Okay, I know January is a time to reflect and set new goals and I know it is month we feel we must get organized. Around New Years we started the very big task of cleaning out the basement. This is a big job and I don’t want to do it alone as some of the “mess” and stuff is Luke’s too. Anyway, we were gung-ho and did three days down there and got half way. We haven’t done anything since. I thought I’d call on my friend Jeffrey Phillip, organizing guru for some help! I actually first met Jeffrey at the Wayfair Conference in Boston last October and we had so much fun hanging out. We had a lovely lunch with Jen from Chronicles of Home and Gilit from The Bannerie. You know when you just click with people? Well, I could have sat there all day chatting about design and decorating and blogging. What fun!
Are you wanting to get more organized? Did you have grand plans like us and somehow got waylaid? Jeffrey has helped so many including Katie Couric and other clients. Here’s our conversation:
Photo Credit: Adam Wasserman
Get Organized with Jeffrey Phillip
Jeffrey, I must admit that I’m a bit of a pack rat. I wouldn’t go so far to say I’m a hoarder (although my mom might disagree). I seem to collect furniture, ball jars, design magazines and books. Our basement and closets are full which is hard to believe when we came over from England with only ten boxes.
I’m so glad you’re here to help me and my readers figure out some tricks and tips to getting organized this month. I can’t believe this month of January is known as “Get Organized” Month!!!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you want to go into professional organizing?
Jeffrey: I’m a Virgo. I’m an organizing nerd and I’ve embraced that. I love efficiency, making things better and solving puzzles in routines, systems, physical spaces, and anywhere my eye spots the slightest touch of disorganization. For pretty much my entire life, I have found enjoyment in design, decorating and organizing. When I was a child I would constantly rearrange my room and organize my closet, but it didn’t stop there. I went back to help my first grade teacher cleanup her room at the end of the school year throughout each year of grade school. However, it wasn’t until after college when I was working in the fashion and marketing worlds that I realized this innate thing I had always done was a passion that I needed to explore more and consider turning into a career. After marinating on the idea for several years, I finally started to put things in order (pun..somewhat intended, ha!) so that I could make it happen for myself. Then the big day came when I gave my resignation notice to my employer, and I officially jumped into doing this work full time. That was almost six years ago. I love reflecting back on moments in my life like working with my first grade teacher and think to myself, “of course this makes sense.” It is simply a natural fit.
I bet you have some pretty funny stories working with celebrities. Is there one you can share?
Jeffrey: One of the funniest moments was actually published in the March 2012 issue of O Magazine when I was working with Gayle King and Adam Glassman, the Creative Director for O. We were doing a huge closet edit with Gayle and while we were sorting through her handbag collection, of which there many dozens of them, we came across several bags that had remnants left in them after their last use. When we pulled out a tampon from the big, brown Birkin style handbag, Gayle’s reaction was priceless. “Woah! I haven’t had my period in 6 years!” she said. Needless to say that bag hadn’t been used for quite some time and very quickly hit the donation pile amidst a lot of laughter.
Sifting through all the junk and treasured possessions in the home / basement can seem so overwhelming. Where should we start?
Jeffrey: It’s totally overwhelming, which is one of the reasons we tend to put off the task of organizing or cleaning. It builds and builds to a point that it gets so big physically and therefore even more insurmountable in our minds, that we tend to put it off as long as possible. We simply cannot fathom how to deal with it. The downside here means it will most likely just keep getting worse. To make the project more manageable, break it up. For a space like a basement, section off different areas of focus to better channel your energy and time. Think of it as putting horse blinders on and only looking at what’s in front of you. Since the enormity of the work is one of the things that typically causes us to get overwhelmed, keeping your focus small will help to manage the anxiety of that work and the decisions that lie ahead. Paradoxically, though, when working on a large project we have to try not to get too wrapped up in the small, micro level details, and maintain focus on organizing at a macrolevel first. For example, while working on a section of the bigger project, you happen to come across photos in a box or scattered about – or some other smaller grouping of items or collectibles. Don’t get sucked into the task of further organizing those items amongst themselves. It’s very easy for us to feel the need to work on them, but hold off on that kind of deep dive for now. Pull all those like items together, create zones to safely store them to the side and then resume focus on the bigger project at hand. Once the larger project is complete, you can revisit the smaller organizing tasks if you feel it’s necessary. For some of us, just having all the photos together in one spot is enough, but some will want to have them categorized by year. For the latter folks, save that task for a different time. Organizing doesn’t always mean you have to get everything separated down to the smallest detail immediately.
Things are falling out of my fridge and I can never find all the jars. Can you give us some tips on organizing this space?
I hoard magazines, I have back issues of Domino, BHG, Coastal Living, Country Living, House & Home. The list goes on and on. It is so hard for me to get rid of them because I think I MAY need to go back to them for design inspiration. I think my readers and fellow bloggers feel the same way. What do we do with our magazines collections?
Jeffrey: I encounter this a lot with clients and the questions are always the same. What if I missed something? What if I need inspiration? What if I need to reference this down the road? This is something even I struggle with myself! However, I realized I was never really going back to them, and I’ve seen firsthand that my clients never go back to them. Research and reference has changed a lot in the past 10 to 15 years, as has technology, obviously. With the ongoing development and maturation of online resources and the sheer volume of information churned out on a daily basis, not just monthly or weekly, it’s become very easy to hold onto a lot and also never go back to it. Personally, I use Evernote and my iPhoto to help me battle this problem. If I come across a story or inspirational interiors in a physical magazine, I scan the article or snap a photo and get the paper out of my house. Evernote, allows me to quickly and easily save digital inspiration and photos either from my own scans or photos as well as from the internet with their webclipper. From that point, I tag everything with searchable keywords like, Christmas, Bedroom, Kids room, etc.
What are three things people hold onto but shouldn’t?
- Gifts from loved ones that they don’t like, use or have a need for. There is so much guilt for some of us when it comes to letting go of these items because we attach to them a higher emotional value in lieu of acknowledging and accepting their lower practical value. Just because we donate the item doesn’t mean we don’t value the relationship or who that person is to us in our lives. It’s an object and does not represent the person or relationship. Time spent together, phone calls, and shared memories are better to hang onto in our hearts than an ugly frame.
- “Good” shopping bags. We all have this insatiable urge to keep a sturdy shopping bag, especially when it is from a fancy brand that we don’t shop everyday. Having a few of these on hand is helpful, but we don’t need to keep enough bags that you can deliver the whole town’s groceries to them. If you feel bad getting rid of them, start carrying reusable bags (in moderation of course) with you in various sizes to cater to all your purchases.
- Plastic food storage containers. Maybe they are from takeout or maybe they are old Tupperware. Whatever the case may be, unless you freeze a lot of food throughout the year, no one needs 25+ pieces of plastic storage containers… especially the takeout kind. Recycle!
Paper clutter is huge with mail and kids paper etc. How can one cut down on this?
Jeffrey: One of the quickest ways to cutdown on mail is to go to optoutprescreen.com and www.dmachoice.org to remove yourself from credit card offers and other miscellaneous pieces of junk mail. Registering your information with these two services can be life changing. You can also use websites, apps and services like catalogchoice.org or paperkarma.com.
For kids’ papers, create a file each year to collect important papers that come home and you think you may need or just want to save. Then at the end of the year, go through the file to whittle things down to only what is really needed or extra special. I also like apps like ArtKive that allow you to photograph special artwork to keep it in an album or turn it into a book, calendar, etc. You can also do this yourself, by photographing special works with your phone and saving them in an album on your computer. Once it’s photographed, toss it.
Are there any products you like to help people organize but are also pleasing to the eye?
Jeffrey: I love discovering efficient products that help make people’s everyday lives easier and have a sense of beauty or design aesthetic that doubles its appeal. There are plenty of products out there that I adore and use that are gorgeous, but many of them require more maintenance by people in order to keep things looking good. Then, there are the products that flex their organizing prowess by blending practicality and multi-functionality with great style. One of the items that’s recently caught my eye is the CB2 & SAIC Jewelry Mirror. It’s simple, sleek, smart and functional. It sneaks in an element of organization to a common household need without making it obvious or difficult to keep neat.
For many the new year is a time, to get back on track and organize not only their homes but also their schedules and lives. Can you offer any tips in time management or lifestyle organization?
Jeffrey: Pretty much since the moment I started doing this work professionally, I have been saying, “it’s not just about organization. It’s about a lifestyle.” Over the years, this statement rings more and more true. One of the most important things to think about when it comes to organization, whether it be your closet, your pantry or time management is to think about your lifestyle. As we all make the resolution to organize various parts of our lives, it is important to think about our daily routines, habits and the way we live. The secret to having successfully organized lives is to make gradual changes to our daily routines the same way we would do with our diets and exercise regimens when we want to live healthier lives like eating less sugar, or more greens, or exercising in the morning. Organizing is not just about weekend projects. Smart and successfully organized spaces have an ongoing impact on the way we live and therefore require a certain kind of commitment to maintain them. One of the best ways I can think to do this is by implementing a maintenance schedule for yourself and/or your family. This could be taking 10 to 20 minutes everyday to clean up the house and put things back in their home. Or, maybe it’s spending 5 minutes sorting the mail and taking action on what next steps are with each item. By scheduling time regularly, your organization will stay in place, you will create new daily habits and, over time, your lifestyle will shift. The other important thing is to be patient with yourself. These changes take time and it’s easy to drop the ball. If the passion doesn’t come naturally to do this type of stuff, it’s not going to be exciting and will likely feel torturous. But, I’d encourage people to find ways to make it fun and, more importantly, easy to feel successful. Start by adding in small tasks or changes to your daily routine bit by bit. Be proud of the little victories like keeping up with the tasks you’ve set up and remember that like everything else, it will get easier and more natural the longer you do it. 🙂
Do you offer online services?
Jeffrey: While I don’t currently offer services online, I do keep an active presence on social media and try to stay actively involved with all of my friends and followers there. I love sharing tips and ideas to inspire them and answer any questions they have or share pictures they post. Last year I began my weekly tradition of #TossItTuesday, where I post photos of things I’m tossing in my own home, my clients’ homes, or maybe even something I found on the street that someone else is tossing. I use #TossItTuesday as a vehicle for people to share their decluttering success stories in order to inspire others to do the same. It’s a little way I’ve used social media to create a community of people who want to make the honest commitment of living a simpler and neater life.
A huge thank you to Jeffrey for sharing all these tips with us! I learned so much from the fridge organization video and this packing video he did with Katie Couric. Luke and I both over pack.
Be sure to follow along with Jeffrey! Here’s how you can!