Organizing My Home Completely Refreshed My Existence
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Organizing My Home Completely Refreshed My Existence

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The dining room-turned-office-homeschool-art-and-jewelry-making room.

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Lee's side of the office, this room was formerly a dining room.

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Ella's side of the office-homeschool space.

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With organization comes systems. Everything has a place, like in these super-wide office drawers.

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Cabinets so high they require a step ladder to reach the top and so deep they can accommodate our 24" storage bins.

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A wide-angle view of the new multipurpose space right after it was built.

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Master bathroom transformation. There's also a custom-built huge closet now behind the door. This involved removing the tub, putting shower where tub was, and putting a closet there the stall shower had been.

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Guest bathroom transformation. (A few more accessories still to be added).

Ever walk by something in your home so many times you no longer notice it? Or perhaps you just tolerate it. Imagine doing that with piles of stuff. Waking up and entering your home office, cluttered with so much stuff that it's overwhelming to even think about how to begin cleaning it up. So you leave it.

That was me, for many years. Like chairs and tables, the piles of stuff became furniture. Until I finally stopped dreaming of an organized house and did something about it — I called in reinforcements.

Let’s set the stage: Our dining room hadn’t harbored any meals in years. We’d long since gotten rid of the dining room table to make room for two desks: one for me, the work-from-home mom who manages a magazine, freelances in entertainment public relations and oversees my daughter, Ella Grace Helton's, homeschooling and career as both a fine artist and actress. The other desk was Ella’s.

Without any shelving or storage other than my desk, you can imagine how many piles I had as a result. Well, you don’t have to imagine, the before photo of the dining-room-turned-office-homeschool-art-and-jewelry-making room speaks for itself. It’s liberating to share that, knowing we are living in a new era of organization.

We managed during the pandemic, with Ella's frequent Zoom camera facing the wall with a big map of the U.S. behind her. And thank goodness for the ability to make a pretty beach photo my Zoom background.

Wisely capitalizing on home equity, the first interior transformation happened in that command central hive. It’s where we spend most of our time, where the brain power surges and where we need to feel inspired to maintain a high level of creativity. 

Instead of piecing together a shelf here and drawers there, I called in specialists, seeking to maximize the space. A retired interior designer working for Closets by Design met me with a tape measure, a keen ear and an open mind.

She measured the large storage tubs we lugged to farmers markets and shows. She saw the massive amount of beads and supplies we own to make jewelry. She listened to how we need to spend time here, flowing between obligations and passions.

We ended up with a two-sided custom build — a complete refresh. Instead of maneuvering through piles that drifted taller over time like sand dunes, I now walk tall through custom cabinets that tower over me like modern skyscrapers.

The long wall has my desk in the middle of two massive cabinets with drawers. Those are flanked by bookshelves, with one side having vertical slats for Ella’s art and supplies, and the other having horizontal slats to hold works in progress — be they jewelry trays or pastel boards and canvases.

To the left of my desk is the art/show cabinet: it is 24” deep to accommodate the large storage tubs. Instead of coming home from shows and stacking tubs on the floor, they go right behind closed doors. The cabinets also require a step ladder to reach the top — providing so much amazing extra storage space.

The cabinet to the right of my desk is now the jewelry storage area. And there’s enough shelf space also for electronics and other gadgets. We also have a rolling cart with drawers that provides an additional work surface. It has one of the room’s two most useful things I never knew I needed — pull-out work trays. We’ve used these to mat art prints, lay out bills, wrap presents, make jewelry and many other tasks. You work on them and then roll them closed, eliminating more surface area on which to pile clutter.

But building the custom organization was the first step. Phase 2 involves setting up systems to keep it looking and functioning smoothly. I’ve been fortunate to have professional organizer Maria Waddell of Clutter B Gone spend some time in our home, helping me organize, purge and donate. She’s worked with clients for decades — helping seniors who need to downsize, families packing to move, and everything in between. We look forward to having her share her thought leader insights with EverythingBrevard readers in our January issue — a popular time of year for organization goals.

It feels good to be organized. The house is not yet immaculate, and I’m not sure if or when it can be. It’s a work in progress. And so am I.

P.S. Check out the slideshow for more before-after images, including our new bathrooms. 

Instagram: @Lee_Nessel
Facebook: /leenessel

Meet Our Managing Editor

EverythingBrevard Managing Editor and proud word nerd Lee Nessel is an award-winning journalist. She thinks best through her fingertips and started churning out iambic pentameter as a kid. She embraces last-minute cross-country travel and also works as a junior publicist thanks to her daughter Ella Grace Helton’s child acting adventures. She prefers to operate behind the scenes, shining the spotlight on the uplifting stories of the people making an impact on the Space Coast. Lee loves the barbell, home cooking and can’t stop tapping her foot to the great rhythms of being a ballroom dance mom.


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