With the ink barely dry on the long lists of New Year’s resolutions this year, McHenry County residents can put their best foot forward without spending hours shuffling through their closets in search of a matching pair of shoes.
They just have to learn how to organize.
For Patricia Marie Kelly, cleaning out her husband’s closet when they first met was a challenge that changed her life, both personally and professionally.
“I practiced on him with everything,” says Kelly, who owns Marie Kelly Unlimited in Algonquin, which offers home staging, organizing and redesign needs. “He taught me a lot about how people think.”
Kelly, a former accountant, underwent extensive training with the National Association of Professional Organizers before starting her business and currently serves on the board of directors for the Chicago NAPO branch.
Keeping her client’s lives clutter-free with her layouts and organizational tips, Kelly still faces challenges that have her thinking about her husband’s tip to think about other people and how they would respond to her suggestions.
“The closet is a very personal area,” she says. “I have to tell people that they need to let go of personal challenges in order to make functional choices for organization.”
How to Start
Sometimes, it just takes diving into a pile of clothes elbow-deep in order to attack the clutter hands-on.
For John Springston, owner of Clabber Creek Custom Closets in McHenry, scheduling a deep clean once a year is an important step.
“We’re always buying new stuff … if you haven’t worn it in six months, it’s time to get rid of it,” he says.
Purging piles of clothing isn’t something that should involve plenty of negotiations. According to Springston, it’s best to work in what he calls a “ruthless mood” in order to successfully clean out a closet.
After taking everything out and donating or tossing a portion of them, the most-loved items can reclaim their spots in the closet.
“Every piece of clothing you put on your body should make you feel beautiful,” says Clare Mantelman, owner of Organize Now, a home and office organization company based in Barrington that has been operating since 2004.
“Taking everything off the hanger and either donating it or retrying it on can often eliminate ill-fitting garments in minutes.”
As a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Mantelman teaches courses on organizing at McHenry County College and Elgin Community College that offer insider tips on keeping areas clean.
To prevent any distractions that could lead to procrastination, she suggests keeping large garbage bags, a glass of water and the phone all within arm’s reach in the room that needs to be worked on.
“It’s easy to walk away from the job when the phone rings or you get thirsty,” Mantelman says.
As for her favorite organizing tool, Mantelman uses a double rack – which can be purchased at either
The Container Store or Target – in the closet to maximize space. If that doesn’t seem to work, she’ll adjust the top shelf just a couple of feet so that items don’t hang on the floor.
“It’s all about functionality,” she says of planning each design layout for her clients. “There’s a purpose to everything.”
In order to stay organized five months later, Kelly recommends labeling everything.
“It’s not just for kids,” she says. “But if you are doing a kid’s closet, you can label with pictures and install non-permanent fixtures since they’ll grow.”
Stylish, Yet Practical
Keeping a closet stylishly up to date yet easy to navigate is the next step organizers such as Kelly, Springston and Mantelmen emphasize.
Kelly recommends investing in quality hangers, a decision that shouldn’t have to cost a lot of money. Wooden hangers can be found at places like Bed Bath and Beyond that ultimately will give a closet a “finished look” when they match one another.
As for other trends, Kelly says she has seen everything from humble spaces to luxurious dressing room-type closets.
“People are adding chandeliers, curtains and fancy mirrors,” she says.
Springston has noticed even the color palate of closets has changed from popular cherry-reds to various shades of browns for shelving.
While the work is exhausting both mentally and physically for organizers working around the clock for their clients, the job offers plenty of benefits that keep everyone on the right track.
“When I help someone, it’s like a domino-effect,” Kelly says. “People can spend more time with their families and less time organizing.”
The time Kelly spends helping her clients keep their personal items in order also creates friendships that last a lifetime.
“I meet with a handshake, and I leave with a hug,” she says.