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  • Tori Gwin

Getting My Sh*t Together—an interview with my best friend, the professional organizer.

By Tori Gwin

A goal of mine for 2021 is to get my house organized. I am one of those people who appears organized, but I tidy the clutter and never really go back to deal with it. I know that organizing with intention and being more minimalistic will make me happier and a more productive person. You know that feeling you get after you clean your room and make your bed up with fresh sheets? I LOVE that feeling and I want that feeling all the time. This is something that is in my control, so I am getting started.

Luckily, my best friend Anna is a professional organizer with her own business called UnclutterCo . Unluckily, she lives in Boulder, Colorado so she can’t come and do it for me. Anna and I went to high school and college together. After living together in college, I learned she just knows how to LIVE WELL. Although she was/is a bonafide wild woman, she was always organized, had clean folded laundry, owned a vacuum and the fridge and pantry was always stocked with healthy food. It was impressive for college, and now she has taken it to a whole other level with UnclutterCo.

I knew I needed her help with my organization undertaking but then I thought I could also use these tips when staging a home for a listing, so I interviewed her to get me on my way. I am excited to share her interview on the Olive Well Blog so you can take away some nuggets of wisdom and inspiration.

Here we go!

Tori: Do you have a recommendation of a first project to tackle?

Anna: Start small! If you’re new to organizing, or intimidated and overwhelmed by where to start, begin with a “junk drawer” or something comparable. Sort your items into like categories. Be discerning about what stays, gets re-homed and what gets tossed, gifted or recycled.

Olive Well (OW) tip - We are obsessed with these clear acrylic stackable drawer organizers with a hint of gold!

Tori: When tackling a project, what is your first step?

Anna: First always is to purge. Make sure the only things you’re keeping are items you truly use, need, or love. Once you’ve established that everything in your home serves a purpose and is there for the long haul, you can begin to space plan and shop for the right product and start setting up systems.

OW tip - around Chicagoland there are a plethora of places to donate things you no longer need or have space for. The Salvation Army has several drop off locations for furniture and thingamajigs (it's a technical term) and they also schedule pick ups for bigger items you may not be able to haul away on your own. Junk Remedy is another great local service for any job big or small. If you have not heard of Habitat for Humanity ReStore we encourage you to check it out. They also have great volunteer opportunities. Need to donate or sell old clothes? Check out ThredUp or Crossroads Trading. Here are a couple more great organizations accepting donations of all things home related around Chicagoland; Chicago Furniture Bank, Brown Elephant, Open Books, Cancer Federation Chicago.

Tori: What do you think is the most important room/area in your home to be organized?

Anna: Since sleeping and eating are basic human functions, I believe the kitchen and bedroom are both essential spaces to be organized. That’s what I recommend to clients who are moving into a new home. You may visit other rooms frequently, but you’re always going to sleep and always going to eat.

OW tip - We are in total agreement that your kitchen and bedroom should be clean but have you also considered the air quality in these rooms you spend so much time in? We love our Molekule air filter in our bedroom and in the main living room. They now even offer a mini version for a smaller room and at a smaller price - they also look pretty darn cool too. Speaking of clean air don't forget to change the filter in your furnace at least every other month.

Tori: What are your favorite products for organization?

Anna: There are so many fabulous options! I love lazy Susans in the kitchen and in medicine cabinets. I use “plastic bins with handles” from The Container Store somewhere in the house at almost any job because they are so versatile and inexpensive. The Container Store has shoe organizers that stack and have a drawer that pulls out. I use them for all sorts of spaces, but they’re my favorite under the sink! The most important thing about a product is to always measure your space before you shop!

OW tip - Ask anyone who works at Olive Well - they love a good home cooked meal! Add some spice to your life and enjoy these spice drawer organizers.

Tori: What is your favorite organization hack?

Anna: Get creative with the space you have! Use the inside of doors and cabinets. Use vertical space by getting bins that stack on top of each other. Be honest with yourself about the amount of stuff you have in the space you’re trying to keep it all.

OW tip - we are really into the Rejuvenation hooks for behind your doors. Our favorite might be this little cute dog hook.

Tori: What is the best way to maintain an organized space?

Anna: Organizing is very personal. Any space can look beautiful, but it needs to properly function for a family or individual in order to be maintained successfully. My advice: create zones and categories that are specific enough they hold you accountable but not so niche you feel like you’re limited. If you are a visual person, use clear bins so you can see what’s inside. Labels are wonderful because they take the guessing out of bins, baskets and containers. If you take the guesswork out of wondering where things are, you’ll save yourself so much time and energy.

OW tip - we are very into these white storage bins from IKEA. Not only are they totally affordable, but they are stackable and create an organized look.

Off I go to the Container Store to get this organized party started…. :)


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