We’re minimalists at heart over here and relish a good project where we help our clients peruse through what furniture to keep in a space — and what to pass on — so they truly LOVE their homes. We want their spaces to not just be beautiful but livable, and for them to display their most beloved items that tell stories about their lives.
But let’s be honest, some projects we’ve come across involve a major decluttering — and that’s when we call in a local experts like Minimized so our design process can follow. We’ve followed Matlin Pessarra and her team and we loved talking to her this week, getting the inside scoop and tricks for not just decluttering a space, but creating a lifestyle of daily purging. Matlin is light-hearted and fun — she even laughed as she confided in us that naturally, she is a stacker — and has self-taught everything she knows about organization.
Q: What first got you into organizing, a pretty niche line of work?
A: “I am originally from near Raleigh and have moved around a bit. I taught elementary school for four years and really loved it, but found myself becoming obsessed with organizing my classroom. I remember doing a lot of research — one of the reasons I love what I do so much is I am so interested in the psychology behind organization. If kids are going to learn, they need to feel comfortable and the classroom has to feel like home. Other teachers started asking for help on their classrooms and it just turned into helping people.”
Q: Is organization in your DNA?
A: “I am not naturally organized. I am naturally a minimalist, so I don’t have a lot of things which makes it easier to keep tidy — but I am a stacker like no other. It has just been a process of realizing for myself that I need to stop that habit and create new habits. A reason I love working with clients is that I can relate to them so much. I understand that sometimes it is not natural and I love talking to people about incorporating new habits so you are not having to do a new clean out every month.”
Q: Do you find that your clients similar in their disorganization or the same?
A: “I have these four organizing personalities and all my clients fit into one of them. I call myself a stacker — a piler. Then there are shoppers, who are just people who buy too many things. Then there are the shovers —- their homes are so beautiful but if you open a cabinet or a closet something might fall on you. And then there are the solvers, the people who try to make solutions and have all these organizing supplies but they don’t have the system set up correctly.”
Q: What’s the biggest tidying habit you suggest incorporating into daily life?
A: “If there was one overall tip, I would say create a drop zone in almost every space to put those things when you realize you no longer need them. In the closet, next to your hamper, have another basket so when you try things on in the morning and think, “Why do I even own this?” instead of hanging it back up — you put it there. Get into that habit of setting things aside instead of putting them back. So you don’t have to do a huge purge, instead it’s something you are doing daily. With playrooms, I suggest working with kids and explaining to them that when they are done with a toy, they can put it in this basket over here and then it will go to another kid. Parents say that no way, their kids won’t do that but kids always do it! And then it takes work off the parents.”
Q: What projects are you hired most frequently to tackle?
A: “We definitely see a variety but our most popular spots are closets, pantries and play rooms. It’s pretty much any spaces that are behind closed doors where people tend to shove and not want anyone to into them.”
Q: What do you see as the greatest need in the minimalism/organization?
A: “The greatest need people have is realizing how to change their habits in order to get their homes where they need to be. A lot of people are not used to going through and purging and donating so they tend to get really overwhelmed and get to a point where they don’t even know where to start. I have to talk to clients about how once we come in we can help declutter but you have to keep up with it. Getting people to set up those cycling systems to have somewhere to put things to donate or set things aside is really important.”
Q: What’s your take on Marie Kondo style of organization?
A: “I love Marie Kondo! I’m glad it’s got people’s attention onto the power of decluttering. I get the whole sparking joy thing, but I have joked with so many clients about it — paper towels and batteries do not spark joy for me but we need them. Her whole style is a little extreme but I appreciate parts of it. I love that she talks about organizing by category instead of by room. Like if they want to organize their hardware or manuals —- she suggests one that she has one place for it all. Not one stack in your kitchen and another in your laundry room. And of course her folding! I just love that when I look in my drawers now I can see everything from there. It stops things from piling up and getting stuck in the corners.”
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you see that people make when trying to purge?
A: “One big one is focusing more on the supplies than the actual decluttering. Almost every one of my clients already has bins — a lot of people’s clutter is storage products. They are just creating more clutter.
Q: What’s a misconception about minimalism/organizing?
A: “One of the misconceptions I find a lot with clients who hire me is that as soon as I get there, they have an idea of a new system put in! They always jump to supplies or shelving or more cabinets — which will create more storage — but one of the things that people don’t realize is that they have to deal with the clutter first. If you go in and put in more bins you are just containing the clutter — you are really not organizing.”
Q: Your tagline is, "You don't have to do it all." I love that, can you elaborate?
A: “The reason I stuck with you don’t have to do it all is that especially when I started the most popular question I got was: “Well, can’t people do that themselves?” Our time is worth money and energy and if you are not organizing every day and you don’t know the right process, you might spend weeks on one area where you could call people in and have it don in three hours. I am all about focusing on those things that are important to you!”
Q: What’s your organization process?
A: “The process that we follow can be different depending on the clients, sometimes we come in when they have just moved or are about to move or have been there for awhile. We have a three-step process that starts with minimizing, then organization and then styling. Minimizing is decluttering. We try to take every single thing out of the space, remove everything and begin to categorize and purge as needed. This step is the most time consuming, it totally depends on the client. As for organizing this is really space planning and we try to use products and space people already have! For styling, we will recommend some different products once we have gone through and purged and see what they have.”
Q: Which part of the process makes you come alive?
A: “Definitely the styling because I am seeing it coming all together! Almost every single time they say to me, “Are you scared? Are you overwhelmed by my spaces?” — but I love it! When I walk into an area that people may seem as messy I see the potential of what it could be and sometimes when we are going through the process you almost forget what is looked like so I love having the before and after!
Q: Do you have a go-to organizational item?
A: “Something I use in almost every project is some sort of turn table. The Container Store has so many different types — plastic ones, bamboo ones, acrylic ones, but they are so helpful for so many different things. For example, for corner shelves or for under the sink — they are great so you are not having to dig through and things getting stuck in the back.”
Q: We often design playrooms -- what are your tips on keeping playrooms organized?
A: “I have a lot of thoughts on playrooms especially as a former teacher but something I talk to clients about a lot is how limited kids attention spans are. If you give them a bunch of options they are going to try to use every single option. You don’t have to have every single thing out and available. I suggest putting things up and away even if kids can see it but cant reach it but then they are asking for it and you are seeing what they are asking for and playing with.”
Q: Should every house have a junk drawer?
A: “Every one is going to have something that feels like a junk drawer. For example, I live in a small one bedroom apartment and in my kitchen I have some extra gum and lighters and candles and spare keys in a drawer — but they are not just tossed and shoved in. I don’t add to it — they all have their space. I think you can have a “junk space” without it feeling junky.”