For Meryl Starr, a professional organizer, good organization shouldn’t be a trade secret. A best-selling author of The Home Organizing Workbook and its sequel, The Personal Organizing Workbook, she has a diverse roster of clients that includes everyone from overwhelmed apartment dwellers to Hollywood mansion owners. We caught up with Meryl to find out why she loves organizing and convinced her to give us some tips and tricks for an organized life.
How long have you had a passion for organization? 23 years. I’ve always been very organized. Beginning in high school, my clothes and shoes were color-coded. My brothers made fun of my room and called it “The Museum.”
How did you become a professional organizer? I was at a friend’s house helping her organize her kitchen because it was difficult to find anything. I alphabetized, systematized and sorted everything, and when her husband came home, he was so happy and impressed. He told me that I could charge for this, and a light bulb went off in my head. That’s when I founded my company, Let’s Get Organized.
How does the organizing process work? Basically, we start by taking everything out of the space and sorting the items into categories in the same moment. It’s a quick “I need that,” “I don’t need that,” or “I could give that away” process. You immediately get rid of what you don’t want or need. And then we put the like items together and go through color-coding, organizing, etc.
It’s great to hire someone, but if you want to do it yourself, I would urge you to be patient. It is doable. Take some time to visualize what you want that space to look like; this exercise will help you create it.
What kinds of projects do you typically tackle? It’s not only about closets, drawers and garages. Organizing means more than just cleaning up. I help people organize their whole lives. We have so much emotional attachment to our stuff. Clearing clutter is not always easy, and can be just as challenging emotionally as it is physically.
My mission is to empower you to make better choices and take control of your environment. You’ll be left with a functional space that feels fabulous, whether it’s one closet, one room or your entire home.
What are the common sources of clutter in the home? Most people have too much of the same thing. I worked with a client recently who had a dozen of the same item. When people find something they like, they buy [multiples]. In my opinion, less is more.
What’s the most effective way to organize clothing? If you have the room, I like to separate by season. Then pair all like items together (shirts in one place, skirts in another, etc.). With shirts, I organize by sleeve length, as well—first is sleeveless, then half sleeve, three-quarter and long sleeve. I always like to color code, too. Organizing this way makes your closet looks great and helps you put together outfits quickly, taking the stress out of getting dressed.
Who’s your typical client? I have worked with men, but [my clients are] typically women between the ages of 25 to 80, usually in disarray and having a hard time parting with their things.
What celebrities have you worked with? There are some people who have to be remain confidential—however, I have worked with my cousin Fran Drescher and Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy.
Who had the best closet? Kick Kennedy’s was one of my favorites. We created a custom-built closet for her needs. It was not only beautiful, it was functional and fabulous!
What’s your favorite organization resource or tool? I recommend my books, but as far as a tool, it would be clear shoeboxes. I love the ones that have mini drawers that pull out. And of course, slim hangers are great for saving room and helping with clothes slipping from the hanger.
What’s your organizing mantra? Keep what you love and what works for you. I don’t care if you haven’t worn it for 10 years. You never want to get rid of the things you love. Trash or let go of the rest.
What’s the best way to organize accessories like jewelry or sunglasses? I love using hooks and keeping necklaces on them inside the closet. You want to want to be able to see jewelry so you can choose an item on the go. Try a tray or egg carton to keep earrings and rings accessible.
For sunglasses, if you can keep them in the case, gather them up and put them in one place – even if it’s just on a shelf or displayed on a tray. I also organize by the color of the case or the size of the glasses.
What’s the most memorable organizing experience you’ve ever had? Years ago, I was working with a family and there were so many things in their house that they needed to get rid of. I kept saying things had to go. The family’s children were around 6 or 7 years old at the time, and continuously heard me say this. Their mother called me weeks after the project was complete and told me the children really picked up on my theory. If they didn’t need or want an item anymore, they told their mom, “It’s got to go!”
What’s the hardest part of your job? When there’s resistance. It’s not exactly a challenge; it just takes a little more work. It takes more sensitivity, understanding and patience. That’s where my intuition plays a really large role in my job. I know when a client has issues with stuff, and I know when I can push and when I can’t.
When you’re not organizing, what are your hobbies? I love playing golf, hiking and being outdoors, cooking and going to the movies.
For more information, tips and tricks, visit Meryl’s website at MerylStarr.com.
A Florida native, Alicia King Robinson is the director of public relations at Sarasota-based ThreeSixOh Public Relations and the blogger behind New Version of You. Her love of fashion and eye for stylish living began at an early age. Meant to inspire, she explores fashion and the evolution and ever-changing versions of ourselves with style-inspired content.