Even as a kid, Leah Friedman appreciated a clean, orderly space. As young as age 6, she spent countless days with her friend rearranging their rooms to ensure maximum floor space and minimum clutter.
Fast forward a few (or more) years, and Friedman is now the married mom of two. With a career as a newspaper reporter and columnist behind her (full disclosure: we were once colleagues at The News & Observer), Friedman decided to turn her passion for organization into a business.
Last year, she hung her shingle as a professional organizer and opened Raleigh Green Gables. The business, cleaning out and organizing attics, closets, offices and entire homes, is booming, she tells me.
"I've never been shocked by the things I see in my client's homes," she said. "Everyone has large homes. They have filled it to the brim and they can't breathe."
Friedman certainly practices what she preaches. In her own home, a fixer-upper in Raleigh, Friedman has actually removed closets and built-in cabinets because she doesn't need the storage space. Shelves and dressers aren't overflowing. She even took the doors off her kitchen cabinets because everything is neat, orderly and not cluttered behind them.
That's not to say that Friedman doesn't have a few weaknesses. Let's talk about handbags. But even those she has culled down to a smaller number, realizing that she probably had spent the equivalent of her dream Louis Vuitton bag (used) on those cheaper bags that she'd been collecting over the years.
"I'm not against buying things," she said. "Just buy things that you treasure and are quality."
Friedman will offer tips here on Go Ask Mom for the next several weeks starting Wednesday. But before that, she shared her top ten tips for keeping your home or office clutter free.
Tips for an Organized Home
Leah Friedman, Raleigh Green Gables
1. To be organized, you need to purge things you don't want or use any more. Go through toys every six to eight months and donate ones your children have outgrown.
2. Try to resist buying pretty bins to put toys in to "organize" them. That's like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Purge first, then see what you need.
3. Be mindful. Buy meaningful. When you buy something for your child, make sure he loves it. Try to avoid buying a bunch of cheap items, and save to buy quality items that will last longer.
4. Limit your children's clothing options. They need about 10 items of clothes to choose from in the mornings. By doing this, I promise it will alleviate your stress and your child's stress when she gets dressed.
5. Find a friend who has younger children than yours and give her all your hand-me-downs when your children out grow their clothes. That way, your childrens' dressers won't be overstuffed with clothes that don't fit. And your friend will be happy!
6. Avoid putting items other than Christmas decorations in the attic. Books and clothes will get ruined. Use them or donate them. Plus, if it's in the attic, how often will you use it? (And, if you think your future daughter-in-law will really want your son's baby clothes, think again!)
7. If a toy breaks and it can't be fixed, throw it away. Better yet, teach your children to throw it away. It will help them remain unattached to stuff. (I actually celebrate when something breaks in my house! It means one less thing.)
8. Children are overwhelmed when there are too many toys to choose from. Find a closet in your home and use it as a rotating toy closet. Switch out toys every quarter, so there's someting new in the playroom every few months. Your children will love this.
9. Keep your sanity and keep the house from becoming a disaster zone by teaching your children to clean up their toys after they are done playing with them and before they move on to something new.
10. Have a place for everything, so children can easily put their stuff away. For instance, we have cubbies for shoes by the door. When the kids come in, they put their shoes in the cubbies, so we are not tripping on them, and they know where they are when they are ready to go back outside.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.