Q&A: The founders of The Neat Method on living your most organized life

Aug 13, 2020

Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer, the co-founders of the Neat Method are dedicated to helping people live their most organized lives. The Neat Method was founded in 2010 in San Francisco and now has more than 70 locations in all major cities throughout the United States and Canada. They also recently launched a product collection for kitchen, pantry, closet and bathroom. Their specialty is creating uniquely personalized and effective systems to take spaces from chaotic to composed.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Welcome to Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer  of the Neat Method who are here to help you with your organizational problems. As we are stuck at home, we are all trying to make everything work better and look better. They have a new line of organizing accessories which are great looking. Let's chat.

Hi Everyone! Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer here - we are the Co-Founders of NEAT Method. Thank you for joining us today! We launched our debut product collection one week ago today, which was born from thousands of hours spent decluttering thousands of homes across the country. Our practice has always focused on more than tidiness or de-cluttering, but also space optimization and how that compliments the interior design of your home. This new collection really brings the methodology and heart  of our luxury service to life for everyone, and we are excited to answer your questions about the new products and ANYTHING you want to know about living a NEAT life! :) NEATMethod.com

What’s the biggest mistake people make when purchasing products to organize spaces in their home? Is there any particular space that is more challenging to buy for?

The biggest mistake people make when purchasing products is that they just buy a beautiful bin or basket without first measuring! This is the quickest way to send yourself on one or more return trips to the store. Take thorough measurements first and plan out where the bins are going to live and you will be well on your way to an organized life, much sooner :).

Our house was built in the 1950s and has small closets. What is the best way to maximize our master's small, reach-in closet? Thank you!

We hear you! We do a lot of work in big cities and see small closets all the time. Our best advice is to really make sure you are using the height of the closet to its fullest potential. Sometimes this means doing a new closet install and sometimes just some stacked bins can get you where you need to be. Stacked bins are great for shoes that you aren't wearing other than on special occasions, and clothing that is seasonal. 

My family uses the kitchen counter, mostly the island, as a dumping ground for their things. How can I organize this cluttered space?

Is there a way to create a different drop zone close by? Perhaps a piece of furniture as you walk in the drawer. Or even dedicate a cabinet. That way, even if it's messy, it now how a place to be hidden. 

How do you simply get started when the mess overwhelms you? When organizing do you put all the clothes you are keeping in a pile or do you take the time to fold everything neatly? Do you organize all the sewing supplies as you organize or do you just try to collect all of the scissors? I get bogged down by trying to fold all of the linens so they look good and are organized in the closet. So that one closet looks good but then there is still a mess everywhere else.

We recommend starting with one small area instead of trying to tackle the whole thing at once. Pick only one corner of the room and begin categorizing from there. The next day pick a different corner until you are all the way through and all of your categories are complete. It does help to organize and fold neatly as you go. 

I was recently diagnosed as an adult with ADHD- inattentive type. The diagnosis explains a lot about me, my relationships, and of course, the current state of my desk, laundry room, living room, bathroom closet... you get the idea. Because I’m way past the stage for any early intervention, I didn’t learn the skills and coping mechanisms to get and stay organized the way most people did. I stay on top of my bills and nothing in the house presents a hazard, but that’s about what I can manage on a consistent basis without exhausting myself- and it took me a while to learn the difference between being lazy and being exhausted. What kind of resources are available that might help me?

Hi there! We are definitely not experts in this area, but have found with many clients that there is a sense of calm once a home/space is organized. If you have the means to hire a professional, we would highly recommend it. If you do not, we have several blog topics on our website (www.neatmethod.com) that you can search and hopefully find some inspiration from. We wish you the best!! 

Hi Ashley and Marissa! I recently purchased my first home and am slowly but surely getting it in order. What tips do you have for storing larger decor that you're not using right now, but want to keep for later? I have several pieces that are too large to fit in a box (i.e. a vanity mirror, a 3'x3' painting) and I don't want to just stack them in the attic.

Do you know where they will live eventually or are you just keeping around for a 'just in case' time period? If it's the latter, we would say to only do so for a 12 month period only. If you haven't used them by then, you likely don't really need them. In terms of storing, do you have a basement or extra closet you could place them in? An area that is easy to access.

For a 15 X15 foot area open living room that has two windows for natural light. The sofa needs to be high enough for a 6'7" husband but won't take up all the space? I am looking for quality! But most modern furniture is very short. We have a beautiful tall wooden antique artist cabinet that holds books and two black and white southwest motif upholstered chairs in the room that are for shorter members of the family. And then there is the old grandmother's rocker we use for rocking grandchildren to sleep.

We are actually not a home decor business. We handle more of the behind the scenes designs (think closets and cabinets). The room sounds lovely though and we wish you luck finding a couch big enough! 

What was one thing you wish you knew when you were first breaking into the professional organizing industry?

As type A women, we wish we trusted giving up control a bit more. The only way to scale your business is to build leaders alongside your efforts! 

No matter how many shelves, bins, labels, etc. I have, the real problem is that I'm lazy. I don't put things away in their attractive, neatly labeled place. How do I train myself to develop the habits of neatness?

Being NEAT isn't something that comes easily for everyone! We truly believe that if you have the correct bins or baskets labeled with their categories you will be more inspired to keep it up. It may just take one big overhaul initially, but then you will be good to go. 

Where do you recommend someone start when organizing their home? And how do you recommend “mapping out”/managing your time so you don’t get overwhelmed and give up?

We recommend picking the space that overwhelms you most first. This is typically your most used space in the home (ie. the kitchen). If it's functioning well it will inspire you to keep going in other areas. 

We have a small kitchen and would like to keep surfaces as clear as possible, especially near the sink and stovetops. What would be your tips for organizing those areas? Would especially love tips for how you organize food items that tend to stay on counters, such as fruit, onions, garlic. Thank you!

We are by no means decorators, but we would recommend buying the prettier types of storage items for these items. Consider a pretty wooden bowl or basket. Nice canisters are also a good option! 

I’m paring down the masses of photos in albums, photo boxes and online we’ve taken over the years. Wall space and horizontal surfaces are limited. How can I enjoy photos without cluttering up the space? What are best practices for photos?

Are you open to digitizing them? There are several companies that will literally do it for you. Or you could go the route of creating coffee table type books/collections if you enjoy looking at them frequently. This would be more costly, but is pretty cool once you are done. 

What are some simple tips to de-cluttering daily so the mess doesn't pile up in the long run?

Having a home for everything is our best advice! When there is a system in place and somewhere for every item in your house to live it makes cleaning up so much easier. Then, when those bins or baskets are full you know it is time to de-clutter :). 

Can a messy leopard change her spots without becoming a neat freak?

Haha. Love this!! Yes we have converted many a messy leopards :). But the key is that they have to want to change. We view organizing similar to weight loss, results are only really achieved when the person is ready to really commit.

I have a tiny laundry room, what's the best way to keep it organized?

We would recommend using as much surface space as possible. Are there any shelves or cabinets at all? Bins or baskets are a must in any space to hold you to your categories. Store your actual laundry baskets in your bedrooms. Use the tops of the washer and dryer (if front loading) for storage. And don't bulk buy!! :)

My husband has a fairly large collection of ties (yay, thrift stores!). He has a motorized tie rack that holds some of them, but that is jammed full and the overflow is just thrown over hangers. What is the best way to store and organize them?

Does he wear a tie everyday or is this more of a collection? If it's a collection, we would place all of those "collector" items in a storage bin and only have the everyday ones accessible on the tie rack. 

No clue what to do with the small appliances that I used rarely! Everything is piled up in the cabinet, but looks v messy. Help!

We would first ask how often you are using them and if any of them accomplish the same task. If so, that is a great way to decide which to donate. Then, consider corralling what is left in a basket or even a bin with a closed lid to allow you to stack something else on top!

How do I keep my kitchen drawers better organized? I’ve tried everything. Utensils holders, etc, but they still become disorganized.

Honestly, we would encourage you to edit as much as possible. Only keep the items in those prime real estate drawers that you use everyday. Anything extra should be stored elsewhere. As for the utensil holders, perhaps you are buying the wrong type. This is the type we recommend for flatware. 

Hi! I don't have enough drawer space for sweaters, so I have them in one of those hanging fabric shelves in my closet. But it still seems like they are jammed in, and taking up valuable closet space. What are some good ways to organize and store sweaters?

Yes those hanging fabric shelves often take up more space and end up not keeping things very organized. We would recommend file folding your sweathes in an open canvas type basket. 

He wears one every day, though also has some seasonal holiday-themed ones. He's not wearing them right now, while he works from home, but it's more utilitarian than collection.

If he wears a different one everyday, then that's a different story. We typically see that our clients stick to their handful of go-to's though and the rest is really more just to add to the collection. If we were you, we would count them and see what the total comes to. If it's more than 50, then we would find a way to kindly nudge him to pair down. Cause let's be honest...no one needs to wear a different tie every day of the month. :)

Hi, I want to keep my shoes by the entry, but my dog WILL steal them -- do you know of any good closed storage for shoes at an entry (other than those ubiquitous Ikea shallow units)?

There are some decent baskets at World Market that come with a lid that hinges closed. Besides that, we would recommend web searching for baskets with lids. We are sure there are various retailers that sell similar items. 

Also - thoughts on junk drawers? Possible to keep them “organized”?

Absolutely! I would say nearly all of our franchise owners have one but they are kept very NEAT. The real key is having a good draw organizer. Here is our personal fav ;) and going through the drawer on a monthly basis to put away what doesn't really belong in there and purge what is actually trash (think expired coupons, broken parts, pens that don't work, etc.).

Just had new taller cabinets installed and am cramming everything back into them. I confess that I really don't know how to declutter but feel better when I have at least two of everything. Is there hope? What is your advice? Thanks.

We can get behind two of everything, but we find that it's usually not just two. Take the time to really figure out how much you have in each category. Get rid of the items you have that are "well-loved" and only keep your favorites. The act of separating each category will allow you to see how much you actually have. 

We recently emptied out and sold my father's house, so have boxes of items from that house. And last month, we cleared out my MIL's house, so have boxes of items from her house. And have gone on several camping trips, so the camping gear is all over the living room and my husband can't seem to get it together to put it away. I'm going through cancer treatments and am feeling very tired and overwhelmed by all the stuff and the chaos. How can I start this project when my family is not on board with cleaning up? Thanks much...

Awww we are so sorry. It seems like you are going through a lot!! Our best advice would be to bring in a third party. Whether it is a professional organizer, or just a family member or friend who is willing to help you, will make it easier. Sometimes an outside opinion is what some people need to get them over the hump of not wanting to get organized. 

Hello - Do you work with people who have severe hoarding & clutter issues? Are your services available in central New Jersey?

We do have a New Jersey location but we aren't specialized in hoarding. However, there are many great organizers who are. Check out the NAPO website and you should be able to find someone. 

I am inundated with papers such that it is overwhelming. How can I get a handle on it these papers? My basement looks horrible.

If you were our client, we would ask you what important information was on all of those pages? We typically find that more than half isn't actually as important as you think and sometimes it just takes you doing the purging. Set a timer and only spend 15mins a day/week and tackle in small doses. Let's put it this way, if there were a fire...what would you actually miss? The IRS website is a great resource for telling you what to keep. 

Hi. We have closets with shelves that are not only fairly tall, but also go to the space beyond the door, if that makes sense. We have to reach back to the side to get at some stuff. Any tips on how to better use that back space? Thanks!

If those shelves would fit a deep bin or basket it might help, because you could essentially pull them out like a drawer and be able to reach what is at the back of the shelf a little easier. Do you know the dimensions of the shelves and are they adjustable? 

I am trying to decide between a dresser, cubbies, or large drawer-style toybox. I think closed storage looks best and I'm most interested in function over form.

Assuming this is for a playroom or kid's space...we really like the use of cubbies and placing bins inside each cube. You can then decide what type of bin works best based on your child's age (ie. do you want them accessing?). It also forces you to create categories. Make sure to label though so you know what to place where! *pro tip :: you may want to consider affixing the unit to your wall if you have a climber

My problem is that if I put it away, I can't remember where I put it. So everything is visible and I can find it all. Help.

LABELS are the key to making sure you, and everyone else, can remember where things are! Here are our brand new label holders that will truly work on nearly any bin or basket. 

I don't know the dimensions, but putting storage boxes would mean I couldn't get to them without moving everything that is up front. It's a pickle for sure! (And now I want a pickle.)

Lol. Now we want a pickle too! 

Our best advise would be to try and utilize them for items that are seasonal and then when that season comes switch things around so what you are using regularly is front and center :). Hope that helps a little!

Thank you for all of your amazing questions. This was so much fun! For more info, check out NEATMethod.com

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 and organizing.

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Neat Method
Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer, the co-founders of the Neat Method are dedicated to helping people live their most organized lives. The Neat Method was founded in 2010 in San Francisco and now has more than 70 locations in all major cities throughout the United States and Canada.
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