Interview: NYC Professional Organizer Amelia Meena

Small Spaces Month 2011

NYC-based Professional Organizer Amelia Meena continually impresses me with not only her organized space but with her style. Even though she only lives in 600 square feet (that includes her bath and kitchen), her space is bright and cheery and completely functional. We checked in with Amelia to learn the biggest challenges people face when living small, how to best avoid them and how to best maximize small spaces. Here's what she said.

What kind of dwelling do you live in? Square feet? Bedrooms? Bathrooms?
AM: I live in one bedroom of a split apartment. We have one bath and about 600 square feet.

How long have you lived in your apartment? Do you have plans to move?
AM: Six years. No plans to move.

What is your favorite aspect of small space living?
AM: Maximizing charm and keeping out clutter/unnecessary objects.

How do you best maximize your space?
AM: I use the walls for hanging shelves and space savers (Ikea is great resource), maximize the vertical closet space up to the ceiling and continue to clear out as I bring more in.

What is the biggest challenge of small space living?
AM: The biggest challenge I see is creating a space that lets you feel warm, content and healthy without the benefits of actual space and room.

What does your small space afford or allow you to do?
AM: It affords me to live in Manhattan (as opposed to a borough). I find it tough to justify paying an exorbitant amount of money on rent, especially in a city that keeps you busy and occupied outside of your apartment. Accepting a smaller living space allows for great trade-offs: location; more money for savings; less stress with your paycheck.

Do you dream of big spaces? How would you organize or decorate differently if you lived with more square feet?
AM: Absolutely, but my organizational style would not differ much; however, I would create a more detailed organizing system (more cubbies, files, containers, etc). I would take advantage of the space to create more living space with couches and kitchen countertops, mainly more space to be/do/live as opposed to filling up the spaces with material junk.

Your apartment is very pleasant and orderly, how do you maintain that?
AM: I always pick up after myself. A small space can be very stressful when cluttered so everything has its place and stays in it. I do a grand "move-out" of old items about five times a year, with the weekly removal of quick recycling (mail, wrappers, boxes, etc.), donations (books, jewelry, that sweater that just doesn't work anymore) and other things past their prime (cards, magazines, even condiments in the refrigerator).

As a professional organizer, what do you see as people’s biggest hurdle to living successfully in small spaces?
AM: All too often people hang onto items because of their original monetary worth. The most common, and hardest, point of contention with a client is their decision/ability to move on from an item, especially when they are fixated on how much the item cost them. Say I have two clients, both with the same unnecessary item but one client bought it full price and the other bought it on sale; the client who paid less will more likely to move it out.

Our society has put a lot of emphasis on the price tag of things, and often times, people only see $$ when they look at something, not the inherent value of its purpose. We should keep items that serve a purpose and not items that are unused or space-wasters. It's very important to realize that spending money on an item denotes that, at one time, you were willing to pay a certain amount for the appropriate function and lifetime of that item with the intention for that item to enhance your space/lifestyle. When that item no longer serves its purpose, or its lifetime has run out, it's okay to move it out of your space. And keep in mind that there are always recycling options that give others the chance to use, enjoy and gain purpose from that object as well.

A good professional organizer helps their clients to see the selfless benefits of donating to support specific organizations (like donating gently used suits to Dress for Success, dropping off superfluous toys at a local family shelter or the basic recycling of old magazines, newspapers and other trades with your neighborhood system).

What do you advise to avoid these pitfalls?
AM: The best way to stay on top of the "value trap" is to do a mental recall of how often you're used that item in the past year. Be honest, has it stayed tucked away for more than 4 seasons now? If so, it's time to move it out. Try to avoid talking yourself into finding a se for it in the future. If you haven't used it by now, chances are pretty good that it is not going to be useful in the future.

Thank you, Amelia!

Additional questions for Amelia? Let us know by dropping a line below!

About Amelia Meena: AppleShine, Amelia's professional organizing service, has been in business since 2007. She specializes in office spaces, playrooms, kitchens, garages, bedrooms and closets, special events, and moving services. AppleShine will transform your space by assessing your needs, purging clutter, and creating a personal organization plan for moving forward. Amelia can be contacted at ameliameena@aol.com.

(Images: Landis Carey)