I receive a handful of similar questions and assumptions when I disclose my profession to people I meet. Number one is whether I’ve worked with hoarders (the answer: I have not and I would not, except perhaps under the direction of a therapist specializing in this work). Number two is the assumption that the Container Store is my favorite place. I sense that I let people down when I say it’s quite the contrary.
That’s not to say I haven’t found myself slowly stepping through the aisles of this store, a bit excited by the look and feel of these different organizing mechanisms and products. They’ve come up with some clever solutions and I love organizing as well as good design. But solving a stuff problem with more stuff just isn’t my way. And stores, while at times useful, can never fill me with joy. They tend to instigate a lot of questioning about whether any of this is worth it and a desire for less. It can also be a bit overwhelming.
Client inquiries about where to get closet shelves and other similar product recommendations remind me that I’m not a typical organizer. I don’t have a go-to answer for large scale organizing solutions because I find they are rarely needed and often very specific to the client.
At the beginning of a project, clients often ask me what they need to buy. The answer is almost always nothing. We are completely focused on addressing the causes of disorganization and downsizing all the things they no longer need. The organizing part comes at the end once we see what remains and have worked through goals, priorities, and needs.
If I suggest an organizing product purchase, it tends to be something small like a file storage bin, mail sorter, or the occasional photo box. Most other needs are almost always addressed using the storage, organizing products, and furniture the client already has. One time I suggested that a client purchase a jewelry holder, but only after paring down all her jewelry that was scattered among different containers. This is one of the few examples where purchasing something can be helpful: one organizer, with a specific purpose, to address all of your needs that can’t easily be met by things you own. It was also the more precious stuff- jewelry- that requires greater care. In this case, she could take advantage of the ingenuity and creativity of the product designers to find something special.
We can take advantage of products that meet our particular needs. In fact, a really well designed product that solves a particular problem we are struggling to overcome can be incredibly worthwhile. After all, organizing is meant to maximize efficiency. I’m not against products wholesale, nor do I view organizing products as inherently problematic. It’s simply that we must first complete the more difficult work to get our lives down to our essentials and be able to articulate the specific problems that a product can answer. Only then can a trip to the Container Store to get that item be heavenly.