If given the opportunity, I wonder if I would have the courage to enter a contest where my life, or in this case, my closet would be put on exhibit for the entire world to see, but considering my closet, on most days, is a reflection of what I do for a living, I doubt it.But for Lee Horton and Belinda Alvarez, entering and winning the Naples Daily News' "Get Organized" messiest closet contest (Sept. 23, 2011) was the chance of a lifetime.
Not only did the couple win a custom-designed closet from Custom Closets & More of Bonita Springs, but they also "won" 10 backbreaking and hilariously funny hours of sifting through piles of T-shirts, hats, belts, pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, tops, handbags and more shoes than I can count, with a professional organizer — yours truly!
And as if that's not enough, they had to agree, in writing, to having a follow-up visit 4 months later.
When I arrived, gone was the chaos and in its place, a clutter-free and inviting environment.
I knew Belinda was committed and thought Lee also was, but I had to ask the inevitable question: did they hustle to clean up before my arrival? When they both answered — simultaneously — "Our closet always looks like this," I knew I had made a difference.
Belinda volunteered, albeit with a hint of irony, "Lee is totally committed, in fact, now when he takes off his running shoes, he actually puts them where they belong."
I asked Belinda if there was anything she wanted to change and was thrilled to know that the organizing guidelines I suggested were working out. I was especially pleased to discover the couple had devised a system of their own whereas when they remove an item from the closet, they leave the hanger in its place as a reminder.
Belinda, who kept to her word and didn't shop for 4 months, liked my idea about purchasing an exact number of matching hangers and being forced to get rid of items once she ran out of hangers.
Taking the time to carefully fold and put things away makes an H-U-G-E difference. Belinda agreed that having a stepladder in the closet (my idea) was making things much easier as she wasn't tempted to toss things on the higher shelves like she used to do before the makeover.
When Belinda's niece came to visit and saw her shoe boxes all lined-up nice and neat and identified with photographs, she exclaimed "Oh. My. God. Your closet looks like a movie star's!"
Everything — well, almost everything — was more perfect than the last time I was there.
Unfortunately, the 11 plastic containers that had previously monopolized every square inch of the couple's closet had simply been moved into Lee's office, where, as before, they are taking up valuable storage space and collecting dust.
According to Lee, his collection of old and musty comic books, newspaper clippings and magazines is valuable and needs to be sorted through, cataloged and inventoried before he attempts to sell anything; the way I see it, "half of nothing equals nothing."
I suggested he keep four of the most valuable comic books (based on sentimentality, and not perceived monetary value) to be professionally framed and displayed in the couple's home.
The problem with collections is most collectors think they're sitting on a pot of gold, and at some point, they may well have been, (can you say "Beanie Baby?") but in today's market, most collections, unless of course you a Warhol or de Kooning, aren't worth much more than face value.
I offered Lee a solution, and suggested the best way to get something done was to set a goal, such as the couple's upcoming honeymoon; pick a date when the project can actually be accomplished, and then, just like the advertisement says, "Just do it!"
We invite you to send us questions about how to get and stay organized, which will be addressed in future columns.
Hint of the day: Once your closets are organized, force yourself not to shop for a minimum of four months (six if you're really courageous). During this time, go "shopping" in your closet by creating new looks using the clothing and accessories you already have.