Sarah Reynolds is the founder of Organised Chaos, a professional organising service.
Like many people, I was highly #influenced by Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. Being organised is such a pleasing fantasy – knowing where everything is, having it all neat and tidy and ready for use, must be incredibly satisfying.
I want that. But I’m not naturally that person. So if I can’t have Marie herself in my house to teach me her ways, who will? Step in Sarah Reynolds, founder of Organised Chaos, a professional decluttering and organising service based in Dublin.
“I was always quite neat and tidy, but I was watching Oprah one day with my mam and [professional organiser] Julie Morgenstern was on to organise the Oprah offices. That was a lightbulb moment for me, to see it could be a business,” Sarah tells me.
“For me, organisation is all about making my life a little more comfortable. So the level of organisation you need in your life to achieve that totally depends on the person,” she says.
In a typical week, I could be doing consultations for offices or businesses that might want to bring me in. I might be going to IKEA to shop for another client. I could be helping with a move, decluttering the old place and organising the new place.
Like Marie Kondo, Sarah has written a book on her tips for decluttering and organising your home, and is now offering an online service for people in need of help with a particular project. Is the pile of shite under the stairs genuinely scaring you? Do you need to blitz the home office? Sarah can advise you on that.
Like many twenty-somethings, I rent, and share my home with my boyfriend and two other housemates. While it’s generally spacious, the kitchen is tiny and half our living room is a dumping ground for crap. Sarah came to my gaff last week, offering a bit of advice and giving my wardrobe a revamp – here are my main takeaways from the visit.
Our main issue with the kitchen is that there aren’t enough cabinets or shelves for all the bits we need to store. Appliances take up all available surfaces, and our presses are groaning with food, crockery and cookware. Aside from literally building more cabinets, what can we do?
Well, it’s all about smartly using what we already have, of course. The Variera range from IKEA is specifically designed for tiny kitchens – Sarah recommends the shelf inserts to make shelves within your shelves (shelfception), and the boxes for storing snacks and spices neatly. Also, get a lazy Susan to keep your cooking oil, soy sauce and condiments handy.
This is something that kept cropping up in every room of the house, from the kitchen to the bathroom – keep stuff with other stuff like it. This may sound obvious, but I was…. not doing that. Things were put where they fit/were best hidden, rather than where it actually made sense for them to be.
In my bedroom, for example, lesser-worn shoes were piled in my wardrobe, getting all tangled in my clothes, while my everyday shoes were crammed on an IKEA bookcase with my handbags and other random crap. It made sense in theory – the shoes I wore more often were closer to hand. But did I completely ignore the hidden shoes? Yes. Was I afraid to open the left door of the wardrobe in case they all fell out? Absolutely.
Sarah pulled out all the shoes from the bottom of the wardrobe and placed them on said bookcase, and I have to say it makes sense. Seeing them all laid out like that is reminding me that I a) have a lot of them and b) should wear some of them more. We also managed to declutter six pairs I wasn’t wearing any more in the process. Six. Delighted!
Once the bags were banished from the bookcase, Sarah wanted me to rehome them on the shelf above my wardrobe, where I was prone to flinging things that wouldn’t fit in other drawers. “Alas, I am a shortarse!” I protested, but as it turns out, being a shortarse is not an excuse to ignore valuable space.
Sarah suggested that I put all my bags in a basket or storage box that I could easily pull down (with the help of my little stepladder) – they now live up there all snug in their dustbags, and what was once an under-used space is being put to work.
I don’t know about you, but my wardrobe contained a weird and wonderful selection of hangers, many of which were left behind by previous tenants of our home. Sarah immediately got rid of all but the velvet ones you can find in Penneys or the €2 shop, which are slim enough that you can really pack ’em in, if needed.
With everything on the same type of hanger, it soon became clear that I have enough space for LOTS more clothes, even after hanging some of the more summery stuff I’d had vacuum-packed away. (I will take any excuse for a browse on ASOS.)
Bonus tip: Sarah advises “dressing the hanger like you would yourself” – doing up top buttons, zipping up dresses, etc. It just makes everything look neater.
My boyfriend and I are lucky enough to have a wardrobe each – Sarah suggested that instead of sticking to our regimented ‘his and hers’ system, why don’t we share the two wardrobes? Lots of couples are too stuck on this ‘yours and mine’ approach, she says, even when it’s not really working for either of them.
He has a single rail, which is perfect for my longer jumpsuits and dresses, and his shirts and jumpers can go on my lower rail. MAXIMISING THE SPACE.
Everyone knows "the chair" pic.twitter.com/xp1xxAQ8PJ
— Sarcasm (@ComedyPosts) September 5, 2015
We all have The Chair. Or The Desk. Or The Table. Whatever item of furniture it is, you know what I’m talking about.
Sarah says you should only have a desk in your house if you absolutely need it, because they are just natural magnets for junk. She pointed out that we somehow have three small tables in our living room, something I’d barely registered until now. One was actually being used as a coffee table. The other two? Housing crap.
This is a difficult one, considering when you’re renting you inherit a good bit of furniture from your landlord, some of it almost definitely stuff they just wanted to get out of their own house. But if you can take the chair out of your room and put it somewhere else, do.
There’s plenty of stuff here for me and my housemates to work on in the next few weeks, and a trip to IKEA is most definitely needed. Do I feel more organised though? Yes. Do I want Sarah to rejig my whole life? Yes.
You can find out more about Sarah and book a consultation here.