of your needs and start realigning you with what gives you your best chance at happiness from day to day, accepting the changes that need to be made.
Be sure to let Zen Method Philly know if you need any help, we’ve got your back and always love a good rainy day reflection session.
Be well and keep living in the light,
Zen Method Philly
Copyright (c) 2018