The key, Krolik said, is realizing that when you walk into your home with your arms full, the things you put down are not in their "final home."
Krolik is called upon to organize whole homes for moving or selling, or just to organize one or two rooms at a time. Her business, More Time for You, is based in Palo Alto.
When she meets clients, she initially asks "a bunch of questions."
"What's bothering you the most? Why now?" are a few of the ones she starts with. One woman called Krolik when she couldn't find her passport and decided she couldn't take her disorganization any more. Krolik asks clients what is the most bothersome room for them and what is the easiest. Often, she starts with the easiest so the client will quickly see progress.
"Some people can go for a long time before (clutter) becomes a problem." But piles, she said, are "unfinished" tasks. Entryways are magnets for such piles, but Krolik isn't afraid to tackle them.
Usually the main problem is people, especially families, "don't have a home for things."
Often it's just a matter of placing the right furniture for the right use in the entryway rather than just leaving blank surfaces waiting to be filled.
An ideal entry system, she said, is a bench to sit on to take shoes off or to put heavy bags and backpacks. There should be hooks and a shelf above that and baskets underneath. She would add a place for mail, perhaps an inbox, and an open place for recycling or donations. Magazine holders work well for most papers coming in. Krolik said everyone in a family should generally have an inbox but at least there has to be a routine (another of Krolik's favorite words) around cleaning that out.
She doesn't necessarily believe in leaving random open bins around or lots of clear surfaces to invite people to put their stuff on. Instead, the drop zone/entryway should be designed to be a temporary home for these things.
While it's clear that people could sort through their stuff themselves, what Krolik finds is people often start the process but don't finish de-cluttering. "They don't address the bigger problem" of how to permanently get everything put away.
She helps clients sort through things by what they need, what's important to them, and what they don't want to keep. "My job is not to make you throw away stuff," she said.
With clothes, for example, a common thing that piles up in entryway closets, she takes all of the garments out so the client can see the quantity of the items. "The biggest thing is getting like items together," she said. Often, people "don't realize the volume." They tell her they've been throwing stuff into a closet for a while and suddenly, when it's cleaned out, they find an item they've been looking for.
Entry closets are generally full of coats, Krolik finds, although she points out that most people don't need very many coats, let alone have them take up "prime real estate in their house."
As for sports equipment, Krolik said it can be a huge storage problem. She argues that large things like hockey or lacrosse sticks should be kept in a garage. Dance bags, if not too big, could be kept in the entryway if they are in an attractive basket or closed closet. A high shelf and a clothes rod are not generally enough in the average closet so Krolik advocates for using backs of doors as well as outfitting closets with shelves or hooks to be more useful.
She also points out that if it's a "no shoe" home but there isn't enough space to store all the shoes after the family takes them off, that's a problem.
Whatever kind of entry a client has, Krolik urges them to set up some kind of system and then once a quarter or change of season, "do a refresh."
She loves labels. "Your label maker should be as commonplace as your stapler," she said. Any kind is fine from a Sharpie pen on clear tape to chalkboard labels which can be removed, to fancy printed labels.
Let the space define how much you should have in terms of tote bags, coats, or sports gear. A regular-sized closet such as one in an entryway takes Krolik about three hours to organize. She always cautions clients against the temptation to shop for storage bins and baskets before the cleanout is complete.
"The problem becomes if what you're trying to put in there doesn't fit. That's where the mess happens."
She said Houzz and other online sites, while providing great inspiration in many ways, also has "created organizational porn," she said, with photos of perfectly organized, color-coordinated spaces. "There's very few people that that is reality for," Krolik said.