TEXT BY JEN DEROSE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL D. WILSON
STYLED BY JEN DEROSE
Mainers are well known for their Yankee frugality and creative spirit (ahem, who gave you Marden’s and potato doughnuts?), and so it follows that those who dedicate their lives to decluttering our houses might embody these same qualities. “For the most part, we’re not dealing with big budgets and tons of space,” Damariscotta professional organizer Melissa Keyser says. “It’s tiny closets, multi-use rooms, added-onto farmhouses that defy logical flow.” Setups, in other words, that call for inventive solutions, which the pros highlighted on these pages have in spades. With many of us spending more time than ever at home, and in need of functioning remote offices, now may be the ideal time to put their ideas — largely achievable with repurposed and inexpensive supplies — into practice.
Infinite Space Professional Organizing, Portland
BACKGROUND: As a single mom attending the University of Southern Maine, Jessica Borelli cleaned houses to get by. “I hated cleaning, but I loved when I had the extra time to reorganize my clients’ closets and cabinets,” she says. After graduating, she worked on a sustainable farm in Italy, where her role soon evolved into helping organize business operations. Back in Maine, she learned the professional organizing ropes from a friend in the field before launching her company six years ago.
Turn your piles of postcards, snapshots, and kids’ art into a rotating gallery wall using metal office clips, as pro organizer Jessica Borelli did in a living room in her Portland three-unit. The graphic mural, created with painter’s tape and bold shades, “is an inexpensive way to give a space an edge,” she says.
Carve out a “corner office” in any room by integrating storage into a pretty picture wall. Borelli’s workspace in her apartment’s music/yoga room consists of supplies arranged in wooden crates topped with stone remnants and a leather swivel chair she slides in and out. “I only keep out paperwork I need within reach,” says Borelli, who files the rest in accordion folders stashed inside vintage suitcases.
A pallet or pallet-like organizer outfitted with hanging baskets for files, notebooks, and supplies upgrades the traditional bulletin board, says Borelli, who recently installed a tricked-out Ikea Hejne shelf on the wall in a Portland client’s narrow home office. Wooden wall cubbies free up additional room on the live-edge pine desk, crafted by Borelli’s husband and frequent collaborator, Ian Riley, to fit the space.
HIGH AND DRY
Clear kitchen counter space with a European-style, hanging dish-drying rack — like this one in Borelli and Riley’s kitchen — mounted over the sink to catch drips. On the upper cabinets, home-improvement-store perforated-metal sheeting stands in for glass, imparting an antique look and concealing interior jumbles.
BACKGROUND: World-famous organizer Marie Kondo’s world-famous book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up made Melissa Keyser a “Konvert.” “I was really unhappy living in California, but I didn’t realize it,” says the former environmental education teacher and landscape designer. “It was only after I made space in my own home that I could focus on things beyond it.” Last year, she underwent intensive training in Kondo’s minimalist methods. And now? She and her husband are building a house themselves on 20 acres in Damariscotta, where Keyser is the only certified “KonMari” consultant in Maine.
To make the most of a tight corner, try a storage tower like the one Keyser created from wooden crates a Bowdoinham client already had (reusing is among Kondo’s core tenets). Staggering the crates — which are ideally sized for books and small collectibles — helps bridge an angled space and conveys a whimsical vibe.
Keyser recommends decanting dry goods into Mason jars, shown here in a cabinet from Kennebunk’s Old House Parts. (Bonus points if you can complete this task without buying anything new.) “Not only do I love the way it looks, it makes it so simple to find what you’re looking for,” she says. Write labels and cooking instructions on painter’s tape affixed to the lids and you can easily switch up the contents later.
Instead of stacking sweaters on shelves, Keyser prefers to fold them according to Kondo’s method — upright, with open edges facing down to maximize space and allow you to see everything at a glance — in basket “drawers.” “If you pull something from the bottom of a stack, everything falls over,” says Keyser, who used the basket technique in her Bowdoinham client’s armoire.
Lemonaid Solutions, Portland
BACKGROUND: Growing up the oldest of five children in New Hampshire, Stephanie Treantos’s home life was chaotic well before her mother went back to school to study law. “People are often nervous about opening up their cupboards or closets,” the former insurance analyst says. “They can have a lot of shame. But I tell them, ‘I’ve been you before,’ and that’s where we can really connect.” Her cluttered childhood, and knack for making proverbial lemonade from lemon-like spaces, inspired her year-old company and its name.
To make your wardrobe more accessible, group hanging pants and skirts and folded items by color, as shown in this Cape Elizabeth closet. Hang tops and dresses by sleeve length (shortest first) from left to right, which allows you to “read” your closet like a book, Treantos says. Fold jeans with the back pockets visible so they’re more easily identifiable and stack sweaters no more than five deep to minimize toppling. Employ bins for off-season garments and display accessories, like hats and scarves, if possible, to “ensure they get worn instead of forgotten about,” she says.
When dealing with a cramped child’s closet, keep in mind, “their clothes are small, so you should create vertical storage as much as possible to use all the space,” Treantos says. In this Cape Elizabeth nursery, she partnered with her husband to build a cubby unit that fits beneath the garments and lined a high shelf with baskets. Arrange hanging items by sleeve length, as above.