Good to Go: Streamline, redefine your living space this summer

Katie Howard,

WASHINGTON – First there was just me and all of my cherished belongings. Then I met my husband and inherited all of his treasures and sports paraphernalia. Next came two kids and all their toys and necessities.

If your household is anything like mine, then you could be the prisoner of too much stuff. And beginning to organize it all can be downright overwhelming.

Plenty of individuals and families call on the help of personal organizers and closet reorganization companies for help.

Mike Rizzo, a local personal organizer has some tips on how to best tackle your reorganization project.

Rizzo says the time to get a plan in place is now.

While spring is associated as the best time of year for a thorough house cleaning, the summer season is just as good of a time to organize, streamline your clutter and repurpose your home — all before school starts up again, says Rizzo.

“(The) biggest challenge is getting started, and it’s more psychological than anything else,” Rizzo says.

And while some are more reluctant to turn summer downtime into housework, Rizzo suggests those in need of organization take advantage of furlough days or staycations. Earmark a few days to organize and redefine that room. Then, relax in your new space.

Organization Impacts Your Overall Health

If you think that time spent cleaning a room is a waste of time, think again. It can have a big impact on your mind and your mood.

“Organizational changes to people’s physical spaces, in my experience, really do make marked psychological differences,” Rizzo says. “Mood elevation is common when in newly uncluttered spaces, and of course, the simple benefits of being able to easily locate objects when needed make daily life more efficient.”

Rizzo views his work as “objects therapy.” He often sees clients become attached to things that are just around them all of the time.

“Sometimes they serve us, sometimes they don’t,” says Rizzo, who comes in to “break the bond with the objects we are holding onto.”

But it’s more than just pointing to material items and directing the client to toss them away. Rizzo respects the attachment. If there is a piece in someone’s home that is underutilized because it’s lost or forgotten in all the mire of mess, he helps to make it functional again.

Hazard of the Suburbs

Rizzo grew up in Bethesda, Md., and has returned to D.C. after living in New York and working as a commercial photographer.

During his time in New York, Rizzo had to grow accustomed to living in smaller, tighter spaces. As a photographer, he learned how to maximize spaces to make them appear larger.

He brings that eye to his work as a personal organizer and space strategist to help others “make wise, esthetic choices.”

“Things pile up and the space is underutilized,” says Rizzo about living in a big house. “(Living in a bigger house) is not living minimally.”

Rizzo has helped area residents with tackling garages, family rooms, “guest rooms that have become inhabitable for guests,” attics and evolving kids rooms.

Before you pick-up the phone to call an organizing company, Rizzo says try to clear it yourself, first.

“Let’s clear the space, repurpose it before you spend a cent,” he says. “I like practical, low-cost, creative solutions when available. Often, I adapt an idea borrowed from corporate environments, and personalize it for home utility. Make the practical personal.”

Tips For Getting Started

If you do decided you need to bring in some extra help, Rizzo offers tips on how to get started and maximize time with a personal organizer.

Getting started on your own

  1. Make the choice, and just start. Know that the space will only improve with action. One mini-project a day will eventually improve the totality of the space.
  2. Determine your goals for the spaces on which you want to work. Then get realistic in terms of time and budget required.
  3. Break down your goals into a plan. That plan should be made up of project modules, with time estimates for each project. A project can be anywhere from five minutes to five hours. When working, take breaks and hydrate. This work can get dusty.
  4. Do not waste time obsessing over particulars. Any decision on an item that takes more than 10 seconds is too long. Those items go in the “not sure” pile. Efficiency is key and will improve your results.
  5. Every completed project is a success. Recognize it and allow yourself to be pleased. Keeping morale up is essential.

Working with a professional organizer

  1. Be clear about your goals within your family before meeting with the organizer. Have one consistent voice. An organizer should be patient, but know that the more time spent in conversation/negotiation is less time completing the job.
  2. While organizers are generally more than happy to talk, focusing on the tasks at hand is of more material value than disclaimers about why the space is the way it is. The organizer is there to help and wants to be helpful.
  3. Let the organizer organize. Some parts of the process the organizer should do independently and then be reviewed by the owner afterward who will refine the organizer’s work.
  4. Hiring a personal organizer is about letting go. It’s about recognizing that with a little assistance, one’s living space can be much more than it currently is. A new force must be introduced to change the current circumstances, and restore the space to its potential.
  5. Be collaborative, but have a backbone. You have to live with the plan that is implemented. And have fun.

“Organizing can be a treasure hunt and excavation of sorts. We rediscover things we thought we had lost, unearth memories, reimagine what’s been right before our eyes. A remade space is almost like moving without the hassle of moving,” Rizzo says.

Make Some Room

Old mail — including bills, statements and documents — in need of shredding take up a lot of space and cause an eyesore. These papers can be boxed up for the next community shred event or properly disposed of at community service centers.

In D.C. the Department of Public Works holds an event the first Saturday of every month to shred documents. It also collects e-cycling — old tech devices including VCRs, computers, TVs and cell phones.

Free Secure Shredding is offered in Maryland. In Virginia, Fairfax County offers a similar service to residents in the county and surrounding areas.

When it comes to household items and clothes, various Salvation Army and Goodwill Store locations have drop-off sites. In some instances, a pickup from your home can be arranged.

So tackle that mess and feel better. Take a picture. The before and after shots just might make you swell with pride.

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