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A few months ago, under the burden of pandemic baking experiments, my kitchen storage was struggling. My narrow, too-small pantry was filled to the brim with sugars of every variety, flours both glutinous and gluten-free, and an early COVID-era amount of cans of beans—in addition to everyday pantry items. My flatware drawers, baking cabinets, and a vague "spice area" were not optimized for the marathon I was putting them through. Additionally, my bedroom closet was in need of some serious help. So, I searched for some expert guidance, both virtual and in-person—here are my takeaways.
For my kitchen, I landed on Chicago-based NEAT Method’s new virtual organizing services, launched at the beginning of the pandemic and starting at a not-to-intimidating $250. It started with a 30-minute consultation and tour of my overwhelmed kitchen storage spaces, with every drawer and cabinet open for a visual assessment of "the situation." While not disorganized, per se, the kitchen storage was certainly not optimized for how I was using it. Opening my pantry made me feel anything but efficient or joyful.
About a week after the virtual consult and a follow-up survey covering goals, measurements, and image requests, I received a formal NEAT "to-do list" with detailed instructions and an accompanying chart showing how to reorganize the most significantly used areas in the kitchen, as well as a shopping list detailing which of NEAT Method’s branded products to use to support the organization plan. Utensils would be moved closer to the stove, a haphazard tea and coffee area was separated and moved closer to the coffee maker, pantry staples would be decanted and added to jars or gathered into category-defined bins. A floating shelf near the stove would be cleared to make way for a pair of spice racks to hold placed decanted spice jars.
I imagine the various bins, canisters, spice racks, drawer dividers, turntables, risers (my personal favorite find of the experiment) and labels to identify everything could be purchased less expensively by scouring the internet and local stores, but if electing to purchase NEAT’s signature line of organization products, the company gathers and delivers the exact organization products needed for the project, with the brand’s consistent look and feel. I opted to have NEAT supply and deliver.
Once it arrived, it took my husband and me a Saturday to rearrange and reorganize according to NEAT’s plan. We kept nearly all of the suggestions, but after a couple of weeks of trialing the new system we adjusted a few to account for what I think might be an unavoidable margin of error for virtual vs. real world organization.
THE VERDICT: It helped optimize how I move about the kitchen when preparing meals, and I now feel no anxiety now when I open my pantry doors. Overall a success, even if I still have about 20% of the labels sitting in a drawer waiting to be adhered.
Related: Our Best Organizing Tips of All Time
Inspired by the yikes-to-functional kitchen project, I then endeavored to tackle my bedroom reach-in closet. As I hope to do a full-on remodel of this area sometime soon, I was curious to explore in-person design services but not prepared to part with a small fortune to go with one of the more recognized organization companies. So I went the budget in-person route, poking around Thumbtack for someone who could help IRL. I selected a personal-shopper and closet-styler turned professional closet organizer who charged $30 per hour and after exchanging a few messages felt she could complete the project in half a day.
There was no intake plan or any formal consult for assessing a space, but she visited my home within a week of booking and spent four hours with me rearranging the currently installed closet organization system, an inherited set-up from the previous homeowners. Together, we removed everything from the closet, and then corralled all of my shoes from various closets and corners around the house. She put like-with-like and, most significantly, adjusted the pre-existing closet system to better suit my needs, including creating a showroom-worthy and space-efficient shoe section, an optimized space in a row of shelves to wrangle my activewear and a better system for arranging dresses, blouses and pants. She created a lot more room where I thought I had none.
THE VERDICT: After our appointment, she promised to send me recommendations, a sort of casual version of NEAT’s to-do list, for hangers and what I could remove from my wardrobe and add in to optimize for space and use (she was a personal shopper after all). Unfortunately, I never received this—but I also only paid for the time she was here, which ended up being around $120. A bargain, I felt, for a half-day, full-closet-refresh.
The Final Review
Six months later, the kitchen is pretty much what it was the day I finished organizing. The closet, too, is just about as how the Thumbtack organizer left it. My pantry’s nut butter collection has grown beyond the size of the turntable meant to hold it, and I cannot fold like a personal shopper, but both areas are vastly improved from where they started.
Seeing how both projects have optimized my time and enjoyment in those spaces, I’m ready for more expert organizing, in-person and with a recognized pro. I’m now beginning a tip-to-toe home office upgrade with organizer-of-organizers California Closets, complete with ripping out awkward, exposed shelves and installing a new and holistic system. Thanks two my first two organizing experiments, I’m going into this larger-scale one with more confidence and a better understanding of how to make the most of professional organization.
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