This summer hiatus from “The Big Bang Theory” is drawing to a close, as we start production of Season 7 this week for America’s viewing pleasure. I ended up traveling a lot this summer for my work with Texas Instruments and I also did a handful of speaking engagements as well. In between, I spent a lot of great time with my boys camping and going to the beach and having play dates and the like.
But what I also did on my summer vacation was something I have been told to do for years but resisted and finally gave in to… I hired a personal organizer. I hate getting help with things (as you all know, I clean my own toilets and am actually fine with that), and I was very nervous about this being Hollywood, where big personalities and diva desires are often more common with people like stylists and personal organizers than celebrities!
My publicist Heather knows how quirky and not Hollywood I am, and she told me she heard about an organizer with a mellow personality who might be able to help me. I called said woman with a million caveats in my head, and I fumbled my way through our first conversation by telling her I don’t want my house to look like an IKEA or Pottery Barn Catalog (no insult to those stores, it’s just not my style). I also told her that I am not a crazy Hollywood person and that I want my house to still be funky and eclectic and I also may have told her I was terrified of hiring her because of all of the anxieties mentioned above.
The organizer’s name is Katrina, and on the phone, she sounded very nice, and when she came to look at my house for the first time, I practically needed a sedative, I was so nervous. She has the vibe of a friendly principal: official but approachable, professional but gentle. She’s very down-to-earth and started Operation Organization (cute name, right?) since she says she was basically born with a knack for organizing. As we talked a little bit about her background in Northern California, I started to relax, and I started to think that maybe this could work since she grew up in a place where hippy bohemians like me sprout from the ground. So I can’t annoy her that much, right? Right?
Katrina walked around my one bedroom house and took some pictures and I followed her around apologizing the whole way: “This bathroom is not usually this messy.” “I have been meaning to organize these books but I just haven’t had the time.” “My boys like to leave their LEGOs literally on every square inch of any surface that is relatively or vaguely flat, so that’s why there is LEGO everywhere you look and step.” She never flinched at my house or its lack of perfect organization, and I never felt like she was going to take over my life and make me throw half of my things out. She just surveyed the house casually and asked what we primarily do in each room: play, eat, sleep, etc. I could see her brain working and I realized that just like I trust stylist Ali for styling me and I trust my hair and make-up woman for hair and make-up and I trust publicist Heather for doing publicity, his Katrina lady was definitely the one to trust with organizing. She is a professional. That’s her job and she is very good at it.
Katrina sent me an estimate for my house room by room, so that I could choose which rooms I wanted her to focus on based on my budget. I liked that her hourly rate is much less expensive than other companies, and I liked that I could choose which rooms and that it wasn’t all or nothing. As Katrina started to get to work, I got less and less nervous. Everything was done with my input, and I actually ended up buying very little new stuff which was a concern I had. I thought I’d have to buy all new containers that would be so expensive and I was prepared to tell her no no no, but Katrina was fine using my eclectic vintage Queen Elizabeth tins, Hello Kitty plastic bins, and even my smattering of reused sturdy cardboard boxes as containers for all of the things that needed containing.
I know an organizer is not in most people’s budget, and I also know that many people actually do have the time, energy, and organizational patience and savvy to organize things on their own, but I am really glad I got help, because as organized a person as I am, I didn’t know how to go about organizing my house for me and my boys.
Here are the most important things I learned from Katrina.
1. Maximize space. I know,it sounds like a no-brainer, but it didn’t occur to me that sometimes containers are needed to create space by maximizing it. For example, I have a lot of dry beans and nuts and I didn’t realize how investing in a cheap set of mason jars could make so much more food fit into my cupboard than leaving all the beans and nuts in their bulky bags. It didn’t occur to me. It occurred to Katrina and there’s so much more space for everything now.
2. No stuffing. When I see space, I want to fill it. Maybe it’s some ingrained genetically favorable immigrant-background second generation American desire to accumulate; I don’t know. But I like filling space. Katrina said very simply, “No more stuffing.” That means if something has to be stuffed somewhere, it doesn’t go there. Again: sounds so intuitive but it had not occurred to me. It occurred to Katrina. And once you make space for things to come in physically, it also makes room for things to come into your life conceptually. Smart, huh!?
3. Keep like with like. My sense of organization was centered around the following notion: keep things I use most handy, and put things I don’t use as much somewhere else. For example, I am used to keeping my most frequently used shmattes in a handy drawer, but my “cleaning shmattes” in a high cupboard. I keep cooking and baking stuff I use the most in the handiest drawers, and I store rarely used baking things like muffin tins and such in the dining room pantry. No more. Katrina taught me to keep “like with like” and it works so much better. I now designate certain shelves and drawers for frequently used things, but less frequently used things still belong in the kitchen. My kitchen is quite small, so this felt daunting at first, but once we made so much space by maximizing space (see point #1 above!), it all turned out to fit perfectly!
4. Designate rooms. My sons don’t have a “room” per se; they have slept with me their whole life, but they now have a room where they sleep most of the night without me. However, it’s a very small room and there’s not room for toys. I kind of have a “toys anywhere” policy which many of my more fastidious friends find maddening but which never bothered me. I kept their toys in the living room and also the family room mainly, but Katrina helped me clear out more space in the family room to designate as purely the boys’ space, and she had me “take back” the living room as a library and office and art space for me. I like it so much better. I don’t regret the past eight years of toys anywhere and everywhere, but now that the boys are older, they can tolerate their toys being stored in one room, as long as I still let them play wherever they want. And I do!
5. Get matching hangers. This one was the hardest things Katrina introduced into my life, believe it or not. It’s not that I love my hangers. Well, actually, I have a set of hangers my mom’s mom (z”l) crocheted covers for and I am very attached to those!
I simply never really cared about hangers. My stylist Ali has been grumping about my hanger situation for at least a year and I never really understood it. She would say it warps my clothes, and it was making her nuts but I was never bothered. Katrina had me buy matching hangers for all of my clothes. They are fuzzy and brown and I thought I would gag when they arrived in the mail. I just cringed at the uniformity and the sameness of it all. I hung every piece of clothing on the fuzzy brown hangers and it looks nice I guess. (I kept the hangers my grandma crocheted as a protest, don’t worry.) When stylist Ali saw my closet with its matching hangers, she literally gasped and nearly fell to the floor with pleasure. I still sort of hate the uniformity and it looks a little bit like my clothes are in the military, everything so… lined up and perfect. I may need to bedazzle some of the hangers or something to make it a little more “me.” But I can see the appeal for sure.
6. Hang t-shirts. I had no idea you are supposed to hang t-shirts. Not my pajama shirts or my Texas Instruments t-shirts or my workout t-shirts or my nerdy Comicon t-shirts, but all of my “nicer” t-shirts. She made me hang them. It makes me laugh out loud every time I go to my closet to select a plain black Hanes t-shirt, but apparently, this is what adults do. They hang t-shirts. So I’m told.
7. Don’t fold skirts. Ever. Katrina has tolerated a lot of my quirkiness in our time together, but she could barely keep a straight face as she told me this tidbit of information. I guess most people know this. I didn’t know this. Even denim ones should be hung, she says! She said when she found a folded pile of denim in my dresser, she was “praying they were jeans.” Nope, they were denim skirts which now all hang nicely. It makes me laugh when I see my plain cotton skirts hanging there like fancy clothes, but I guess I can get used to it.
I love my organized house. It’s not perfect, and it’s still got a ways to go, but I have a great base to start from and I am so happy Katrina and Operation Organization came into my life this summer. If you live in the Southern California area, I highly suggest getting a free estimate from her because it really has changed not only my physical space but my emotional space as well.
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