Organiser to the stars, Mel Ruben Liberatore lets us in on some ways that we can find more space in our small Hong Kong homes.
If there is one wish almost everyone in Hong Kong could make, it would probably be to have a larger apartment. But if affording a massive flat isn’t possible, then what do you do? I hear my clients complain all the time they don’t have enough space. It may be true most of the time, but often, the problem is just not knowing how to get to zero.
Zero? Zero is when you have what you need, everything is exactly where it should be and you can relax on the sofa without a million “to-dos” swarming around in your head. You are calm. You are at peace. Your home is neat, and everything is put away.
Every time you say “I’ll put it away tomorrow”, you are getting farther away from zero. The more times you put it off, the bigger the piles get until they are overwhelming and unmanageable. That’s when clients usually call me in a panic. My job as an organiser is helping people achieve zero.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s going to be easy. Getting to zero is not a one-time thing. It’s more like the movie Groundhog Day (if you haven’t seen it, you should!) where the main character spends day after day doing the same thing until he gets it right. But once you make it a habit – and once you have zero – you will always want it.
So how do you get to zero?
Decide what you need and ditch the rest
Start by sorting “like things” together, one room at a time. For example, if you are in your living room, get some bins and sort by category. Gather the books, electronics, mail, and, of course, all the other things don’t even belong in the living room.
As you do this it will become clear that you probably have a lot of items you may not need and are just taking up valuable space. I am not telling you to get rid all of your appliances, but be brutal and ask yourself these three questions: Does it work? Do you use it? Would you miss it?
Make the cuts and soon you’ll have bins of things you use and like. Next!
Everything needs a home
Each item or category in your flat needs a home where it lives while you are not using it. Some “homes” are really obvious (your silverware lives in the silverware drawer, for instance), but do you have a home for the hardware? How about light bulbs? Memorabilia? Dog accessories?
Not having a designated place for these items is the biggest fail I see in most of the homes I visit. Items live everywhere making it impossible to find anything. Start with a logical plan. Items you need all the time need homes that are accessible and make sense to you. Items you rarely need can go in those high cabinets or in (or on top of!) wardrobes.
Time to be creative and make “homes” when there are none. Shop for bins, drawer organisers and other creative storage solutions. Memorabilia and photo bins don’t have to be easily accessible, but they should be in a place where you can add to them when necessary. Invest in furniture that will provide built-in storage for blankets and linens. Just remember, when you decide to give these items homes, the places you choose must make sense to you so you’ll remember where your categories live.
Space under and inside beds
Buy yourself bins that are specifically designed to slide under beds for items such as sweaters, bed linens or memorabilia. Better yet, buy yourself a box spring that doubles as a huge drawer. And because Hong Kong is so humid, it’s a wise decision to put your seasonal clothing – or anything that can get mouldy – in vacuum storage bags, which will save a ton of space and can be easily tossed under your bed.
Try storage ottomans as coffee tables, kitchen seating with drawers and other creative storage friendly furniture.
Make wall space work for you by building up. Wall units are not only more efficient, they also give the illusion of making the room look bigger (something we all wish was true!).
Staying at zero
You did it! Everything is neatly in its home and your place is organised, efficient and feels amazing. In a perfect world, you would put items back right after using them. Wishful thinking. You’re late, you’re busy, you have houseguests, your kids are sick and you’re no longer at zero. The difference this time is you have your new habit: The Run Around.
The Run Around helps you get back to zero. It’s up to you when you do this but, you need to set time either every day or at least once a week where you do The Run Around. It’s simple and it’s exactly as it sounds. You can even make a fun game of it with your kids and have them help you. You simply have to run around collecting items that are out of place and put them back in their homes. While you are doing this, you are also deciding if each item is even worth taking up space. Maybe they are going straight to the revolving donation bin you are going to start. And now you are back to zero – the organising nirvana.
Besides the obvious benefits of zero, here’s some you probably haven’t thought about:
No more running around looking for the tape dispenser because it’s in its rightful home.
No more buying things you already have because you already know exactly what you have.
Sense of Pride
With The Run Around, you can easily get your place back to zero rather quickly. This means that your flat is guest ready. It’s uncluttered, organised and neat most of the time.