Remembering: Good Things for Organizing

Organization is such an integral component of the Martha Stewart ethos. Devotees of her brand have come to expect not only excellent recipes, gardening tips, craft projects and entertaining ideas but ways to streamline and simplify the art of living through organization. We, Martha's regular readers and viewers, can now so easily identify and recognize the "Martha Stewart way" of organizing through classic visual cues that have become iconic - and often mimicked: labelled linen storage boxes, glass decanters for dish soap and laundry detergent, bulletin boards with ribbon borders and perfectly-appointed closets with hooks, baskets and boxes assigned to very specific functions.
 In 2001, Martha released her first and only book on the subject of home organization. (She later followed with several special issue magazines devoted to the subject.) This book is essential for anyone who needs some inspiration to kickstart a clutter-control regimen in any room of the house. Filled with beautiful photographs and very practical and simple ideas to bring order to some of the busiest areas of the home, the book is divided into two parts: Living and Working. Each part is then divided into four chapters: In part one (Living) organization ideas are grouped by rooms: Kitchen, Living Rooms, Bedroom, Bathroom. In part two (Working) the same principle applies: Home Office, Workrooms, Utility Rooms, Storage Rooms. This makes the book itself a testament to effective editing!

I love this book a lot and have referred back to it many times over the years. There are a few subjects that now seem outdated, such as storage ideas for audio cassettes, VHS tapes and photo negatives, but most of the ideas are timeless and infinitely helpful. As with most Martha Stewart books, it is the beauty of the ideas and their photographic presentations that moves me. The hallmark of Martha's style of organization is the pairing of old with new, never compromising on the beauty of the idea. Who wouldn't want to have a beautiful antique armoire converted into a small but strategic home office? Or perhaps a linen closet so skillfully maintained that just gazing upon its perfect rows of fluffy, colour-coordinated towels makes you smile? The book thinks of everything and no clutter problem is left unsolved, from organizing family recipes to storing rugs and artwork, from designing a functional and beautiful home office to strategies designed to keep your bedroom and its closets true to their initial purposes. If you don't have this book yet, I highly recommend it.

 A HUTCH FOR ANY OCCASION: One of my favourite themes in the book is the recurring use of antique hutches and armoires for storage purposes. I've always loved the idea of being able to close the doors of a cabinet to conceal its function, whether it is to store your collection of china or to house a discreet and neatly appointed home office. When you close the door, you see only a beautiful piece of furniture, which also happens to be serving an important organizational function. Below are a few examples from the book.
This hutch was fitted with a series of interior compartments to house numerous pieces of collectible dinnerware and serveware.
An unassuming cabinet in this living room houses stereo equipment and various audio/visual media in smaller boxes and compartments that fit neatly onto its shelves.
My favourite image in the entire book is this magnificent Hungarian armoire that was converted into a home office. A desk insert was built with a hinged front that serves as a desktop when opened. It also has wide cubbies for extra storage. Crisscrossing ribbon on the insides of the doors create bulletin boards.
A small armoire makes an ideal closet for a baby's clothes and accessories, especially one that is given extra shelves and painted bins that slide out like drawers. On the insides of the doors, a pivoting pants rack proffers baby blankets, a clipboard keeps doctor's recommendations (and small works of art) close at hand, and a cotton bag collects laundry.
Adding a few extra shelves to this American Empire armoire, as well as some dowels on the inside of the door, was all it took to transform it into a a beautiful crafts storage center.
 At Lily Pond Lane, Martha's summer home in the Hamptons, an old cabinet on the back porch was given a new life as a storage unit for everyday gardening supplies, such as Martha's favourite gardening clogs, flower bulbs, terracotta pots, bags of fertilizer and an extra length of hose.
In the kitchen at Lily Pond Lane, Martha uses this Danish pine armoire as a storage center for extra spices, copper pots and pans, mixing bowls, cookbooks and more. Extra shelves and cubbies were built as was a series of four drawers, which keep Martha's spices in order. The insides of the doors were fitted with linen-covered panels to use as a bulletin board and extra hooks for hanging tools.
For Martha, inspiration can strike at any time - even in the wee hours of the night. To accommodate this impulse, an antique drop-leaf table was used in Martha's Turkey Hill bedroom to do double duty as a nightstand and a home office. Her phone, a notepad, a laptop as well as a collection of the reference books and novels she was reading at the time are shown. Once her work is done, she can put the books away, slip her laptop into her briefcase and drop down the table leaf to create a more restful nightstand.
Martha's classic Turkey Hill kitchen in all its glory, with copper pots hanging beautifully above a very functional center island.
A craft room is perfectly appointed to be multifunctional with different stations for different activities and maximized storage space. (Attention to detail: clay pots are used to store pencils, brushes and rulers; a keyboard can be slid out of sight on a rolling shelf.)

ALSO LOOK FOR: These two special issues are also very helpful guides to organization. At Home With Technology, a special issue of Martha Stewart Living, was issued in 2001 and examines all the ways we can stylishly incorporate technology into our homes. It also explores how many of the machines we use at home function and can simplify our lives. A special issue called Organizing, released in 2012, has even more storage solutions and organization ideas for every room in the house; many of the ideas were originally printed in the Good Things for Organizing book. You can often find these out-of-print special issues at Amazon.com (through private sellers) or at Ebay.


Rowaida said...

Hi Andrew,
Good Things for Organizing is a very informative and inspiring book, a must in every home, love it. I ordered the issue Organizing, I can't wait to receive it. Moving house in Kuwait soon, this will be very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Nahh, New year brought a thought of organizing. It quickly passed and sitting here buying more on the net. The day will come when things will change, but right here right now, clutter is my joy.