By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
The spaces we live in have become our quarantine zones, our classrooms, our offices, our restaurants and bars. With so many roles a home has to play in a pandemic, clutter is bound to take over.
Decluttering and organizing the home can be a time-consuming and daunting task.
Birmingham resident Alex Sasser knows this firsthand. It’s the reason she created her professional organization service Organize BHAM.
The company was founded in 2017, inspired by her ability to get a handle on the clutter in her own home as she and her husband raised two twin boys.
“I quickly realized that it’s hard to have kids, have a home, be a wife, work a demanding job and balance doing all of those things that all of those people required of me,” Sasser said. “I realized that I was falling behind.”
One day, enough was enough. She looked around her home and was faced with some big questions. Why hadn’t she cleaned out those clothes she hadn’t worn in a year? Why hadn’t she gone through the cabinets? Why hadn’t she organized and sorted through the medicine?
“I did it for myself one day,” she said. “I then went through our entire house. Then I went to my mom’s house. Then I went to my grandmother’s house.”
Sasser realized that she wasn’t alone in her struggle, and – having had a corporate career before motherhood – she knew she wasn’t the only one who struggled to find the time to get the job done.
“Those two issues go hand in hand – having the time and knowing how,” she said.
Backed by two assistants, Sasser’s services lend that helping hand so homeowners can get a handle on their clutter and save time.
Having an objective third-party is also helpful because it provides perspective. Sasser and her team are there to teach people how to let things go while also providing the tools to maintain that organization long-term.
For Sasser, a light in the darkness of 2020 was that people had to spend so much time at home and discovered what wasn’t working in their living space.
“We had a great year because people realized that the home is really very important,” she said. “We need to pay attention to it a little bit more than we do.”
During the shutdown, Sasser wasn’t able to go into homes and provide her services as she typically does. Yet, the need was growing.
“I noticed that people were really starting to itch,” she said. “We were all really tired of our homes.”
She revamped her social media strategy to infuse a bit more customer value.
“I started blogging, giving tips that they could implement right then and there,” she said.
When business commenced once again, the phone was ringing off the hook.
One of her most memorable tasks was helping a mom create a functional learning space for her children.
“She was craving order and the kids needed somewhere to go and focus,” she said.
A great trick Sasser employed was putting items at various heights based on their use and ability to distract. Learning resources and educational tools were placed within reach, while fun things like Play-Doh were placed on higher shelves.
Organization of the home can be a way to organize the mind, but it’s a struggle when people don’t understand how to make their space work.
Clutter can be found not only on countertops and in drawers but created by the way we decorate our space.
“I have projects where people have felt the need to repurpose a piece of furniture,” Sasser said. “The problem is that piece of furniture really doesn’t function. It’s not maximizing the space. It’s too big and bulky, so it’s actually wasting space in the long run.”
There is no substitution for good shelving. In fact, Organize BHAM works closely with another local company, Closettec, based in Montevallo.
“We work with them to replace those bulky pieces with actual built-in shelving that maximizes their space to create more function,” she said.
When it comes to filling those shelves in a functional way, for example in the office, Sasser has a piece of advice.
In a July 1 blog post, Sasser offered some takeaways from a collaboration with local design blog Montgo Farmhouse for a Better Home & Gardens One Room Challenge. Montgo redesigned an office and Sasser helped organize the clutter.
Her four big tips for office organization are:
• Make filing a habit. Paperwork can be daunting in an office, so use some type of sorter to keep it straight. Magazine holders or stackable letter trays work well.
• It’s tempting to buy a random basket here or there but be mindful that the visual clutter can be easily eliminated by having similar containers.
• Labels are crucial to help you know where items live.
• Store your important documents all in one place. Keep the passports, birth certificates, house records and such all together in one box for easy access.
Sasser has two golden rules she teaches her clients to guide their ability to maintain organization, and they go hand in hand.
Organization is not a one-time thing but a continuous task.
“Just because you are getting it done today doesn’t mean it does not need to be done again next month,” Sasser said. “It will need to be done again next month.”
And you cannot simply edit or spring clean your home once a year. Sasser suggests doing a full home edit at least twice a year.
“We as humans buy too many things,” she said. “We are consumers of Amazon and Target and the local dollar spot. We need to be clearing out more often.”
Don’t Seek Perfection
It’s important to note that a home cannot be expected to be perfect.
“I think people probably believe that because I’m a professional organizer my home is perfect,” she said. “That’s not true. Everything is not color coordinated and labeled in a bin.”
It’s an unrealistic goal. While coordinating and labelling to perfection potentially can be achieved in spaces such as a medicine cabinet or pantry, there are so many spaces in a home that simply don’t lend themselves to perfect coordination.
“Especially with young kids,” Sasser said. “They’re not going to put it back where it needs to go every time.”
There is also a sentimental struggle. One could hang on to too much or, like Sasser, struggle with concerns that they are throwing too much away.
The sentimental aspect of having kids also lends itself to clutter.
“I want to keep some things, but I sometimes feel that I am too ruthless,” she said. She also said she has learned through experience with relatives who keep everything that, “my kids are not going to want it all.”
She doesn’t keep buckets full of baby clothes, but she wonders if she will regret it later.
She does keep artwork, but she decides right when a new piece enters the home if it will be filed away in the container or tossed.
It’s an ever-evolving task, a form of therapy.
“I don’t think people realize it in the moment, but down the road it changes your mentality,” she said.
For more tips and tricks, check out Sasser’s blog at organizebham.com. There you also will find links to her social media pages. To get in touch, fill out the online form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.