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Reigning in Chaos with Organization

Professional organizer Cyndi Hamilton aims to create peaceful spaces through organization

As a mom to four kids, Cyndi Hamilton didn’t have a choice but to get organized. 

“When you have two kids and you’re both working, the chaos — you can kind of muddle through,” says Cyndi. “But once I had the four kids, I had to come up with systems.”

With a degree in interior design, a lot of experience in retail, and the manager of chaos in her own home, Cyndi has plenty of experience in getting organized and making spaces look and feel good. She’s owned her business, Organizing Spaces, for four years, and specializes in professional organizing.

“When I go and work with people in their homes, they don’t have systems, and that’s why people struggle with disorganization,” she says. “So that’s what I specialize in — helping people figure out their systems.”

Cyndi says having systems is key — it’s a way to navigate your space and ensure that everything has a place where it belongs. I tagged along with her while she organized the home of a young family, Cody and Kenzie Turnbull. Cody owns his own small business, a car upholstery company, and Kenzie is a nurse. They have two children — Jude, 2, and Simon, 5 months, and the four of them live together in a small 1,000-square foot home in Weston. 

As Cyndi navigated the Turnbulls’ home, I marveled at her ability to turn a large black hole of a drawer into a methodical, confined space with a purpose. She laid out her process for me. 

Step 1: Decide what needs attention the most

Cyndi says the biggest mistake she sees people make is tackling an area that they don’t interact with every day.

“The thing that people want to start with is a storage room, but for the most part, a storage room is not the area you’re living in,” says Cyndi. 

While a storage room might feel like a good place to start, Cyndi says that you get the most out of organizing a space you use every day. She says it’s important to feel like you’ve made an impact on your home, and something as simple as creating a landing strip by the front door, organizing your pantry, or even sorting a spice drawer — areas that are used often — can really make a difference.

For the Turnbull’s house, Cyndi suggested organizing the bathroom, as the home only has one, one of the child’s rooms since it hadn’t been organized since their second child was born, and a kitchen cabinet.

Step 2: Declutter

After an initial consultation where Cyndi helps a client decide what area of their home they’ll organize first, the first meeting after that is decluttering. Cyndi says the key to effective decluttering is speed.

“Make fast decisions,” says Cyndi. She doesn’t want clients to spend too much time waffling about what goes and brings boxes to sort the items that will leave. “I will bring 4 different boxes — donate, trash, go in another room, and go to a friend.”

Cyndi also takes any boxes going to charities for her clients so they don’t have to. She knows it’s so easy to leave donated boxes in a trunk or mudroom for months. 

Step 3: Designate zones

Not only does each space have a purpose, but there are hot spots in each space where Cyndi combines like objects. 

“For example, in pantry, I’ll divide things into zones — a baking zone, a cooking zone, snack zone,” says Cyndi. “Things are all separated and they have a specific home or a specific shelf. If it’s a closet — shoes, hanging items, folded items.”

Step 4: Contain

After zones are decided, those zones get divvied up into containers, and Cyndi is passionate about the right container. 

“So many times, people will just go around and just find some oddly shaped containers and try to make it work,” says Cyndi. “If you don’t have the right shaped containers to fit on your shelf, you’re wasting space.” 

She’s especially fond of clear containers, and also likes turntables. In the Turnbull’s house, Cyndi used a turntable for the children’s craft supplies and in the bathroom cabinet for cleaning supplies. She also utilized small shelves to help divide up tall cabinet space, which doubles the area — as seen in the kitchen cabinet. 

Cyndi also says that often, in the containment phase, another layer of decluttering begins. 

“At that point, we have to make a decision that if someone has 25 bottles of Bath and Body Works lotion and they have a tiny bathroom closet, is it realistic?” says Cyndi. Once it comes time to contain all those items, “then we’ll say, ‘OK, now this container where all your Bath and Body Work is going to live,’ and then we go through a second level of decluttering [to make it fit].” 

Step 5: Label

Labeling is just as important as containment to Cyndi.

“After we contain everything, we label things to make sure when you go to put things back, it’s labeled,” says Cyndi. She says if containers aren’t labeled, it’s easy to go back to your old ways of not putting things back where they belong, and labels prevent that.

After all is said and done, Cyndi says the most important thing is making a space that relaxes the people that live there, as opposed to causing stress due to disorganization. 

“I think the biggest thing of getting organized is mentally what that makes you feel like when you come home to your house,” she says. 

After a stressful few years and a lot of time at home, we can all use a space that helps us feel at peace.