Organizing Made Easy
with Jen Rowe
am so excited to talk with our guests today I need to tell you a little story though before we start, I have been walking around my house now on a daily basis picking things up that my children leave piled around and putting them in a bucket or a bag. And now I don’t know mamas if you are having the same stress, I have over clutter in your house, but it actually causes me anxiety. Like I get kind of that brain fog feeling of I just can’t deal with this much stuff. So it’s been the New Deal around here. And I’m telling you, it hasn’t gone over so well with the small people in my house, I did threaten my husband, I was going to start a bucket for him as well, very soon. So that’s why we’re talking about this. today. We’re going to talk all things home organization and just decluttering a bet with our amazing expert Jen row. So thank you so much for being with us. And I will give you a quick intro, but then I would love for you to share a bit more about what you do. So you are a professional organizer, and you are the owner of the neat method in Toronto, correct? Yes. So give us a little bit of an idea and a mama, we need to of course, explain that you’re a mom, you can tell us a little more about what that looks like for you. But give us a brief synopsis of what does the neat method into hell for you as a business.
Sure. so neat method is actually a franchise. And it’s been around in the US for a decade. But I am among the first cohort of women who were selected to bring the brand here to Canada. Amazing, very exciting and very on trend right now, as it turns out with, you know, various shows and books being released about home organization, and now that everybody’s sort of been stuck in their homes for much of the last year, it seems to be extra topical, and we are definitely receiving more inquiries, although are in home services are currently on hold to comply with the you know, all the rules. Um, but yeah, the,
the reason that I got into this started because I was a parent and I was struggling to figure out, you know, always having been an organized person, I was like, how do I make all the things that kids come with some pieces of toys, and you know, all that stuff, fit and work in my Toronto sized home, which is not very big. Right? So I started doing all this research and, and it led me to the neat method. And that’s just, you know, one thing kind of led to another I, when I eventually joined Instagram, I learned that they were a franchise, and I reached out and asked if they would ever consider coming to Canada. And I got an email right away. And I was told that they would let me know when when they would be ready to do that. And I thought I’d never hear from them again, right. And then like four months later, I got an email saying that they were ready to accept applications. And wow, yeah, awesome. It
was quick that that’s I agree, cuz I’ve approached other companies in the past about, we really need to have this in Canada, or how can I help you bring it? And they’re like, yeah, we have big plans to do that. And then you never hear back because it just doesn’t make it as a priority. So
yeah, excellent. lucky enough. And I was mostly just wanting to learn more at that point. And then the further I got into the, you know, the interview process was about six months long. And the further I got into that process, the more I fell in love with it, and I was lucky enough to be chosen.
So yay. And I love that, like you said during like shutdown. Well, we’ve been in our homes a lot more. And I think because we’ve had to face some of our clutter, right? We’ve had to face maybe, oh my gosh, this, I’m in this now, maybe trying to work in this now or school in this, whatever that scenario looks like. or spouses are both home at the same time and try not to kill each other in the mess or whatever that could be. I definitely felt that I think the first thing I did, we were away for the first part of it. So we were out of the country, thankfully, in one sense. But in another The first thing I did when I got home was like I said, I just started clearing, it just became so overwhelming to try to exist in all the stuff so and we have just been through a flood. So we have a lot of stuff to that got rid of thankfully, that was a quick way to clear out. But then you had to decide what comes back in, you know, how do you make use of your space in a really good way. So I really would love to know some tips. And you can get to that you know other things as well. But for sure, I want to know some tips on when you are a parent or you know, busy mom, and you are trying to find a way to incorporate the things that come with kids or maybe narrow some of that down as they grow up. Do you have any good you know, sort of sorting through tips or storage tips that we could use?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve spoken to a lot of moms groups and one of the questions that always comes up is like how do I go through their toys and you know, edit periodically because a lot of people Feel that, you know, their child is going to become upset if they’re have to lose something or they discover that something’s gone. So depending on the child and the family, I think there’s a few ways that you can approach that one of which, that I like to use is I like to do it when they’re not awake, or they’re not. I go through things that I know that they haven’t touched in, like, you know, several months or even a year. And that’s when I get rid of it. Or if I am going to involve them in the process, I kind of approach it from a, you have had an opportunity to experience joy, or like, you know, fun with these toys. But now maybe we could donate it to someone who doesn’t have as much as you haven’t, and let them experience that pretty sure fun. So and then getting them involved in the process can be really can be fun, and you can kind of like, talk about the toys and reminisce about the fun that they did have with that toy and and that will make them feel, you know, empowered to lend that fund or give that fun off to somebody else. So
absolutely. I love that I like having your kids involved in it a minor, getting a little older. Now I’ve got six, nine and 12. So it I like doing that. I like saying here, you know what, you really haven’t touched these in a while. If it’s so, so special to you, I’ll put it in your hopes, yes, we have a little each of them have their own little cedar chest that they can choose one or two things to put in every year. But yeah, it does seem to help or like you said, we’re not around because out of sight out of mind in reality, you know, if they don’t see it going and don’t use clear bags, that’s a mistake. or clear bins.
Well, that’s like another good point, too, is like setting limits. So for example, my youngest, we just went through all of her things. And she has three bins that she can keep, you know, stuffies, and dolls and the accessories for those things. And so there’s three separate bins, they’re not small bands, like they’re freestanding, probably about two and a half feet tall. And the limit is that she can’t exceed those three things for that category of items. And then if it is getting, you know, becoming too much, because she’s been given gifts or whatever, then we go through it again. So that’s, you know, setting those limits is important. And also using opaque containers. Yes, because I mean, kids, depending on the child’s kids can be really great at keeping things organized and putting things back where they belong. And like, you know if the right systems are in place for them to do that. But are they going to put them back as tidy as maybe you are? I would probably not. So consider like the material of the container that you’re putting things in and for things that you want them to be able to see through to know what’s in them. Definitely use a clear container. But for things that you know, that might get a little messier, or you want to just like reduce that visual clutter, then put them in something that’s opaque.
That’s a great way to put it. Yes. Because I know my oldest son, when it came to his Legos, he was like, Mom, I have to open all the bins to see he’s very organized. And he’ll actually color like coordinate them. Like these are all the blues. And these are all the wheels. But he’s like, but now I have to open every drawer to figure out. Yeah. And I even did labels He’s like, No, but I need to see them. So it’s true. Sometimes they’re old enough to be able to give you that information. And other times, it’s more about what do you need? Do you not want to see that mess, put it in a colored bin or a, you know, an opaque bin, that’s a great idea.
Use labels like that’s one of the things that we do at the end of a project, we label absolutely everything because it’s not only going to help your child or you remember where things go. But if there’s a babysitter, or you know, in times when we’re allowed to have babysitters, or guests in our home, when we’re allowed to do that again, then everyone will know where things belong. And you know, you’re not tempted to put it in something that says a totally different category on it. So you’re more likely to keep those systems in place.
Absolutely. Now, what would you say for really little ones is I mean, labeling is great for the older ones, what would you do for little ones who aren’t reading yet, but need a little bit of a tip to know where things go? Because tidy up can be a fun thing. Yeah, as like an organizing or sorting type activity if they know where to put them.
Yeah, I would say you can use images like icons of whatever the toy category is. Or you could combine images and words so that that helps them even with that like reading stage when they get to that point.
I love that.
That’s a great idea. I remember way back when I used to work in daycares. That was always our brainstorm sessions were always like, how are we going to group these toys and what should we label them? And what picture do we put on the bucket and
I need to like just in terms of the different categories because we always like to keep like categories together. But with kids things it’s important to go broad with your categories. So for example, if your kid has a lot of like different types of vehicles like cars, trains, trucks, planes, all Those things like don’t have a separate bin for each of those just have maybe a few bins that say vehicles. That way, you’re not going to feel that like pressure that oh my god, the planes in the train.
We don’t get too detailed. Yeah. And that sets them up for success too, I think in their own development to be able to say, hey, yay, good for you. Look, it has wheels, and it flies or drives. Yeah, yeah, that’s where it goes. I love that. So what would you say, when when people are maybe moving into a new home or just sorting out their home as they are at this point? A lot of us have done that. What’s a good start? Is there a starting point? Would you say there’s a good way to tackle these jobs?
Yeah, I mean, I would say if you’re, if it’s a move, like try to pack the things that you’re using the least first because you’re not going to need those necessarily between then and when you move. And you can also edit as you’re doing this, so that’s silly to think of, is it my favorite? Is it my best? And is it necessary? Because and the reason I use that as like sort of the litmus test for whether or not something should stay is because, you know, there’s a lot of different philosophies on on what questions to ask yourself, but things that don’t bring me quote unquote, happiness or whatever, are like the clothes that I garden, but they’re necessary, like, yeah, they’re not my favorite. And they’re not my best, but they aren’t necessary. But they you know, they don’t bring me happiness. Right,
exactly. Yeah, my heart corpers for the boys don’t really bring me joy. But right now I need them.
Yeah, so that’s sort of what I like to suggest. And then when you’re unpacking, like, definitely get those priority spaces set up first. So you know, kitchens, you have to use your kitchen every day, your bathrooms, your closets, and then start from like going from there and into those other spaces that aren’t used as frequently, you might want to add offices, home offices, and right now just because of the climate that we’re in, but, um, and, and what I like to say is like, place things where it makes sense for its use. So don’t set for example, in a kitchen, like don’t set up your coffee station on the side of the kitchen and your mugs on the opposite side of the kitchen. Because you can make it so much more efficient if your mugs are placed directly above your your coffeemaker, and stuff like that. So I
love it. That was the lesson my mom taught me. I remember when we bought our first house, she actually came over and unpacked my whole kitchen for me. And she’s a super organized woman this like she’s got it down. Yeah. But I remember like, wanting to have a bit of that control and stay in my kitchen. I’m like, No, no, no, put that there, put that there. And she just went honey makers here, your mugs are here, nobody’s going around the kitchen to find your stuff. So
with your dishwasher, like think about placing the things that are going in and out of it the most closest to that so that, again, you’re not doing this, like weird dance around the kitchen as you’re trying to put things away. And it’s just gonna free up more time on the back end for you. So absolutely. That’s fantastic.
Now, I this is a question I always have for, you know, for anybody who’s great at organizing, do you, you know, for someone like myself, who’s busy, but I work from home, I’m homeschooling. I’ve got kids home all the time. How can I you know, pick a room, pick a drawer, pick a something and just kind of tackle it? Do you schedule it in, like what would be a way to kind of just do some edits throughout your home while you’re living life,
I would say start small for sure, like start with a single drawer and get it looking great. And that’s going to give you the confidence to then move on to something a little larger, like maybe a section of cabinetry in a given space. And, and you know, as you build that confidence, you’re going to you’re going to be more empowered to take on those bigger, bigger spaces and, and go into more detail with them. And you may even find yourself coming back once you’ve gained that confidence. And you’ve built that skill set to come back to those first few spaces and be like, Oh, you know, now that I’m so amazing at this, I realize I could have made a few changes here. And then you can make those changes in those first few spaces that you started in.
Less so true. I did one drawer I remember I actually started out good. And in the New Year wasn’t a resolution of any sort. But I was scheduling out my time and recording times and all that. And I actually wrote once a week, a drawer drawer that I was like, Oh my gosh, this is driving me crazy.
Yeah, well, I
did probably about two or three drawers. And then I kind of fell off the wagon. But those two those two or three that I did, you’re right, like you just felt so I feel so accomplished that I can now open my bathroom drawer and find out you know, not rummage through it. So
I think right now especially even if you’re scheduling things in like give yourself some grace, if you will right now that just prevents you from getting to it. Just move it to the next day. Like Don’t be yourself.
Yeah, or what happened to me actually what ended up happening is I ended up doing an entire closet. redo it started as a drawer and I kind of got carried away so It got bigger than I was prepared to actually tackle those squirrel moments where you’re like, Oh, look, I just found this thing, I should go clean that door, and then you start a bathroom and then the kids drawers and then owner was worse now, it’s worse now than when I started. My husband always says you make more of a mess when you’re cleaning up. Yeah.
We always like to tell our clients that it’s going to look worse before it looks better. Because one thing that we do as part of our method, our process is we literally pull everything out all at once, even start putting things away. So and as we’re pulling things out, we’re creating those categories. And then once we can see everything that we have, we know just how much space we need to allocate it for when we’re putting it back in. So that’s a really helpful tip, too.
What do you do when you know as an organizer? What do you do when you’re confronted with maybe a situation that is complete overwhelm, like, it’s there’s so much belongings and so much stuff? Are you able to coach people down and kind of get through that attachment that I know a lot of people build to their belongings?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think organizing necessarily has to be about editing. But I think, you know, keeping those three questions in mind is that your favorite is it best Is it necessary, and And if it is, those things, and it’s not going to fit in that space is there somewhere where we can create like, a bin or a section somewhere else in the home as backstop that, you know, you’re only keeping the things in this given space that you’re using all the time. But for those like few times a year that you want to access something else, or, you know, I recently was chatting with a client who they have a collection of, you know, concert t shirts, and it’s not something that really get worn, right? A lot of sentimental value, and they want to make sure that those a place that they could periodically look at them. So those might not make sense to put in the actual space that’s being organized, but finding another place in the home. You know, and this is why we always say like start with one or two priority spaces, because inevitably, inevitably, you’re going to find things that don’t actually need to be in the space, right somewhere else. And then once you finish these couple of spaces, you can maybe go on to those other ones,
right? No, that makes sense. I like that even things like holiday decorations, right? I just did a big Christmas edit, because after the flood, we actually couldn’t find most of our Christmas decorations. And then I found them all. So it was a good opportunity to kind of just clear it out, narrow it down, get proper containers for them and find the right spot to keep them where I’ll actually find them, hopefully next year. Yeah. And I think in small spaces, you know, sometimes just finding that storage solution can be tricky. Are there any, you know, any tips for utilizing small spaces that you can think of,
um, definitely use vertical space, you know, even if you don’t have existing shelving or whatever in place, like try to find something that’s going to stack nicely, or see about getting some shelving installed, so that you can really make the most of that that vertical space, because it’s the widthwise that is is
challenging. So that makes sense vertical
space, then then you’re using it to its fullest. And I even have, you know, I recently redid our whole basement storage area, because we had to do an unexpected renovation during the first lockdown. And we just had to very quickly move everything in there. And
yeah, I know, that’s like
so, so we had to, like, take everything out. And I even found bins that would allow for a smaller version of them to fit one in front of the other on top of a larger one. And they would they would Nice. Yeah. So using that front to back space as well is another tip.
That’s a great idea. Now do you have any favorites that like, you know, products or things that are really nice and simple to use for people if they do want to do some of it themselves?
Yeah, for sure. Um, I mean, I sourced from anywhere that makes sense for our clients budget and their aesthetic, like we tried to align all of our products to a client’s decor and style. And part of the reason is because that’s going to encourage them to keep it looking neat, because we want to keep it looking beautiful. But neat method also has their own product line. Um, so we carry you know, I have a couple pieces here that I’ll show you. We have canisters that are really beautiful. They come with blue. I love that but these can be used in the kitchen, but I’m also using them on my daughter’s art cart. And we’ve got some nice, like, bins that that’s hard to see. Those are beautiful. Yeah, and like label holders and things. So, um, what I would say is like opt for neutral colors. Because if your decor ever changes, it’s those neutral colors that are going to last you. And then you’re not going to feel the need to, you know, switch up the color scheme. But also they’re going to, they’re going to help to reduce visual clutter. Because you know, if it’s got patterns and things and you know, bright colors and stuff, those are appropriate, and maybe some spaces more like Kids Spaces, or like arts and crafts type spaces where you can have a little more fun with coloring. But otherwise, I would say stick to neutral colors, and you know, things that things that will last a long time. And then for I have another prop here, hangers, Oh,
those are the velvety ones, right?
Yeah. They’re great because they’re like, super thin, like way more thin than those white plastic ones. But they’re also going to reduce visual clutter because things won’t shift once you hang them. Whereas the plastic ones things tend to like slip. So these will, you know, things will stay where you’ve put them. And again, it’s going to reduce that visual clutter.
I think that was my favorite discovery when I redid the closet because I went oh my gosh, half my sweaters are falling off and you’re trying to hook you know the little lupis around things and then you can’t take them off to wear them.
Just having like, all the same color hanger, it’s not going to draw your eye to that your eyes are going to be drawn to the clothing not the thing that hanging on so
yeah, and they do hang much neater in the closet because you don’t have a big fat hangers and the different sizes. Yeah, exactly. That’s cool. That’s a really good tip. Sorry about the colors because I made that mistake one time and bought a lovely, you know, the IKEA calyx those great cube shells that are like, All rooms can use those. Yeah, I brought a nice I got a nice lime green one the one time at our one house that look great in that house. And then was very sad when I moved in. It had no place. I did paint it. I actually ended up spraying a white balance. I was like, Yeah, that makes sense. I probably should have just bought white. Yeah. Just neutrals are a good idea. I love that. Yeah. So I want to know when we call you. Yeah, when I’m I feel like I should call you today. But I’m in so much just in the middle of unpacking, repacking organizing, you know, since we’ve been home and doing all of that, but it gets interrupted almost every single time because of life. So I’ve got little bits happening all over. So I’m going back to what you’re saying. And just tackling one project at a time, I really need to do that. But if we find ourselves in this situation, where we’re like, oh, my gosh, I really just need another set of eyes on what’s happening or some better ideas.
Yeah, so we find that most of our clients approach us when they’re experiencing some type of life transition, whether that be a move or, you know, becoming empty nesters or welcoming a new child into the family, any any sort of like change in their life. This pandemic is another example. And but really, I mean, anytime, like we we tackle any project doesn’t matter how small work in any space in the home, we even do, you know, offices when people are allowed to be in offices. And we also have a so we have an in home service, we have an unpacking service for when people are moving, I love that. And then we also have a variable. So our virtual service is really interesting right now. Because it’s a way that we’re still able to, you know, stay connected with people and help them out. So that’s more for people who, you know, they want to do it themselves. And they’re motivated to do it themselves. But they really just don’t know where to begin or what products are best and right how to make it the best use of the space. So
that’s a great idea. Yeah. And so what would they just give you a call? Do you do a video call? How do you do that?
Yeah, so we do a video call first. It’s about 30 minutes per space to start. And then I go ahead and put together step by step instructions, placement recommendations, some insert, like photos that are kind of illustrative of what I’m hoping that they can do in that space. And then a clickable shopping list of products that I think would work really well. And then I’m available for text or email or phone support while they’re working on it. And then we have another call at the end where I help them make any little finishing bonuses. That’s amazing. Okay, I
want to know what what has been your most challenging room to date? Have you ever do you ever have a room where you’re like, wow, this one’s really hard. Um, I don’t mean like, specific clients or anything? Yeah.
No. I think kitchens, for me are the hardest because, you know, not the hardest, I should say that. I think it’s just because everybody uses their kitchens so differently. Yeah. It’s it’s all about asking the right questions during those consultations to make sure that we’re going to produce a space that’s gonna work really well for someone. And I think that they’re the ones that I don’t find them like challenging per se. I think it’s just, I feel stressed like have I asked them all the right questions, right. Yeah, yeah, no. But I
would say the same I think kitchens would probably be the most like who, Okay, there we go.
Especially because, you know, some people are really into the different like kitchen gadgets, and some people do more cooking than others. And, and some people have, you know, combined two households or whatever the case may be, or they’ve inherited things that they want to, they want to make use of, or you know, all that kind of stuff. So, there’s definitely more categories I find in a kitchen. Versus like a closet where everybody has very similar categories for closet, right? It’s just a matter of like, how much of those there are. Yeah,
I know, my husband just bought me a KitchenAid. mixer. Yay. But where do I put it?
Yeah, we became the counter, we became bread bakers, during this pandemic, I got a bread machine, which I swore I would never get. And so we had to, you know, find a home for it. So we reject some things and made it work. But Oh, that’s awesome. That’ll be my next.
next next next project. For now, it’s just gonna look pretty on the counter. Well, listen, I love all these tips. These have been amazing, amazing. And I know we’ll probably chat more in the future, I will definitely be you know, using your services at some point, I promise because like I said, as much as I hate clutter, it somehow just follows me. Not nearly not necessarily my clutter, but the people in my home don’t seem to have the same vision I have all the time. So getting us together on the same page is tricky. Yeah, but it definitely helps when you have another voice and you have another person just to have a fresh set of eyes on that. And give some perspective. So I so appreciate all these tips and all the info. So thank you so much. I look forward to chatting more, and have an amazing day. Thanks, you too.