I'm excited to share a project I partnered on with Simon Malls. Read on for the article with Q&A!
At any given time, but especially in 2020, there’s something to be said for curating your home environment to be as useful, beautiful and, above all else, organized as can be. With all of us spending more time in the great indoors than ever before, a well-organized home is no longer just a “nice to have,” it’s a veritable mandate. With a desire to declutter top of mind, we reached out to our friend and professional organizer Holly Blakey to share her tips and tricks for achieving that all-important state of zen in our homes. Holly shopped for organization essentials at Muji, Flexa, Anthropologie, The Container Store, and Crate & Barrel at Stanford Shopping Center and she’s sharing just how they can help make your clutter disappear.
Tell us about Breathing Room — have you always been an organized person or is this a trait that you grew into? I started Breathing Room after I had my first baby six years ago. Prior to that, my career was in Marketing and Public Relations, teaching yoga on the side. After I had my daughter I knew I wanted to be a mom who did what she absolutely loved – and that was making people’s spaces better. While I’ve always loved creating order in my own space – even as a little kid who thought organizing my friend’s closets was fun – it’s definitely something I’ve grown to appreciate more since I’ve been doing it professionally. It’s amazing to see the impact organizing and creating functional systems has on an entire family.
When it comes time to purge, we often have a hard time letting go — how do you recommend we part with sentimental items? First, I try to make it very simple – I tell my clients that if they don’t love, need, or use an item it needs to find a home somewhere else (donating, recycling, etc). If they need a little more motivation, it’s really good for them to see a big picture of what they have – I put all the jeans, or all the plastic bags, or all the chapsticks, etc., in one big pile to give them a visual answer of why they can part with items. Lastly, I suggest how much someone else could use or love an item they don’t need. This last one makes people feel a lot better about getting rid of their stuff.
You’re a mom of three – how do you manage the inevitable mess of toys around the home? It’s kind of the 80/20 rule around here. Eighty percent of the time I’m on top of the mess and keep my systems up, 20% of the time I throw my hands up and I’m like “you guys figure it out for yourself!” Ha! Luckily, it’s in my bones to constantly sort and purge items. If I see something out of place, I usually put it back immediately without even thinking about it. This drives my husband nuts when I put his glass away before he’s done! As my kids have gotten older, I’ve tried to adjust my organization systems to be simple enough for them to help out with. For example, I put picture labels on bins, I make sure to not have lids on baskets (this really does help them put things away quicker).
Tell us about your past few months – have you taken on a new approach to organization with the extra time spent indoors? Within my own home we’ve had to become a lot more creative with space. I’ve created a learning area for my first grader who is on Zoom five days a week. My husband and I are working from home, so sometimes our house feels very small — it’s essential to make sure I organize it in a way that helps the space be more efficient and functional. A big part of staying organized for us is having consistent routines that everyone helps out with. My daughter knows she has to clean up her school space everyday and everyone puts away their own laundry and belongings. It can no longer fall on one person. Within my clients’ homes, I’ve been doing a lot more playroom, craft room, and closet organization. People have more art, school, and craft supplies that they want organized, and they need to reorganize their closets now that they’re not wearing any of their old work clothes or more formal attire.
Why do you think now is the perfect time for our readers to get organized once and for all? Since we’re still spending a lot of time in our homes, we might as well love our spaces more. Also, it allows us the ability to create a sense of calm and order – especially when our world might not be providing that for us. I think that’s why so many people are really getting into organizing right now – we’re all craving order. Plus, it’s always the right time to declutter and organize — who wants a house full of stuff they don’t need or love (or even know they have!)?
Tell us about what you purchased at Muji and how you recommend using it in the home. At Muji I bought a few wire baskets – some for a pantry project, and the other for a shower. Wire baskets are such great organizing products because you can use them in almost any space – kitchens, bathrooms, playrooms, laundry rooms, and more. I’m using these to store pantry goods – they make the space look neater and more stylish. Also, you can stack them if you have less space and need to use them to hold more. In the shower, I used the hanging basket on the showerhead to get bath toys off the floor (where they can sit in water and collect mold) and to create more space on the ledge for shampoos. Such a simple yet effective upgrade.
Next up, you visited Flexa — what did you pick up and how are you putting it to work in the home? At Flexa I bought the 4-Compartment Bookcase for a nursery project. It was super easy to put together and such a pretty addition to the room. I used it to store books and baskets for baby items, but you could do so many things with it. I love using bookcases like this to store toys inside cube bins – it’s a great way to organize kid’s items.
You stopped by Anthropologie — what organization must-haves did they have in store? At Anthropologie I bought some of my favorite pom pom bins. I use these in a lot of baby and kids rooms for a quick and pretty way to store items that get used everyday – diapers, burp cloths, lovies, books. If you’re a mom of young kids, you need more time, more sleep, and less cleaning. Bins that can be out on display all the time are a big win – they make it easy to clean up, and you don’t have to reach into a drawer or closet to put things away. I used these two within the Flexa bookcase I purchased to store wipes and lovies. They really tied the look together.
The Container Store is an organizer’s dream — what did you pick up? At The Container Store, which is my go-to place for buying most of the products I use in my own home, I bought some of my favorite glass jars and a white metal bin. I used both in a laundry room project – the jars for decanting laundry products like Oxyclean and detergent pods, and the bin for storing cleaning supplies. I love decanting laundry products – it’s so nice to look at, you can recycle all the mismatched packaging, and it’s also very practical to have your items within reach in jars instead of bags or twist top cartons that are difficult to open.
What about Crate & Barrel — what did you find there and how do you recommend using it in the home? I purchased a beautiful wood spice rack. I love how unique it is and how it displays the spices. When you can create uniformity with your spices, it completely changes the look of your pantry — it’s one of my favorite tricks.
Any final tips and tricks for our organization as we head into the busy holiday season? Spend time taking inventory and editing what you don’t need. Before more items come into your home and you start buying things for your family members, know what you already have, what you could need, and what you absolutely DON’T need. When you see all that you have, it’s a lot more motivating to purge. Of course you can donate your items, or even make a little holiday gift-giving money by selling clothes and accessories on sites like ThredUp. While it might take more time upfront, you’ll save yourself time after the holidays when your house feels packed and disorderly.
What do you love about shopping at The Stanford Shopping Center? Besides it being home to some of my favorite stores – for work and for myself personally – I love that it’s outdoors, it feels so spacious, and parking is easy. But my favorite feature is the beautifully designed landscaping – so many gorgeous flowers are blooming year-round. It’s such a beautiful center.
All before photos taken by Erica Vernis.