Scott Roewer on home organizing | Home Front

Jan 30, 2014

Scott Roewer, a certified professional organizer, will discuss purging common household items and answer your home organizing questions. Roewer is founder of, a Washington, D.C. based professional organization company that teaches clients to create and maintain organization systems, master their time management skills, and dramatically increase their productivity.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Having professional organizer Scott Roewer of Solutions by Scott & Co. on the chat today makes me smile. I know how big a topic organizing and clutter control is to so many people I know, including me. Scott is a pro at all aspects of this and has dealt with many scenarios in his extensive experience. He was one of the sources in my story today on How to Get Rid of Stuff in the Washington Post. Lots of questions already. Send yours in and let's get going.

Hello Everyone, I'm so glad you've joined us.  I look forward to your questions!

I am putting my house on the market this spring and my realtor has advised me to paint a few of my rooms a neutral color so a buyer can imagine a blank canvas. I think I am going with Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan, HC-81. Can you recommend a nice trim color? Thanks for your chats! They are so informative and I look forward to them every week.

Manchester Tan on the walls will look great.  For the trim I recommend Manchester Tan but add white to it to make it 80%/20% white/manchester tan. For the doors consider a mixture of 50%/50%. It is beautiful and softer than plain white.

My mom who was French passed away leaving with a house full of hand made Louis 14 style furniture (made in France). Also, original hand painted replicas of Dutch, French and Spanish paintings. These paintings are of French origin of a known (in France) French painter. I can't integrate all these things into my home and need to find a reputable person to help me sort it out and sell it . Thank!

Thanks for your question.  I'm sorry for your loss.  I would recommend for helping you appraise and auction these items your mother left for you.

I am sure you have answered this before but I am getting desperate! Where do you recommend going for good quality but not outrageously expensive rugs? I cannot stand to look at my bare living room floor any longer but have read so many bad reviews online re: pb/west elm/ikea rugs. Would love somewhere local I can see the rugs but is not going to set me back a ton. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

I feel your pain.  I've explored rugs for many clients and I now recommend Flor as a product line.  Check out their DC store in Georgetown.

My house is going on the market and I need to de-clutter big time. It's just so overwhelming. What's considered clutter? I don't have anything personal up (no photo's etc) but my closest have clothing on the top (folded) that doesn't fit in drawers. If I hide things in other closets prospective buyers will just open them anyway and see it. I want to be able to show there's more space/storage than there clearly is so how do I accomplish this?

Your home not having personal items out is a great start.  However, you also want your home to look spacious.  If you can take on the extra expense of renting storage, you bank account will benefit from a higher sales margin.  Consider  They come to you to do the pick up and you only pay for what you store.  Closets are a great place to being.  I always stage a home with NOTHING on the floors of a closet and MINIMIAL items on the shelves and 1.5" inches between each hanger.  You want them to see spacious.  Home buyers won't open your dresser drawers, but they will open kitchen drawers, bathroom drawers and undersinks.  So don't forget these areas when you're packing stuff up to stage your home. 

It took me and my three siblings a week of 15 hour days to clean out my mother's home last year following her death. She wasn't a hoarder, but there was definitely 80+ years worth of papers and files that we painstakingly had to go through, for fear of throwing away anything essential or of family historical value. I emerged from the experience determined that my own children would never have to do the same for me. I tackled my own collection of paper by doing a box a week. That made it manageable, and kept me on a timetable that guaranteed I wouldn't put off. There's a wonderful feeling of peace in it -- and I found things that had been lost for years!

What great advice - a little at a time.  Let me thank you in advance for your children....I'm sure they will appreciate your thoughtful decluttering!

We recently remodeled our sun room. Unfortunately, there is an unsightly, large rectangular-shaped fluorescent light recessed into the beadboard ceiling. Taking it out and attempting to patch the hole does not seem like a good option. We need the light, just not that one. Any ideas? Mary Jo Rasmussen

Congrats on your remodel.  Sounds lovely.  Taking the light out may not be as much of a challenge as you may think.  You might explore that option. To replace it, take several photos of the light, measure the fixture, and take that info to my favorite lighting store Illuminations.  Their downtown show room is awesome and the staff is great.

You had a picture of a PIANO on the front of the section. I have an old, upright, that I can hardly even push. I've offered it on Craig's List for free, but no takers. Any other thoughts???? Melanie

Hello Melanie - You might try as a starting place or list your piano on

There are many churches and schools who could use another piano in a music practice room.  You might try a needy organization as well.  

I'm very forgetful, and if I put something away, I'll completely forget about it. Do you have any tips that would allow me to keep things (mostly paperwork) in front of me without looking messy?

Hello!  Sounds like you're very visual, much like myself.  I use a system of clear folders and organize them in a stairsteped file folder holder, similar to this one.

Keep in mind that EVERYTHING out means it ALL has the same importance.  Keep out what you need most often or your current projects.  Develop a retrieval system for your other documents.  Notice I didn't say storage.  When we put things 'away' we're setting them up for their next use, not simply storing them.  If you develop the system, trust the system, and use the system - with ONLY papers you need, it will work.  Having a professional organizer work with you may help as well. 

I have a stack of art/photos that need to be framed and hung on the wall. Right now they are taking up much needed space in a closet. Can you recommend shops in the DC/Baltimore area that have vintage or otherwise interesting frames?

Hello!  Sounds like a fun project.  Check on 14th Street in NW, DC.  She has some great stuff.  Auctions are also sometimes good for a find.  I also love in Hamilton VA

One of the last stand-alone used book sales on the East Coast is at Stone Ridge School at the corner of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane the weekend of April 11-14, 2014. The Book Sale accepts most books and audio/visual materials in good condition. We no longer accept audiocassette music recordings. We do not accept magazines or journals, ex-library books, textbooks older than five years, encyclopedias printed after 1930, or damaged books such as those underlined or highlighted, or those with that "basement" smell. Please no leftovers from other sales, including church sales, school sales or other public sales. Books are accepted year-round, 24/7 (twenty-four hours a day/seven days a week). Where to donate books: Stone Ridge is located on the southeast corner of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane (9101 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814).

Thanks for posting this. I have donated to this sale for years. It is so convenient to drive up to the little house on the Stone Ridge campus and drop off books any time of day or night! It is very convenient.. In my story today on how to get rid of stuff, I consulted with professional organizers for ideas. If you all have other places to sell or donate that you want to tell me about, please email me or post to this chat. We may do a follow up with additional places to sell or donate or recycle items. My email is

I have had good luck with the strangest of places: Home Depot. They have a few rug lines that are really well made, attractive, and at a good price point. They do carry some fairly hideous (IMHO) rugs, but once you're able to weed through the duds, you'll find some nice pieces. My rugs are going on 8 years and still look fairly new considering that they're in high traffic areas.


Great article today on donating unwanted stuff! Do you know of any group that will take window treatments (in very good condition)? We have a three-part set of draperies (for a big bay-ish window - it's all tacked onto a board - that I'm replacing. I'm trying to find a group that will pick it up (in the Annapolis area); Habitat has already turned it down, and I'm getting tired of seeing it sitting on my dining room floor. (By the way - we've also been donating books to a great organization in Annapolis - Books for International Goodwill. They have a big sale of donated books every other month or so, and use the money to ship donated textbooks overseas to schools and libraries. )

Please allow me to thank you for being thoughtful with your donations.  That's wonderful. Most places like AmVets, Goodwill, etc. will accept drapes.  If they don't sell within three weeks at Goodwill, they're sold by the pound for salvage.  So if you don't want that to happen, you might try FreeCycle.  It's not a charity, but a crafty person may pick them up and recreate something for their own home.  Good luck!

Once I get organized, I would like to have a really good cleaning person come in and do a really thorough job. Do you have recommendations for such a service in the Alexandria, VA, area? I read about a wonderful one in NYC, but nothing here. Thanks!

Hello there and welcome to the area!  Finding the right cleaning company can be a challenge.  You might check your local neighborhood blog or list-serve to see if anyone has personal recommendations.  I typically recommend Maid To Clean as a service provider.  They're a local, woman owned, minority owned, small business who has done a great job for many of my clients.  Don't wait until your house is 'organized'.  You deserve a clean home now!  Cleaning companies are used to working around clutter.  Why wait?!?

I am helping to clean out a deceased friend's apartment. The article in today's Post addresses how best to sell/donate/trash major household items like furniture/books/china, but how about other personal effects? For example, could you please recommend places to donate paintings and clothes? Also, a great place in Alexanandria/NoVa to donate furniture, especially tables, lamps, desks, sofas & gently used beds is ALIVE! an ecumenical group which will pickup your furniture and deliver it to needy--oftentimes immigrant--families. The number to schedule a furniture pickup is 703-837-9300, ext. 3.

You're a great friend.  Thank you for the work you're doing.  If you're looking for something quick and a one-stop-shop for your donations, consider  - they're a thrift store who partners with charities for the tax donation.  They pick up and easy to work with.  Thanks for the resource of ALIVE!  I'll check them out.

My son has a ton of toys, some of which are in our living room. I'd like to get some sort of bookcase-type piece of furniture that can hold baskets and yet still look like grown-up furniture. Is there a name for this? I'm not sure what to search for or where to look. If it helps, I like traditional, antique furniture (nothing modern, so no Ikea). Please help me reclaim my living room!

Kids toys easily take over a room, so I feel your pain!  Bookcases are often too shallow for a basket, or for some of the larger plastic toys.  You may be looking for a sideboard or credenza which are deeper than a book case.  

Toys in baskets for kids 'disappear'.  If you use this method, consider pictures on the sides of the baskets to show what toys are inside.  Also be sure to teach him to put toys away when he is finished playing with them before he gets another basket.  Baskets can be big and heavy for kids so bigger/deeper is not better when it comes to toys.  Good luck!  Let me know how it goes. You may find some inspiration here.

I know the colors palette I want but do not know how to integrate them thoughout the house and how to use them between the walls, trim and ceiling- is their a good website, a local color designer or a color designer that works on line. Cost is an issue thanks

You might explore color pallets on for some ideas or call an interior designer and ask for a color consult.  I like Annie Elliot's work at   You might also check with Vastu,  - they have designers who can help you with color selection.

we had a 3 x 6 fluorescent box hanging down 18 inches from our kitchen ceiling. we dismantled it, reinforced the joist above, patched with sheetrock, added recessed lights and a gorgeous pot rack. You'll be able to find a wonderful solution for your sunroom.

Great tip for the person with the fluorescent light challenge.  Thanks for your suggestion!

Just wanted to add to your list of places to donate household items: Habitat for Humanity ReStore All proceeds from things sold at the store go to Habitat NOVA.

Yes - great suggestion.  Check out the stores in Alexandria or Chantilly.  They have several trucks and they do pick up.  It is easy to schedule online

Good morning! Ever dealt with anyone who had old stamps collections ? Any local DC area contacts who would be helpful with that type of "clutter"

You might try or for a resource to help you with this collection.

Scott--I read the article in the Home and Garden section on organizing, and it seemed as if your only solution to eliminating the clutter of heirloom china was to give it away to friends or family. Is that really the only solution??

Certainly not. is a place that will buy the china by the piece (if they're in need) and they sell the collection one piece at a time at a time to those looking for it.  Auction houses like Quinn's Auction Gallery also accepts some china.  

I bet the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore Store would take this. Also, if you've remodeled your house, they'll also take donations of cabinetry, sinks, and such. I'm sure there's at least one of these places in the Washington metro area.

Thanks. Good suggestion.

I'm going to be listing my house next month to sell and was told by my realtor that I REALLY need to change my front hall light fixture because it's out of date. It matches my dining room light which is the same coloring (bronze/gold). Is this really going to make that much of a difference in the offers? I hate to replace both since that's another couple hundred bucks that I don't want to put into the property since I clearly won't take the light fixture with me when I move. I'd also have to hire someone to do it since the front hall light is part of a cathederal ceiling and I don't have a ladder high enough to do it myself.

You realtor has given you some sound advice.  You investment of time and a few hundred dollars can give the house a fresh/updated look that will appear to a broader audience of buyers.  Consider this an investment in order to increase the sale price.  You can replace fixtures fairly inexpensively. Ask your realtor to split the cost with you for installation or deduct the cost from their commission.  All they can say is yes or no.  It's worth asking.  Good luck with your move!  Let us know if we can assist at all.

Hi homefront - love the chats! I recently moved into a condo and the dining room space is 7 ft 8 inches wide and 10 feet long. The 10 ft length is open at the end but the 7 ft 8 inches is between a wall and kitchen counter. I am trying to find a dining room set to fit the space. Oher condo units with the same floor plan have had rectangular tables 40" wide or smaller, and I saw one with a 42" round table. I didn't measure the chair depths though of those. They seemed to be an Ok fit though. What size should I be looking for as far as table and chairs? My previous house had a much larger dining room with plenty of space, and I'm not sure what is realistic for the new space. I know I need to consider table width and chair depth but don't know the minimum space needed for pulling out the chairs. I saw a rectangular table that was 38" wide and chairs that were 22" deep, so that allows each chair to be fully pulled out plus 5 inches behind before hitting the wall. Is that realistic? Am I better with a round table? Any recommendations would be appreciated for both size and stores/brands. Thanks!

Congrats on your new condo!  Very exciting.  Try some of the suggestions here.   I use the rule they mention of 24" behind each chair.  How many people do you plan to entertain?  Maybe look for a table that expands or that folds inside itself.  You can always rent extra chairs if you're having a larger gathering.  Ask on your favorite search engine "how much space goes behind a dining room chair" or "Selecting the right dining room table size"   You'll find a wealth of knowledge.

I am in a rent controlled apartment in San Francisco and will never be able to afford anything else. Fortunately, I really like my place and my neighborhood. The unit probably hasn't been updated in 20+ years, however, and my landlord has no incentive to do so as long as I'm living there. So, I've got really old kitchen countertops that have buckled from water seeming in. The linoleum floor has nicks and stains. The bathroom vanity top is bleached-out in places. This is all cosmetic, so landlord is even less likely to give a crud. Do you have ANY suggestions for low-cost cosmetic help?

I'm curious what you're allowed to do in the apartment.  Are you allowed to replace the counter tops yourself?  I know in NYC it is a trend for renters to fix up their rent controlled apartments because they plan to be there for a long time.  They invest in their space to create the home they desire. Get permission in writing first. You might check a Habitat Restore for an option.  I'm not a remodel expert, but that's my suggestion for getting started with your quest.

After going through too many rugs bought at area rug locations, I just went to a carpet store and found the perfect piece -- it was a remnant but you can order any size rug that you need from full-size carpet rolls. You can get whatever size you need and they'll provide inexpensive (or expensive) binding options.

Great suggestion for the person looking for rugs.  Thank you!

Thanks for the response--yes, sideboard or credenza are the words I was looking for. My son is fairly good about putting stuff away if we ask him to (thank you, Montessori!). My thought is to have baskets with one sort of thing in them (cars, animals, people figures, etc.), but to keep them small so that the stuff doesn't disappear into a big basket. Thanks again.

You're welcome.  Involve your son in the sorting process.  He may think animals and people go together, or cars go with the people because people drive them.  If the organization is done with your son's involvement, it will be easier for him to use.

Please call Scrap-DC if you have art and craft supplies to donate - they are a fabulous nonprofit that recycles, holds classes and generally creates fun out of cast-offs!

Love knowing this. Thank you.

If you need to declutter in order to sell, you need to declutter. Take everything out of your closets, dressers, etc and have a cold, hard look at it. If you haven't worn or used it in the last year, you don't need it. Get rid of it permanently. This goes for everything in your house. You are just holding on to this for sentimental reasons. You'll find a new you if you get rid of the clutter, not just stash it. Stashed clutter is still clutter.


Please call Scrap-DC if you have art and craft supplies to donate - they are a fabulous nonprofit that recycles, holds classes and generally creates fun out of cast-offs!

This is obviously a great place to donate. Thanks.

We recently spent many hours researching and testing sofa beds, day beds, and futons for our guest room. We bought a sofa bed from La-Z-Boy that has an air mattress attached on top of the standard coil mattress. It is amazingly comfortable (so says my 75 year old father who used it for several weeks). Not affiliated, just a very happy customer.

Thank you for sharing this happy experience. We get a lot of questions about this.

Are there any organizing books in particular that you would recommend?

I love organizing books and have a great collection myself.  Books are usually a presentation of one method or idea.  So,  you'll need to find something that speaks your language.  Check out my friend, and local author, Erin Doland's book UnClutter Your Life in One Week.  Another good option is Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out.  Or you can contact me through my website for a copy of the book I co-authored, Get Organized Today.

I am a woman who wears knee-length boot almost every day. I have at least three pairs I use each week. How do I store them? A shoe-rack would be way too small. And just lining them up against the wall of my closet on the floor leads to them bending and falling over.

What you need are boot forms (to start with) that keep the boots from folding over.  This also allows your boots to last longer because the leather is not getting creased.  You can use a DIY method, by cutting a pool noodle for your boots.  You can read about that here.  

Or you can buy boot forms at the container store.  They have very basic inserts to fancy cedar inserts.  Some of these also allow you to hang boots, or put them on a shelf.  They recently introduced a boot tree as well that stores the boots upside down.  Check it out here

Check out Homegoods.

Good for so many things.

Any thoughts on how to deal with electronic clutter? Not only do I have to organize my house and office, I now have to manage all these electronic files, emails, bookmarks, etc! It just never ends...

Ah, yes - electronic clutter - the kind you don't trip over in your home, but still gives many of us headaches.  Are you a small business owner or entrepreneur?  I love for organizing information from online.  My colleague D. Allison Lee does tech coaching -  and I know she co-wrote a e-book on 50 Tech Tools.  Email her or Kim Oser at

I'm also cleaning out our dear Mom's belongings, and a doll collection she had for over 80 years. Do you have any suggestions for auction sites or collector's sites that would be interested in these? Some are quite collectible, according to some books we've consulted. Thanks!

I don't have a local connection for you, but please google/bing "auction collectible dolls" and there are numerous resources. 

Hi! I'm also preparing to sell my house and need to neutralize the paint colors. Currently, our living room is Sherwin Williams Trusty Tan 6087, which we will not be painting. The dining room, stairway, and 2 bedrooms need to be painted. Can you suggest Sherwin Williams soft taupes for the dining room/stairway and some grays for the bedrooms that would flow nicely? Thanks!

Sure - you can go with one of the lighter colors on the paint chip.  You can find those here.


The question from the person looking for vintage frames reminded me of one I've been meaning to ask: What is vintage? "Antique" has a definition, but what's the difference between "vintage" and "used"? Don't you need to refer to a specific time period in order to define a vintage?

True  - knowing what you're looking for would help. According to an online site  "In 1930 the U.S. Government ruled that objects had to be at least a 100 old to be classified as antiques"  I hope that helps in your quest to find vintage or antique frames.

I am 63, and have never in my life been a good organizer. I have a kitchen table full of newspapers, linen closet full of sheets and towels, etc. How can I reform myself into a tidier person? I do make a sweep of the house twice a year to give clothes, etc. to Goodwill, but still have more than I need, much of it from my own mother and grandmother, and my own sentimental keepsakes - including china, crystal, and silver. It's not junk, but there is just too much.

This is a great question and not one I can answer here.  Feel free to reach out to us  We can assist you.

Thanks for the great questions.  You can find us by visiting  Please sign up for our newsletter and receive your free declutter report, 11 Things to Purge Before Monday! We're on Facebook at and twitter @DeClutterYou  ~ Scott Roewer

Thank you Scott. We covered a lot of ground here today and Scott's incredible knowledge is inspirational isn't it! So go home and start thinking about how you can organize and declutter your space. It will bring you happiness. So everyone, have a great day and see you next week when our guest is Sara Peterson, editor in chief of HGTV Magazine. Scott, Thanks again!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Scott Roewer
Scott Roewer, Certified Professional Organizer is founder of, a Washington, D.C.-based professional organization company devoted to teaching residential and business clients, to create and maintain organization systems, master their time management skills, and dramatically increase their productivity.
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