Function First: How to Make Your Home Work (and Make Your Life Easier)


What comes to mind when you think about an organized room? It’s natural for us to imagine something that resembles a chic hotel room or one of the designer-decorated rooms we see in glossy home decor magazines. And it can be exactly that – if that’s what you truly want.

Although I can appreciate an aesthetically pleasing room, I feel that the term ‘organized’ is not necessarily just about how it looks; it’s more about how it works.

When a room ‘works’, it serves the needs of the people who use it. The room has specific functions, and if it works properly, it fulfills its purpose. That’s why is so important to determine the function(s) of each room before you start organizing it. Specifically how do you need that room to serve you? Imagine the room is asking you, “What do you want from me?” – and make a list of your answers.

The function of the room may seem obvious at first, but you’d be surprised how many people overload a room with too many functions – that’s like expecting too much from one relationship vs. having a variety of relationships for different needs. Once you are clear on what you want from the room, then you can begin creating areas and systems for the various activities that you want to take place there.

Let’s take the kitchen as an example – one of the most important yet challenging spaces in your home. What do you want from that room? Your list might look something like this:

  • clear counter space to prepare food comfortably
  • storage that’s easily accessible for the things I use most
  • a space that’s easy to move around in, to save steps
  • an eating area for the whole family
  • somewhere to pay bills
  • an area to keep the family calendar and post messages
  • a place to put backpacks when the kids come home from school
  • a flat surface for the kids to do homework

You may consider asking the rest of the family too, as they may want to add some of their needs to the list. Different people will require different things from their space. Once you’ve determined how you want the room to serve you and your family, you can start organizing it around that vision – and removing anything that doesn’t fit the vision.

From the day I became a professional organizer, I was very clear that my role was not just to clear flat surfaces and put things in pretty boxes (although that can be part of it).

Organizing is so much more than containing the stuff.

The way I see, my role is to help people create spaces that make their lives easier, better and happier.

What does an organized space mean to you?

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This post has 4 comments

  • Maureen says:

    I totally agree with the functionality aspect. Back in January I spent many hours making functional areas that worked in my home office. This month I am working on my kitchen. I am going through every cupboard and drawer – the goal is to better organize it all so it works for me. I am clearing away items that are not really needed and moving some items around so they are more convenient. i.e. the cat food is now in the cupboard that is closest to the cat food bowls. Also – I have designated a small shelf at eye-level in a cupboard for my “food to use up”. This way it does not have to be sitting on the counter for me to easily see it – and it does not get “lost” in a bigger cupboard. And when I am hungry and want a snack – I go to this shelf – and eat the food that needs to be used up. I have a small box in the fridge that serves the same purpose for refrigerated items that should be used up.
    I will keep working at this for the rest of the month. This keeps me on track to do that which gives me the most return for my time. Next month I have other projects to tackle… I have been in this house for 10 years – so this is my 10th anniversary reorganization year.

    • Hi Maureen,
      I’m so pleased to hear all about how you’re reorganizing your house. You have some great strategies, so thanks for sharing. You are saving steps and saving time…what a great gift to give yourself and your house on your 10th anniversary together! Very inspiring.

  • Saundra says:

    Helen, merging two households had created clutter that had me totally overwhelmed. I could be described as someone who experiences episodes of being blocked. Each time I have seen an episode of ‘Neat’ I am motivated to purge and organize a small space. Seems I’m not as unorganized as I thought, just needing to purge the clutter. I am finding it easier to purge clothing than hard junk. Then I remind myself if something hasn’t been a year, it probably won’t. Them I separate by the categories to donate trash or keep. A small dent in the right direction I feel is finally letting me are how much more space we have and how much weight being my shoulders