Managing the mess

If the top shelf of your closet has become a catch-all for old photo albums, unused gifts and the ashes of loved ones, chances are some major organization is in order.
“But it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” says Newbury Park resident Teine Kenney, founder of Organize This, one of Southern California’s largest organization companies.
Clutter can happen to the best of us, and if it’s not dealt with early it can cause frustration, anxiety and the feeling of a loss of control. Kenney says more than 50 percent of her business is related to psychological issues behind the chaos. People call her for help when they “can only walk halfway into their closets and they need the fluff cycle on their dryer to freshen wrinkled clothes.”
Rita Wolf, another pro who comes to the rescue of homeowners whose mess has gotten the best of them, says she helps clients “from the beginning to the end” of their projects. Wolf, a full-service closet space planner based in Agoura Hills, works with families moving into new homes and with “empty-nesters who convert extra bedrooms into walk-in closets or are moving into smaller homes.”
Lori Gersh of Westlake Village’s Leave It to Lori specializes in organizing homes and moves. She describes closets as “prime real estate.”
“When I get a call, usually there’s been a trigger,” she says. “This can be anything from a new baby in the home or the loss of a loved one to the merging of households.”
People will often seek her professional skills “to feel more in control of what’s going on.”
David Harris, from Ventura’s The Wiser Organizer, says he understands folks with cluttered spaces and “admires people who invite a stranger in to see their mess.”

When to call a professional

Gersh suggests people go through their closets, when the seasons change. But once closet space has reached maximum capacity and the prospect of organizing it feels overwhelming, it’s probably time to call in a professional.
Kenney says it’s important to work with an impartial person to ease the decision-making process. If budget’s a concern, a candid friend who’s willing to help out might be the answer.
Time is also a consideration. A professional can accomplish in hours what it might take an untrained person days to complete—or years to get to in the first place.
And an expert will ask the right questions and be nonjudgmental. “There’s a fine line between offering suggestions and listening to what a client’s style is,” says Harris.

This closet designed by Rita Wolf has A place for everything Telescopic hanging rods are great for airing freshly returned dry cleaning or for pulling out an outfit while you choose accessories. Belts and ties are tucked away behind a sliding panel. Laundry and dry- cleaning hampers are also hidden behind doors that swivel out. A his-and-hers island has drawers on both sides and is topped with a piece of marble that matches the master bath countertops. Inset frosted glass doors hide the cabinet’s contents, keeping the closet looking in order. Solid stained maple wood doors and side panels take front stage while concealing melamine shelves and backing. The velvet-lined jewelry drawer has a hidden lock to discourage unwanted visitors. A three-panel, touch-latch mirror easily angles out to give a total view of a great outfit.

How much will it cost?

	Organizing expert Teine Kenney encourages people to adopt tips offered by the guru of the organization industry, Julie Morgenstern, in her best-selling book “Organizing From the Inside Out.” 	First, take everything out of your closet, home office, pantry, garage or any space that needs organization. Then follow these simple steps to create SPACE:    	ort everything into categories: shoes, sweaters, long dresses, short skirts, etc.   	urge: Decide what you want to throw away, donate, sell or keep.    	ssign a location: Know in advance where things will go.   	ontainerize: Install hooks, shelving and baskets to hold various items.   	qualize: Put things back in a way that makes the process logical so you’ll  	keep up the new order.  	What about the old adage “If you haven’t worn something in a year, get rid of it”? It no longer applies, Gersh says. Her rule of thumb: “If it feels good when you put it on, it gets to stay—even a ratty old cozy sweatshirt.” A professional will generally charge $75 to $85 an hour. The entire cost is based on how detail-oriented a client is, says Gersh. “Some are more particular, and others just want it ‘good enough’ or are working on a budget.”
What your closet says about you
Harris credits interior designer Nate Berkus, a regular on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” with coining the phrase “People are either revealers or concealers.”
If you cherish pieces and you want to show everything off, chances are you’re a “revealer.” On the other hand, if you prefer a simpler, Zen-like look, you are probably a “concealer.”
Either way, most of us can use a little help organizing our stuff—which in turn helps us feel more organized in life.