Home Solutions of WNY: Order, purpose, and shopping the house
Living “five doors apart” in Williamsville, Jamie Shaner and Lynn Clark first became good friends, and then, when they founded Home Solutions of WNY in 2005, business partners. The duo has successfully aided families and individuals with downsizing residences, organizing rooms, staging houses during showings/sales, and crafting command centers to optimize efficiency in any domicile. Clients hire Shaner and Clark mainly via referrals, and through their website (homesolutionswny.com), which teems with hot home-organizing tips and outlines their services: one-time or ongoing consultation, hands-on organizing, or a blend of both for an hourly fee of $100.
Shaner and Clark are members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), which hosts an annual springtime conference focused on new organizational strategies, and they were participants in University at Buffalo’s yearlong Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs Program (part of the school’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership), completing the business-enriching program in 2010. Both women have backgrounds in banking, and Shaner worked for a CPA firm. As a working pair, they complete each other’s sentences and bring to their work humor, immense enthusiasm, and maternal and calming reassurance for new clients who always ask, “Is this the worst that you’ve ever seen?”
When Shaner and Clark enter a project, collaboration happens without any official division of chores. “Our mantra,” Shaner says, “is ‘like with like’ and we might say that a hundred times in the course of any job.” Adds Clark, “We rarely say ‘you do this and I’ll do that.’ We just gravitate to a space and it happens.”
Because there is great emphasis on Home Solutions’ client confidentiality, Spree orchestrated a home organizing consultation and home space retooling for one of its contributors, Rachel Fix Dominguez. An avid writer and crafter, Fix Dominguez stays home with young Erdene while also working on her dissertation. Her husband, John, works for a bank from a home office on the third floor.
Fix Dominguez was excited about the project, as organizing was something she never seemed to get to. “Life will always get in the way of committing to a project like this,” she says. “I will always find something more pressing than organizing those items that help me to relax and to enjoy my free time. So making time for this is actually a really great thing for me to do for myself.”
During their first meeting, Fix Dominguez, Shaner, and Clark discuss which portion of the house needs the most organizing/reorganizing. They determine that the living room should be the new hub of family activity, but that Fix Dominguez’s home office—a place where mother and son work on art projects together, but also where the Ph.D. dissertation work is done—is perhaps in greater need of their professional touch.
The office, actually a twelve-by-twelve bedroom, is also the home’s guest bedroom and, for that purpose, has a sofa bed. The room’s street-facing windows are flanked by heavy wooden bookshelves teeming with books on motherhood, literature, boxes filled with art and craft supplies, travel artifacts, and three-ring binders of dissertation-related materials. There is also a sewing machine, and a walk-in closet with even more art materials, including an extensive collection of new and vintage fabrics. Shaner and Clark’s assessment: There is no system for organizing or shelving, and there needs to be better separation of thesis and craft.
“When I was in the Peace Corps, I had a fifty-pound backpack with all of my stuff,” says Fix Dominguez. “Having lived overseas, I know how little people in other places in the world live with.” Shaner declares that a great perspective.
The duo inquires about budget for the craft room/study, what Fix Dominguez envisions spending for containers, furnishings, and flourishes that will enhance the space. A budget and calendar are created: The three of them will systematize for six hours over two days, a total of eight hours with the home walk-through/consultation included.
During the ensuing organizing, Shaner and Clark suggest changes, and ask Fix Dominguez to prioritize items. Questions follow about the frequency of use for each craft material, how materials are used or not used, and what should or shouldn’t be within Erdene’s reach. Small changes make big differences: With the addition of cardboard dividers, the top desk drawer, once a tangle of charger cords and wires, is now a neat assemblage of paper, pens, and stationary items. Similarly overhauled, the opposite top drawer is where all bill-paying materials are located. The shelving on either side of the windows becomes more delineated: craft/art projects on the left, and materials pertaining to dissertation and erudition on the right.
At the end of day one, Shaner and Clark leave their client with a few homework assignments, including items to move and sort through. There is a brief discussion of her collection of Pyrex, and how this can be incorporated into the room; currently the collection is hidden away in pantry storage downstairs. “Surround yourself with what you love,” Clark declares. They also advise Fix Dominguez to “shop the house,” i.e., walk through and see what shelves, tables, or other furnishings might be better employed in her office. On day two, the room benefits from some repurposed shelving.
“My initial plan was to get a DIY hanging shelf system from Home Depot or Lowe’s, but when I went to look at them, considering that I have a small budget for this—almost nothing—I didn’t want to spend three hundred dollars for shelves for a closet,” says Fix Dominguez. “I measured what I needed and went upstairs to my husband’s lair and found that he had two shelves the exact size that I need, twenty-eight inches wide.” The shelves, solid wood, were acquired from a garage sale.
On day two, Shaner and Clark arrive with containers and other small decorating items for Fix Dominguez to consider for her finished room. “We super-shopped at IKEA,” they enthuse, noting plastic is best for sturdiness and washability. Not only do they bring containers for possible purchase, but oversized labels which are soon affixed to boxes that now read rubber stamp supplies, scrapbooking materials, stickers, glues, paint, glitter, Play-Doh, and more.
By the end of day two, the room looks complete. There are items to sort and a pile of purged items in the hallway, but what is emerging is a room that seems larger, more cheerful, and less frenetic. A coffee table now sits in front of the sofa, and decorative touches like sparkly pillows make the room friendlier. Everyone is thrilled. “The last sentiment that we hope for,” Clark says, “is that people say that we have changed their lives, that we’ve been a big help.”
HINTS FOR HOME ORGANIZATION
ADD, THEN SUBTRACT. If you add a new item to your closet, take out an old one. This way, your closet will never become too packed or hard to manage.
CATEGORIZE YOUR CLOTHES. Sort items by type and color. This allows you to see clearly those seven green polo shirts and remove the excess.
DON’T USE IT? LOSE IT. If you haven’t worn or used something in over a year, you probably won’t miss it—get rid of it.
STORE HOLIDAY DECORATIONS. If you still have Valentine’s Day decorations lying around, organize them in a clearly labeled box. Also keep holiday dishes and trays with their respective decorations and store them in the basement or attic.
ARRANGE THE PANTRY. Place foods on shelves according to who uses them and how often. For example, put canned goods at adult eye level, kids’ snacks where they can reach them, and rarely used ingredients higher up.
CREATE A PLAN. If you feel overwhelmed, take a moment and make a list of organizational projects to check off as they’re completed.
Artist, photographer, and writer Nancy J. Parisi is a resident of the Old First Ward.