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Maximizing Space

Organize your home from the closet to the pantry

A childhood playing with interlocking plastic blocks may provide all the training and experience needed to organize and design a closet for maximum space efficiency.

Dan Reeder, owner of Northern Kentucky Cedar, a sprawling Maysville-based plant that produces cedar closet systems, explains his company’s operation like this: “It’s kind of like a Lego set for your closet. You find the parts and pieces you need and install it yourself or have a handyman do it.”

For DIYers looking for ways to use every square inch of space-deficient areas—bedroom closets, the kitchen pantry, a home office—Reeder and several other organizing pros have solutions for maximizing your space.

From raw log to end consumer

Northern Kentucky Cedar, served by Fleming-Mason Energy Cooperative, makes wall and hanging kits, ventilated and solid shelving, shoe and corner cubbies and more, all designed to organize a closet gone rogue with clutter and mess. Products are made of aromatic red cedar that is environmentally friendly, naturally odor-absorbing and insect-repellant.

“Think grandma’s cedar chest,” says Reeder.

Red cedar is a nonendangered species of wood, growing primarily in the eastern part of the United States, whose growth outpaces harvesting. According to Will Tucker, who works in operations at Northern Kentucky Cedar, logs are purchased from most of the counties served by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives in the region. They can be cut down to fit just about any space or assembled together as an entire system.

The organizers are made to be easy to design and assemble, come with hardware and instructions and do not need to be painted. Reeder notes that a novice should be able to install a closet wall kit in four to six hours. For comparison, it takes Reeder, who’s been at it for close to 28 years, about two and a half hours.

The process begins with a trip to the Northern Kentucky Cedar website to design the space. Reeder recommends asking questions such as, do you like shelf space or hanging space; do you need long hanging space (for dresses, for instance); or do you primarily have shirts and shorter items where you can double up your hanging space? Design help is offered through customer support.

Reeder likes to point to the corner cubby as an organizing component for maximizing available space. It can be mixed and matched to fit any style or size closet, and the adjustable shelves are 12 inches deep.

“When you wrap a shelving unit around the corner, you’re utilizing 100 percent of your closet,” he says.

Mind over matter

The downsides of clutter are many: constantly having to search for things; buying items that have already been purchased; and feeling stressed and out of control.

“In the years I have been helping clients in their homes, I have seen how clutter can negatively affect people’s lives,” says Mandy Anderson of Paducah-based Organized By Mandy, served by Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation. “Clutter can affect not just your physical space, but your emotional space as well.”

One of the biggest challenges in achieving organization is overcoming the emotional attachment people have to their possessions. Another is feeling overwhelmed by the clutter and not knowing where to begin.

“A lot of times before we even get started, we must discuss the homeowners’ vision for the space and what they hope to accomplish,” says Kim Jones, owner of Louisville-based L+K Home Organization. “We start small and simple in an area that is easy to make quick decisions about in order to see progress.” 

Jones notes that homeowners need to be prepared mentally, with a mindset geared to letting go of items or making decisions about how to organize them.

“Also, it helps to have a charity of choice in place before getting started,” she advises. “That charity can vary by room, but it is easier to let go of items if you can envision them going to someone who will truly value them.”

A place for everything and everything in its place

Margie Witt has been organizing people for more than 20 years. The Fort Wright resident recently opened a small business, Better Design, that brings together her background and experience in professional organizing, landscaping and staging.

Witt not only can help design a system to organize a pantry, closet or an entire house, but she can install the system as well as design or overhaul a landscape, and get a home prepped and staged to sell. She has created a one-stop shop by establishing a network of service providers and can arrange for a closet design company for larger projects, for movers and others, depending on a homeowner’s needs.

Getting organized is a step-by-step process with the first step being an assessment and plan of action. While some may get carried away and immediately buy bins and containers, that is actually the final step for when reloading takes place. In between is the sorting phase based on deciding what stays, what gets donated and what needs to go.

“If it’s a pantry, for instance, I’ll pull each item out,” says Witt. “If it’s a utensil or small appliance, we’ll talk through questions—do you use it? Do you need it? If it’s food, we’ll check expiration dates and pitch as needed. If it’s a food item the homeowner doesn’t use, I’ll take it to a food pantry. Unused eyeglasses? I’ll take to an organization that recycles glasses.

“Everything has to fit in its designated place.”

Witt’s goal, regardless of the space she is organizing, is to set up systems and routines that will help the homeowner maintain order. In a home office reorganization, that means steps like setting up the filing system for paying bills, organizing paperwork that needs to be kept and shredding paperwork that’s no longer needed.

“Unless we create a system for you, it won’t work because you’ll be covered in paper again,” she says.

Adds Jones: “Systems are not one-size-fits-all. They need to be developed so they are easy to maintain.”

In the case of a closet reorganization, for example, if jeans are part of the daily wardrobe, they need to be placed in an easily accessible area, where they can be grabbed quickly and returned easily.

Cristy Sharp, a professional organizer in Lexington and owner of LadyCat Organizing, likes to assure her clients that getting organized benefits them in numerous ways, including emotionally.

“It’s like a cleanse mentally,” she says. “No one ever regrets getting organized. Getting rid of the clutter is such a burden lifted off of them.”

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