Joe Johnson on storage and organizing | Home Front

Jul 24, 2014

Joe Johnson is the owner and lead designer for ShelfGenie of Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

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Joe Johnson is the owner and lead designer for ShelfGenie of Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. He is an expert on organizing everything in your house. I'm sure there are plenty of questions this morning. So let's begin.

Hello and thank you for joining us this morning!  ShelfGenie is the industry leader for custom designed, built and installed pull-out shelving solutions.  I have 5+ years experience organizing and designing custom pull-out storage solutions for kitchen cabinets, pantries, bathrooms, home offices, media rooms, bars or anywhere there is an existing cabinet.  I look forward to your questions!


Hello ShelfGenie. I have always wanted storage for my trash under the sink. Since I already have cabinets with doors that swing out, do you have a system for me to put in trash (and maybe even recycles) that can be used with doors that swing out, rather than pull out like most built-in trash/recycle systems use?

Great question!  Assuming your plumbing is not in the way, yes, we can install a custom pull-out under your sink for trash, and, if there is room, recycling.  Another option is that we can remove your swinging cabinet door from it's hinges and attach that door to the pull-out like many trash/recycling systems.

Submitting this question early. Please recommend a nice quality storage ottoman. Any type of fabric is OK. Shape doesn't matter, I just need something that with compliment my large brown, microfiber sectional. Thanks!

IKEA has a lot of nice storage ottomans at great prices. Also, read my story today about the new 2015 IKEA catalogue that just came out today. I also pick my five favorite new items.

How to clear out boxes of papers and other paraphernalia in my office? I am not sure exactly what papers to keep and what to throw away. How many years should I keep papers?

Here are the IRS guidelines for how long to keep records.  Estate planning legal documents like wills, health care power of attorney etc should be reviewed every 5 years or so.  Give copies to those that will make sure your wishes are followed.

My cousin has late stage rectal cancer, diagnosed in April, treated aggressively and is awaiting surgery in September. At the moment, she is very weak and frail due to the cancer and can't keep up with her home duties. She is a married PG Co. schoolteacher with two daughters, 9 and 11. She admittedly has been embarrassed to ask for help, but it got to a point where family&friends had to do an intervention. Her upstairs is messy and disorganized, there are 3 small bedrooms, she lives in an old Colonial with little storage. She wouldn't even let us into her bedroom, but I've got some organization ideas for her daughter's shared room- an Ikea wardrobe and underbed storage bags to start. My question is: can you suggest an organization that would be willing to donate time and materials to help her get organized? I'm convinced that if her environment looked better that she would feel better and have a more positive outlook. I'm just afraid that the isolation coupled with the embarrassment to have people see her and her home is doing to contribute to her decline. She is still a youngish woman with a lot to live for! Thanks for your advice.

Your cousin is blessed to have you in her life.  The local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers would be a good place to start. Although professional organizers are very sensitive to their client's emotional concerns, a team approach might be a good idea.  A therapist and social worker with appropriate experience  can help with the embarrassment/emotional  issues and direct your cousin to additional resources as needed.

Hi Jura, I live in a 2-bedroom apartment, and my roommate loves to use the broil setting on our (relatively new) oven. However, every time she does, the entire apartment smells of grilling hamburgers for *hours* afterwards - even the next morning! In 90 degree heat or in the winter opening windows doesn't make sense, but even when that is done - it doesn't help much at all. The oven isn't particularly dirty, and baking at 475 doesn't have the same effect. Any advice appreciated, as this is making me insane.

This is indeed an annoying problem. Yikes, how often does your roommate grill burgers? I assume that there is no exhaust fan in your kitchen. My solution would to invest in a small plug-in grill - you can get a small George Foreman grill for $25 - so as not to heat your whole oven and broiler for one or two hamburgers. I also assume you don't have a place for a gas grill outdoors where grilling doesn't create an indoor smell. Otherwise, using fans and aromatherapy candles may be  your only solution.


Hello Joe, I have a small pantry with a swing out door (aprox 18" wide), I have 6 shelves and then space on the floor and a rack on the door, but I still feel like I don't have enough room. Would a pull out system be better for me? I currently use baskets and such, but they are heavy and bothersome to pull out every time i need something.

Great question.  Pantries are one of our most popular solutions.  A pull-out system will allow you easy access to even those items stored in the very back of your pantry. Our  full extension rails hold up to 100 lbs fully extended so weight is not an problem.   Most closet pantries with existing shelves do not utilize the full depth so added capacity is an additional benefit.  In most pantries, the shelves are spaced evenly.  With a custom design, we can determine the best spacing based on what will be stored on each level.  Many times a pantry with 6 stationary shelves can be transformed with 7 pull-outs and a stationary shelf at the very top.

Hi Jura, thanks so much for your response. She broils very large amounts (i.e. enough for 4 meals typically)at least 1x a week, so a Foreman isn't an option.

Actually there are large size Foreman grills too...

I am redoing my kitche/breakfast nook which is semi open to family room. Fam rm painted a deep goldy yellow with dark red with navy Turkish carpet. Kitchen will have white cabinets slate floors and dark grey swirly granite counters. What color walls?

How about Benjamin Moore's Mesquite

I have a small kitchen in an old house -what would be an average cost to add ShelfGenie in about 4 cabinets?

Good question.  Everything we design, build and install is custom made from the width, to the depth to how tall to make the side profiles to the actual placement in your cabinets.  During a free design appointment a ShelfGenie designer would work with you to create a custom solution for how you use your space.  An average Glide-Out is $275 - $325.  That price includes all labor and a lifetime warranty on parts and labor. 

We have a few of these. Three from Ikea and on very large one (brown microfiber) from Bob's.

I see. Any other suggestions?

What are your best ideas for kids toy storage and organization?

Scott Roewer from the Organizing Agency has some good advice for toy storage.  "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."

I was looking for brass/gold finishes for my bathroom, but the prices were out of my budget; recently I was reading a blog where they took all their faucets, pulls, etc to a local plating company and had it plated in purty brass, is there a place in the DC Metro that does that type of work?

I have written about several plating companies in the past. One is Awesome Metal Restorations in Kensington and Chevy Chase Plating.

Do you send someone out who could assist with decisions on what would make most sense and utilize the space best?

Yes, one of our certified designers would be happy to meet with you for a free design consultation.  During the consultation your designer will ask you a lot of questions about how you use your space.  Based on your answers, together you will create a unique storage solution.  Your designer will create a drawing and quote during the appointment.  Our quotes don't expire so there's no pressure to make a decision that day.  When you're ready is when you're ready.

Re the broiled hamburger smells filling the whole apartment - doesn't the kitchen have a range hood/exhaust fan? Make sure the exhaust fan filters are clean. If they are metal mesh, clean them with oven cleaner. And close off the kitchen if possible. Hang some sheets or shower curtains over the doorways when she's cooking, if there are no doors that can be shut. My 1950's kitchen has pocket doors on both doorways, and I close them when I'm frying or grilling.

Thanks. Very helpful. Also keeping the oven as clean as possible helps.

We have a leather sofa that has a rather large tear in the seat. Can this be repaired? If so, can you recommend who can do the job?

Metro Leather Furniture Restoration in Sterling has recently been recommended to me. They also can do work on car upholstery. Check this out.

Long story short, when my grandmother passed away all of her papers (in a filing cabinet) somehow wound up at my mom's house. They're still there twenty years later and my mom has never gone through the stuff. Is it tacky to give the other relatives a deadline, like "We are downsizing and no longer wish to store these papers. If there is anything you want, please claim it. Otherwise we are planning to toss the items on such and such month and day."

As with many potentially touchy discussions, how you phrase it is important.  For example - "We are downsizing and will no longer have room to store these papers.  Our move date is -------.  Please come see if there is anything you would like to keep before we move."  Good luck!

Where is the best place to store spices in good order?

Spice storage is one of our most frequently asked questions.  Most people use 8 to 10 spices on a regular basis.  These should be kept near the stove.  The rest of most peoples spices are for special or seasonal dishes prepared less often.  These spices can be stored in a number of places including on a pantry pull-out where the can be easily arranged.  Another option is on a pull-out in a base cabinet next to the stove.  In this case may people put dot on the lids with the space name.

Thanks Joe for being on the chat. Next week we will be talking about lighting with Ann Schiffers from USAI Lighting. She has a lot of experience designing lighting and has also spent more than 15 years teaching at the Parsons School of Design and the NY School of Interior Design.  Have a great weekend.

Thanks for the great questions.  You can find us by visiting  Here are 100 Top Organizational Tips to get you started  We are on Houzz  U-Tube and Facebook at  ~ Joe Johnson

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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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Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is the owner and lead designer for ShelfGenie of Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.
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