Maisy Porter, designer and project manager at Marshall Erb Design, outlines the steps for getting organized at home—and being the best you in 2022.
By Elise Hofer Shaw
It’s a new year. It’s a new moon. And we’re all about embracing a reset for optimization, efficiency, and wellness. Here, Maisy Porter, designer and project manager at Marshall Erb Design in Chicago, takes us through the key steps for streamlining our ‘stuff’ so we can put our best foot forward in the new year.
STEP 1. TAKE STOCK & DECLUTTER
Right off the bat—before you buy new furniture, build a shelving system or invest in new containers—you need to understand what you need to store. “Stop worst-case scenario hoarding,” laughs Porter. “But seriously, ‘need’ is the keyword here. You have to set time aside to take stock of what you’re not using and the spaces you have to work with—and get rid of the things you’re not using so you can maximize your available storage space.” For some, this is easier said than done. “If you find yourself blocked and unable to let certain belongings go—that cup of 50 pens, that cold-shoulder blouse that you haven’t worn in three years—consider hiring a professional organizer to hold your hand.” If you live in Chicagoland, Porter suggests checking out The Organized Stylist. Founder and lead organizer Sanem D’Angelo is a seasoned home editor who will help you navigate the purging process with sensitivity and attainable goals. “COVID has us all stressed,” adds Porter. “And that stress can distract us from focusing on our day-to-day tasks both personally and professionally. Investing in a professional purge is an investment in self-care—and one with tangible returns that will come to fruition when your environment sets you up for success.”
STEP 2. GET SMART ABOUT SPACE PLANNING
If you’re using your oven for storing sweaters, that’s a problem. OK, that’s an extreme example (and an excuse to make a cute Sex and the City reference), but you get the point. Space planning for maximized storage via smart design is always top of mind when Marshall Erb Design is approaching a project. “If you have the luxury of working with an interior designer, impress upon them the importance of clever, responsive design to reduce clutter and keep your family in a mental space that promotes productivity and wellness,” shares Porter. “At MED, we understand that truly great interior architecture and storage solutions can change how we live for the better, bringing breath and focus to our daily lives. Our designs are always embedded with creative, oftentimes custom, plans for layouts. We never waste space, and we’re committed to defining zones that support our clients’ lifestyles, including spaces for work, gathering and unwinding.
STEP 3. CUSTOMIZE & INTEGRATE
While streamlining your stuff is half the battle, decreasing the amount of clunky design elements can go a long way, too, in terms of cleaning up the visual clutter. “A word us designers like to throw around is ‘integration,” says Porter. “Integration means taking an existing need, like a straightforward drawer or cabinet, and rethinking how it might look or work with other surfaces or functional areas. A single, integrated surface can help minimize the presence of boxy storage requirements and reduce visual clutter.” We’ve all heard of integrated kitchens, where the cabinet fronts are consistent and continue across the appliances, too. But, according to Porter, it’s a great design mentality to have for other spaces within the home as well, in particular within the rooms where you want to work or relax. “For the home office, maybe it’s an integrated, custom piece that combines workspace, storage, electronics and lighting controls all concealed within a cohesive volume. Other times it’s just the repetitive nature of a singular design element that can be distracting, like recurring tile (i.e. subway, penny rounds, small hexes). At MED we’re doing more and more full slabs in porcelain, marble or quartz for kitchen backsplashes and bathroom walls because it’s less busy and so much easier to clean without the micro grout lines.”
STEP 4. LEVEL UP ON THE ESSENTIALS
Once you’ve purged the clutter and executed your storage plans, it’s time to invest in beautiful, high-quality versions of the products you use every day to keep your home neat and tidy. “Brooms, dishcloths, dustpans, storage boxes, aprons, and more… These home goods shouldn’t be an afterthought,” advises Porter. “Buying well and buying once should be the mindset here.” For everyday home-care items with form and function, Porter turns to KEPT, the haute home goodies brand from Chicago designer Kara Mann. “The KEPT philosophy is to stop investing in disposable home-care and organizational products. Instead, make it reusable, reliable and beautiful; buy one good thing and hang on to it, so there’s less waste in our oceans and landfills from this category.” Bonus: Whenever possible, KEPT supports artisans and companies who honor the earth with sustainable and ethical manufacturing.