What makes some homes harmonious and others horribly out of tune? The SpareFoot Blog put that question to Scott Roewer, head of The Organizing Agency, who taught music as prelude to offering his own suite of organization, renovation and stress-free moving services for business and residential customers in the Washington, DC, area.
Teaching music to elementary school students for seven years seems like the perfect place to hone your organizing skills. Was it?
Absolutely. I had a new class every 30 minutes, five different lesson plans per day because I was teaching five different grade levels, and 450 students I needed to know well enough to be able to grade them. It was a wonderful place to fine-tune and improve upon how to keep track of and combine people, resources and curriculums to create a wonderful learning environment.
Music tends to attract right-brained creative sorts who are notoriously disorganized. Can artists master the art of organization?
A lot of creative types feel that if they live the way a left-brain person does, their creativity is stifled. But ultimately, they discover that if they truly are organized, when creativity calls, they can find everything they need to capture that idea or visual much faster. That doesn’t mean everything in their world will be put away in a drawer or cabinet with a label on it. They just need to create a system that works for them.
We use musical terms like harmonious and discordant to describe homes and other spaces. What makes for a well-tuned space?
There are a variety of reasons why homes tend to be disorganized. When I do an assessment, I’m looking for three things:
- Technical errors: The furniture is the wrong size, the closet rod fell down. Physical issues.
- External realities: Maybe they have a special-needs child or a professional life that takes up all their time, and they never get around to taking care of the house.
- Psychological barriers: Emotional, anxiety and other disorders can affect their surroundings.
Generally, most disorganized spaces are caused by one or a combination of those things. We definitely point out the technical errors, and highlight and make them aware of the external realities. As for psychological barriers, we rarely go there because we’re not trained health professionals.
As a specialist in chronic disorganization, what’s your view on the pros and cons of storage units?
We encounter both. So many times, it’s “Out of sight, out of mind.” They move stuff out and think, “Oh, I’ll put it in a storage unit and then go through it one thing at a time.” The chronically disorganized will then tend to fill up their house with other stuff.
Scott Roewer says TV shows like “Hoarders” have sensationalized hoarding.
Do reality TV shows like “Hoarders” help or hurt your industry?
The advantage to those programs is that they have made the public aware that people do suffer from this disorder and there is help available. It’s brought about some positive societal change to where counties are developing hoarding task forces, whereas before you only heard about it when someone died in a fire.
But I do think we have created a negative aspect by sensationalizing some of it. Professionals who have been on those shows, including friends of mine, say they didn’t always agree with the way the producers made them do things or how something was edited for TV to play up the family drama. And the fact that they film it in two days? That’s very damaging.
Which is easier to organize: a teenager’s bedroom or a tinkerer’s garage?
Hmm. I would enjoy both. A tinkerer’s garage would probably be more difficult. A tinkerer tends to want to hold onto more stuff, if only because they might use it someday. They’re often creative individuals, and they can create uses for things.
A teen’s bedroom is going to be more factual decision-making: Does this fit or not fit? Are these school papers current or old? Do you like these books? Would you read them again? Once you’ve done the edit of their belongings, the organization of what is left is easier.
Moving sits at the top of our “stress list,” Scott Roewer says.
What’s the best way to minimize the chaos of a home move?
Moves are at the top of the stress list, absolutely. I believe that most homeowners don’t understand the benefit of editing their belongings before they move so that, on the other end, they know they want and will use everything they’re unpacking. They’ve already gotten rid of the four extra spatulas and the stained towels and the mismatched bed linens and old office files. That makes it easier to organize on the other end, and they’ll pay less for their physical move.
Another suggestion: Pack thoughtfully. When you’re picking up random boxes from the grocery store, the liquor store and your office, they’re never the right size, so you wind up either overfilling or underfilling boxes, and you can’t load a truck correctly. Taking more time and using the right supplies is often underestimated.