Jane Stoller traces her passion for organization back to her childhood on an Ontario farm. As young as six years old, she relates, she was putting books in order by publication date and sorting her stuffed animals by colour.
There were, of course, other factors that the Vancouver talent behind Organized Jane, a holistic decluttering and coaching service, started to recognize as she got older.
“My parents were Swiss, and Switzerland is a very small, organized country,” she tells the Straight over the phone in advance of hitting the B.C. Home + Garden Show, from Wednesday to next Sunday (February 20 to 24) at B.C. Place Stadium. “I spent a lot of time in urban dwellings in Europe, and the major difference in North America is we’re such a consumerist society. In Europe, it’s quality over quantity. In Vancouver we have small dwellings but large storage lockers to store all our stuff.”
Stoller has turned her knack for neatness into a business and a book called Organizing for Your Lifestyle: Adaptable Inspirations From Socks to Suitcases. Over the years, she’s seen what she does become a bona fide trend, with more organization experts, more homewares aimed at helping you organize your mountains of stuff, and shows like Tidying Up With Marie Kondo ruling Netflix.
What sets Stoller apart is her practical method of taking a holistic approach to the way you declutter. And her signature is starting with the closet. “I always hone in on it because it’s the first thing that you see in the morning, and saving 10 minutes per day will help you stay organized,” she explains. “We waste time looking for things.”
Stoller’s approach is to get you to honestly assess your lifestyle when you tackle all that apparel. “I ask ‘What are your main activities? What are your main outfits at work? What would you like to spend more time doing?’ ” she says. Those answers help guide what gets removed, what gets stored, and what gets put where it’s easily accessible.
Her tricks include topnotch hangers (“You want to preserve those high-quality clothing items and keep them nice”), and cloth shelves that unfold to hang from the closet rail and are easily put away as seasons change.
“I’m also a big fan of see-through boxes, where you can quickly see what’s in them,” she adds.
Another key area for organization is the kitchen, she says, especially in Vancouver, where cupboard space is at a premium. The impulse to purchase gadgets is hard to resist these days, but be ruthless about what you actually need. “Frequency of use is so important in a kitchen,” she says. “The things you use on a daily basis have to be at eye level and within easy reach.”
And banish the junk drawer, already. “It’s not a good habit to get into to put all the stuff we don’t use in there,” Stoller advises.
Another area her city-dwelling clients struggle with is the bathroom. She says it’s time to “sober up your toiletries”. “It’s dangerous because these products expire,” she says. “I sort through them quarterly, but at least do it annually.” Her design tricks here, especially when you can’t fit a nice big medicine cabinet or cabinets in your bathroom, are Plexiglas containers that can sit on top of each other.
The biggest hurdle in all this? Stoller sees it over and over with her clients. “From my experience, it’s being overwhelmed,” says Stoller, who’s already working on her second book. “You just have to do it step by step.”
And that means not necessarily making things look like they’re straight out of a magazine layout. “I often disagree with articles where everything is ultra organized and there are these pretty little boxes. Are you going to use those? Are you going to be able to sustain that?” she says. “In décor and design we are really obsessed with Instagram and things being perfect.”
Jane Stoller gives her talk on “The Power of Being Organized” on the B.C. Home + Garden Show’s Telus Main Stage at 4 p.m. next Friday (February 22).