A Tale of Two Homes or How Design Affects Organizing

Round library with bar, hidden and open storage. Photo via Brants Realtors
Round library with fireplace, bar, hidden and open storage. Photo via Brants Realtors.



Gather around Sunshines as I tell you a tale of two homes.

Home A is spacious. At the outset, everything seems like it will work in good order. Then you try to function in it. There’s barely any storage. The roof angle cuts off the tops of upstairs closets. There aren’t drawers where you’d conveniently need them for organizational efficiency (i.e. – having a drawer for silverware near where you would logically put plates so that meal prep is quick and efficient.) The walls aren’t long enough for proper furniture placement.

In short, the design of the home SUCKS. It will take a LOT of creative wrangling and releasing of things to make this home function “well enough.”

Home B is spacious as well. However, the rooms are small and aren’t traditionally shaped. At first glance, it would seem that you’ll never be able to fit all of your things. Then you dig in. Everywhere you turn there’s more storage built into the walls. What looks like interesting wall panels turn out to be large cabinets with fully adjustable shelves. Or narrow drawers so that you’ll never lose anything at the bottom of a drawer again. Even the bathrooms work around the pesky under-the-sink storage issues by having bins that angle out, thus avoiding having to organize around plumbing.

In short, the home is so impeccably designed that you may never have to get rid of anything ever again.

Not that I recommend that, Sunshine. After all, you still can’t take it with you.

So why am I telling you about these two homes?

If you are having a hard time making your housework, it may not be just you. It may be that you’re in a poorly or even downright horribly designed-home. For many of my clients, some of our greatest challenges lie in creatively overcoming poor design – so much so that I want to send thank you muffins to many designers for helping my business.

In these examples, Home A belongs to a current client of mine. She was so worried that somehow in her move from California to Texas she lost the ability to maintain an organized home. However, after a walk-through of her house I knew what a major obstacle to her organizing success was – really, REALLY lousy storage design.

Home B is a geometrical beauty designed by A. Quincy Jones. Completed in 1953, it has all the sleek lines and minimalist look expected of a mid-century modern design. Each room is a different geometrical shape so you’d think it would be impossible to live in. However, with the meticulously thought out storage design you don’t need much extra furniture and can easily tuck away all of your belongings into the walls.

So how do you overcome bad design to create and maintain a beautifully organized home?

  1. Let go of everything that you don’t need, use, and love. This may sound harsh but if you don’t need, use, and love it then what is it adding to your home anyway? Nothing. By paring down, it will be MUCH easier to work within your home’s design – good or bad.
  2. Think about how you want to function in each space. The less often you use something, the further away it can be. This sometimes means splitting up categories into sub-categories. For example, in the Home A kitchen the silverware was on the complete opposite side from where the plates were. The ideal location didn’t have a drawer. The next best place held her baking utensils. Even though they were near the other cooking utensils, my client doesn’t bake that often. So we swapped the silverware drawer with the baking utensil drawer. This put the utensils closer to the rest of the baking items while bringing the silverware closer to the plates. While still not the “ideal” location, it was the best we could do within the poor design.
  3. Once you’ve determined how you want to function in each space, purchase any organizing items necessary to make it work. DO NOT do this step before. You may purchase something that won’t work or that you end up not needing. Things will not make you organized and you don’t want to add poor organizing tools on top of poor design. So not fabulous, darling.
  4. Let go of the idea of perfect placement. If you keep operating under the notion of “if only the cabinets were just so” or “when I remodel the house” or “when I move into a better-designed home” you’re short-changing your life in the present. Don’t do that. Make the best of the current situation. When the situation changes then you can play around with other systems. However, until then, deal with the house you’re dealt.

If you’re having a hard time organizing your home no matter how many things you let go of and systems you implement, it may not be you. It may be a poor design. If that’s the case, make the best out of the situation but then let go and stop blaming yourself for being unable to maintain a system.

And if you find out who so badly designed your storage, string them up by the toes and feed them soggy toast so they never do that to another home again!



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2 Replies to “A Tale of Two Homes or How Design Affects Organizing”

  1. Judy Yaron PhD

    Indeed, Melinda,where every item in your home goes, is crucial to your daily happiness. We recently remodeled our apartment – with lots of storage space: cabinets, closets, and drawers. Every item has a “home”. I don’t own an ironing board, because I can’t find one to fit the utility closet and I refuse to have one hiding behind a door.
    My rule is simple: We don’t buy anything unless we know exactly where it will go. This includes arts and crafts as well. Thanks for this refreshing article! I am sure many readers will benefit from it! HUGS <3

    1. Melinda

      An excellent rule, Judy! Thanks for the comments and compliments. Glad you enjoyed the article!

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