The owner of Neat Freak Professional Organizing shares her top takeaways from a recent home-building project
By Perri Kersh | Photography by John Michael Simpson
After nine renovations on our previous home, we felt up to the challenge of building our own custom house. It helped that we were using a trusted architect, Sophie Piesse. We’d worked with her before and knew that collaborating would make the whole process, from concept to nitty-gritty details, a true joy. It also helped to work with an experienced builder who was easy to get along with and skillfully brought our project to life. Kevin Murphy of Newphire Building was not only our builder and neighbor, he became a friend through the build process.
It’s rare to hear someone say they miss the building and construction process, but I honestly do! I loved the creativity and teamwork that went into building our house. As a professional organizer, it was a dream to think about storage and how we would actually live, play, entertain, work, relax and grow old in this house. Here are a few of my organizational takeaways from our home-building project!
- Drawers, drawers and more drawers! When designing the kitchen, we decided we could store almost everything in drawers or rollouts. Plates, bowls, spices, utensils, serving dishes, mugs, glassware, bakeware … it’s pretty much all in drawers. Drawer storage allows us to see everything inside and makes it so much easier to access what we have. If you’re renovating or building and have choices to make, always say yes to a drawer!
- We let math guide our storage needs! Prior to figuring out the dimensions for each set of cabinets, shelves and closet space, we measured the amount of linear space we would need to store what we have. We measured the linear feet of books we owned, the amount of space we needed for everyday dishes and glassware, and the amount of space needed for hanging clothes, folded clothes, shoes and luggage. This meant that we could unpack with confidence knowing our stuff would fit.
- I’ve never had a walk-in pantry before, so I was excited to have space for one in this house. That also meant I could put all of our small appliances in the pantry, keeping it off our countertops. We keep our toaster oven, microwave, blender and food processor in the pantry. We added plenty of counter-height electrical outlets so we could easily plug appliances in.
- We prioritized space for storing the stuff we need and use all of the time. We were designing this house as our youngest was preparing to leave high school, and our oldest was starting her senior year of college. We also knew it was unlikely that our kids would live here again for an extended time (or so we hope!) so we didn’t plan for huge closets or lots of storage for their things. We did a lot of decluttering prior to moving and also considered how our lives would be a little different with an empty nest. I always recommend making your house work for those who live in it! It’s nice to have guests and visiting children, but if they’re infrequently home, make sure your own storage and organizational needs are met first.
- Now that we’ve been here for a year, we try to be intentional about bringing new things into the house. It can be tempting to buy all the gadgets when you first move in. But it can be helpful to live in a space for a while and see where your needs are. Keeping clutter at bay means maintaining our space and being cognizant of new things coming in. We try to maintain a “one in, one out” policy so there is always a steady flow of items going out as soon as something new comes in.
- A new home is like owning a very complicated piece of machinery! Everything is new, and there is a learning curve for taking care of things. We created a binder with manuals and reviewed them before using new appliances. We talked to our HVAC company to understand what a regular maintenance plan looks like for our equipment. Because we have a great relationship with our builder, he’s been helpful about connecting us to contractors if we need to follow up on warranty issues. Our house required a water filtration system (new to us since this was our first time living with a well!), and I added the quarterly maintenance for that system into my calendar so I can remember to add salt and change the filter. I also printed out a step-by-step guide for maintaining the system and hung it right next to the filter as a reminder.
- Being strategic and considering how you’ll really function and live in a new house is even more important than the 10,000 paint/tile/fixtures/lighting/flooring/appliance (I could go on!) decisions you’ll make during the design process. In the end, that extra intentional planning time around organization and function will truly pay off when your house is the perfect fit for you. I love consulting with people about their storage needs as they design and build new space. Feel free to reach out to me at neat-freak.com to discuss your organizing needs!