Decluttering to add peace and functionto your home.
By Dawn Duncan
There is nothing like a quarantine to force us to look at all aspects of life: work, relationships, lifestyle, habits and our home environment. Suddenly, being home most of the time has helped us realize that we are a mess…or rather, our homes are in dire need of some organization.
Leslie VanDerven, owner of Welcome Home Organizing, Staging & Feng Shui, is a feng shui practitioner and professional organizer who has seen an uptick in people reaching out for assistance in making sense of the excess clutter that surrounds them and creating more organized living spaces.
Feng shui is the practice of arranging thepieces in a living space in order to create balance with the natural world, with the end goal being to harness energy forces and establish harmony between an individual and their environment.
VanDerven and her husband purchased their first home in Telluride, a custom property designed and built by the homeowner, who was a professional builder. As they learned about the house, they realized every facet of the home, including décor, had personal meaning and purpose. The builder had constructed this home with his own hands and brought in pieces and features that were from his travels and connections.
“Everything had a story, from the embedded glass in the steam shower brought back from a trip to Mexico, to a truss brought from Ames, Colo. It was a home built with intention.” This experience sparked interest in feng shui and VanDerven enrolled in a course in 2008.
When it came time to sell the Telluride home, VanDerven applied the skills she accumulated to work with the color and elements in the home and cleared space in order to create harmony and flow in each room. She found the results to be very effective in creating positive showings and, ultimately, a sale.
She explains that people simply have toomuch stuff, and tend to hang onto items, either out of sentimentality, obligation or just because they ignore the clutter that excessive shopping or lack of organization creates. She works with her clients to select items that have meaning, that are used often, and that are truly appreciated and important. She encourages the client to then donate, toss or sell the rest.
“I hear a lot of reasons and excuses as to why people are clinging to certain items,” VanDerven says. These range from items that belonged to a loved one, items they used to use and think they will use again or wear again when it comes back into style. The problem here, VanDerven says, is that these items have lost their purpose and they are just collecting dust or creating chaos.
“I am not an interior designer,” VanDerven adds, “but I do know how to create space that is usable and set up with intention so people can function in the best possible way.” Usually, she can find everything someone needs to refresh their space already in their home; it is just a matter of finding or repurposing it. The process of using feng shui, along with organizing, can be especially helpful when moving, in order to stage a space for photos and showings while helping to minimize the stress of selling the home.
For VanDerven, working with clients effectively comes down to focusing on the right questions. Organizing goes well beyond containers and files; it’s emotional. Going through paperwork, books, clothing, gadgets and heirlooms spark memories and feelings and therefore evaluation is so key in deciding what to keep and what to throw out; it’s about understanding what is important and why.
Additionally, changing daily habits such as how to process and store mail items can make a difference in keeping a home tidy. Instead of hoarding mail that isn’t necessary, such as flyers and catalogues, keeping only essential bills and information cuts down immediately on clutter. Keeping items stored in the same place each time they are put away also helps to stay organized. Keys, mail, shoes, jackets and other goods that are used often should be placed in a designated spot each time they are put away, rather than thrown in different parts of the home. This, along with quick, basic tidying, is where people can start to clean up their living spaces and create a more harmonious, peaceful environment that is free of chaos and that dreaded last-minute scramble to find items.
Theresa Frith and daughter Tatiana Nord are the owners of Simple Life Organizing in Fort Collins and specialize in assisting commercial and residential clients to find ways to create simplicity and serenity in their spaces through efficient design, repurposing and purging of items. Typically, the two will consult with a potential client, assess what needs to be done design-wise and assign a timeline. They will then go to work to assist the client with discovering what they really need in the home and what has become excess.
Frith has a background in design and was also a real estate agent in California prior to moving to Colorado. Her trained eye for detail and space planning are key to scoping a space and quickly identifying ways to organize.
Nord’s background includes social work and experience with The Container Store to provide custom closet design. Through her education in psychology, she has been able to tap into the “why” behind many clients’ situations: buying and keeping items stems from deeper feelings and beliefs than what may show on the surface. Nord’s husband is a native of Sweden and when the couple lived there, she learned about Scandinavian design and philosophy on how to keep a home organized and clean.
“The Scandinavian culture, unlike America’s, focuses on buying what you love and investing in quality. They reuse items and just add simple touches to refresh or seasonalize them,” she says.
One example of this is holidaydécor. Whereas many of Frith and Nord’s clients have so many boxes of holiday items that they can no longer remember what each box holds or if they even use the items anymore, Scandinavians tend to have their regular décor, simply enhanced with fresh pine branches and red ribbons as Christmas accents, rather than hundreds of dollars’ worth of themed decorations. “People here have so many things that they can’t find anything, so they just buy new. Constantly.”
Today, Frith and Nord focus on helping commercial clients redesign office and storage spaces, and residential customers who are seeking more peace, less exhaustion and increased tranquility in their lives.
“We love to help people depersonalize items that are no longer useful to them,” Nord says. “The mental wellbeing that stems from this is astonishing.”
Together, this duo believes two minds are better than one. “We work fast together and can tackle the physical aspects of organizing quickly. We also enlist the help of a carpenter when needed,” Frith says. They note that people feel like failures when their offices and homes are a mess. This trickles into feeling drained, scattered and tired, which then usually equals not doing anything about the problem. It grows from there.
“We want to help people address where they’re at, then move forward, ensuring there is an upside to investing the energy to organize a space,” Frith says.
From creating designated spots for toys to getting rid of “skinny clothes,” it’s about facing the clutter and vowing to clear space for new energy in the home and your life.
Tips For Simple Organizing:
- Be careful buying in bulk; if you aren’t going to be able to use large amounts of something before it expires, don’t buy it. Also, don’t buy it if you don’t have space to store it properly.
- Designate spaces for toys, keys, shoes, coats and other items that are used regularly. Put things back in their designated spot each time they are used.
- Teach kids to put toys away in “zones.” Example: Red zone for dolls, blue zone for games, green zone for trucks, etc.
- Go through kitchen utensilsand toss out anything that is not regularly used.
- Do basic/light tidying each day,but once a week, get everyone involved in putting things away, cleaning and organizing so the task isn’t monumental or time-consuming.
- Ask yourself if items make you feel happy and energized (or anxious and negative). Get rid of anything that isn’t creating positive reactions.
- Add plants to your home that have soft, rounded edges and that are green, healthy and thriving.
Dawn Duncan is a writer, editor and marketing agency owner. To comment on this article,firstname.lastname@example.org.