Neat Method: 5 Tips for an Organized Home

Neat Method: Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves

Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves whip your house into organizational shape so you can focus on the more important things: peace, calm, and being with your family.

Moving — for those of us who enjoy both knowing where their stuff is and, you know, BEING ABLE TO ACTUALLY FIND IT — can be rather traumatic. You have boxes, you have closets, you have dressers and cabinets in varying degrees of total chaos, and if you’re anything like me, you feel absolutely and utterly overwhelmed.

There were times in my first few months in my new home that I became irrationally angry because I couldn’t figure out HOW to fit what we had into the Rubik’s Cube of storage options in our apartment. I would just stand and stare for hours, trying to work out the spatial requirements for fitting all of my crap (and my boyfriend’s) into the space with grace and maximum efficiency. My boyfriend, in a fit of Chip Gaines-esque masculinity, built shelves in my closet (which was downright heroic). I tried various permutations — and I made some progress — but mostly I felt like there were creative, HGTV-worthy organizational solutions that my brain just couldn’t hack.

Neat Method: Organized Closet

One day in November, after a particularly frustrating struggle with the boxes that were stowed in the corner of our bedroom, I looked down and saw a bag from the Container Store. It read “Happiness is an Organized Closet.”

That I was working on a book called “Experiments in Happiness” at the time did not escape me.

That said, most of the happiness experiments I undertook for my research were more of the new age “start meditating, visit a shaman, go to Burning Man” variety. This felt more like Gretchen Rubin’s territory. More … how shall I put it? Bourgeois.

After weeks of struggling to maintain my inner joy (what was left of it) while wrestling with the growing pile of boxes in the corner of my bedroom, bourgeois sounded like a serious upgrade. “Bring on the bourgeois!” I thought, as I emailed Neat Method’s co-founder, Molly Graves. “HELP!” I wrote.

Neat Method: Organized Pantry

And they did.

I had heard of Neat Method from my friend Brit Morin, founder of Brit + Co, when the company completely transformed her second bedroom into a luxurious walk-in closet fit for a queen. I was already smitten, but then I heard that founders Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves were both connected to Chicago (Molly was born in Chicago, like myself, and Ashley has lived here for 14 years) and had also lived in San Francisco for a time, like myself. They bonded over a shared love for organized, clutter-free spaces, and they believed by starting a business together to help people live “The Neat Life,” as they call it, they could also help people feel better about their homes — and their lives. Now years later, Neat Method has served thousands of clients from Dallas to Denver, from New York to Las Vegas, and yes, Chicago and its suburbs.

I was sold! One organized home, coming right up. I told Molly that I had “ridiculously” high expectations, but that I felt confident in her team. My confidence wasn’t misplaced.

Molly and team started by completely emptying out my entire closet (plus the half dozen brown boxes that I had yet to unpack from my move months earlier), and holding my hand as we sorted the items into piles: keep, toss, donate, consign. It’s a standard process, but the Neat Method ladies were pros, and I couldn’t have done it alone. There’s something about having emotional support when you’re trying to get rid of your third college sweatshirt or those hot pink Hunter boots that, no, you’re really NOT going to wear again.

Neat Method: Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves

We completed the same process for my linen closet, my hall closet and the pantry. Then the women marched off to the Container Store, like well-heeled warriors of organizational light. I was left with homework (“keep going through your things!! Toss! Toss! Toss!”) and told to get a good night’s sleep. The organizational mamma bears were taking good care of me.

When we finished the job just 48 hours later, I felt a sense of calm and peace I hadn’t experienced in months.  In fact … was that joy? It seems the Container Store bag was right: Happiness IS an organized closet.

5 Tips for a Neater Home (and Life):

  • Make sure you understand WHY your house feels cluttered. What’s the root of it? According to Neat Method, owners of cluttered homes fall into one of the following three categories: too busy, too worried or too overwhelmed. If you’re too busy, you probably don’t have a solid system for where to store items you buy, which means you have too many extra things. If you’re a worrier, you tend to save everything, just in case you need it in the future. And if you’re overwhelmed — well, you’re like me! You have no idea where to start, so you really need some hand holding.
  • Start Small (even if Marie Kondo wouldn’t approve.) Although a huge Kondo-esque spring cleaning is amazing, it can be overwhelming to do your entire house at once (and who has the week to do it?). Going through one shelf, one drawer, the fridge, or one closet in a sitting feels more manageable and can be a lower bar to entry. Just make sure you group like things — so if you’re going through the linen closet and there are linens in other parts of the house, find those and go through them together. But yes, it’s totally fine if you JUST go through the sheets today, and tomorrow sort the pillows. A task so big you won’t do it will never get done.
  • Toss First! Ask yourself, “Will I REALLY ever use this?” You’d be surprised at how often the answer is a resounding “No!” Don’t organize things that really need to be recycled, sent to Goodwill, or saved for your clothing swap (see below). And DO NOT go to the Container Store or HomeGoods or any other shop BEFORE you’ve purged, because you’ll buy wrong.
  • Don’t forget to bring measurements of what you need to organize WITH you when you buy organizational tools. In fact, snapping photos with your iPhone of what needs to be organized will save you from the endless trips back and forth between your closet and the store.
  • Consider hosting a Ladies Clothing (or book, or kitchen) Swap with your girlfriends or neighbors for all the excess stuff. There were so many items in my closet I had spent serious cash on, and even though I knew I wouldn’t wear or use them again, I couldn’t bear to send them to Goodwill or they really weren’t worth consigning. Personally, I love seeing my friends in clothing I bought and loved. It’s a way to bond that really cements your friendships. Plus, it honors the planet and your pocketbook. It’s a win/win/win.

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