Current Issue #488

Drawn to the City: Sarah Shanahan, the organiser

Drawn to the City: Sarah Shanahan, the organiser

With spring upon us it feels like the right moment to get things in order, and Sarah Shanahan knows all about facing up to the clutter. A professional organiser, Shanahan works with her clients to create calm and stylish interiors through the art of organisation.

Sarah Shanahan’s passion for organisation goes back to her boarding school days, when she would travel from Warooka on the Yorke Peninsula to attend high school, but organising particularly became a powerful tool in her own life when Shanahan became a mother.

“It all began when I was at home as a young mum with four kids under five. I quickly realised that I needed to be organised to get some control back from a hectic situation. Kids love routine and order and adults do as well, if your home is organised there is a calmness that takes over.

“I didn’t realise organising was a career,” says Shanahan, “until one afternoon watching Oprah chatting to Australian organiser Peter Walsh. From that afternoon I set about making it my career.”

Organisation and styling interiors is a visual process and Shanahan’s social media shows first-hand her elegant approach to keeping objects in order. Through these images Shanahan gives advice and inspiration to re-shaping the spaces we live and work in.

“It’s changed everything!” says Shanahan, when asked about the effect of Instagram on her career, “When I first started I was just getting clients through word of mouth, now potential clients see the proof of my work through social media and decide if I’m the right girl for the job. I also like that I can simply inspire people to get organised through my social media channels, I’m so happy knowing I’ve inspired someone to tackle an area of their home.”

Instagram allows Shanahan to share her expertise and style, but it is working directly with clients in their homes that she truly gets to express her practice. “It’s such a big thing letting a total stranger into your home to sort through your possessions but I make it as stress free as possible and always show respect for the home I’m in. I get along with pretty much everyone and usually miss each client when I’m done. It’s fun for me and so cathartic for them, life changing in some instances too, especially when seeing a client get their love for their home and possessions back.”

When tackling a new job Shanahan tells her clients to “start somewhere simple first to get immediate positive results as it can be quite stressful for them. I’ll tackle the area causing them the most stress, start small and slowly chip away.”

Shanahan gives her clients the ability to have a fresh outlook on their possessions. “It’s very important and that’s why I can make such a difference as an outsider. You need to remove yourself from the emotional attachment for a bit and see it for what it is. I’ll ask them ‘do you love it, need it, use it?’”

Sarah Shanahan illustrated by Leo Greenfield
Sarah Shanahan illustrated by Leo Greenfield

When first approaching a space in desperate need of organisation, Shanahan says you need to “have a vision for how you would like the room or area to be, if you can visualise it it’s easier to achieve. Remove everything from the room or area and start creating piles; keep it, maybe, donate and toss.”

For Shanahan the most important room in the home is the kitchen, it’s a place of so much enjoyment and also a room that often needs the most attention. “It’s where families gather and relax, yet it’s always the most chaotic for my clients. Nothing brings me more joy than creating order and calm in clients’ kitchens.”

Particular objects can be filled with memories and often very hard to let go of. “Sentimental objects need time and respect. If it’s stuck in the back of a cupboard it’s not being respected, that’s when I recommend labelled storage boxes to create calm and order.”

When it comes to describing her personal style at home Shanahan says that being “surrounded by people’s excess stuff every day I crave a minimalist but warm feeling at home. It’s very Scandi inspired with clean lines, considered objects and a place for everything. I do have four children though so it’s not perfect and I love that, as long as everything has a home, I’m ok!”

When asked if there is a go-to object Shanahan recommends for keeping any room in order; baskets are her first port of call. “They work in any room or area of the home and add instant style and warmth and can hide anything at a moment’s notice!”

Keeping things organised also means being a discerning consumer and thinking carefully about the things you own. “Recycling”, says Shanahan, “is huge in my industry and I love that decluttering doesn’t mean your possessions are just going to landfill.” Also shopping for things of use and quality is vital, and for these Shanahan heads to the Adelaide Hills or Magill Road.

“We are so lucky here in Adelaide that’s why I wanted to start my shopping tours to provide a beautiful day out exploring our favourite stores.”

Local stores and her personal favourite spots are highlights on the shopping tours Shanahan conducts on top of her organisation business. “The absolute highlight of my shopping tours is meeting so many people from all around Australia. To see them instantly relax once on board knowing their whole day is taken care of, is just perfect.”

When viewing a room styled by Shanahan, you can see her philosophy towards organisation in all is glory. In these rooms, the secret to keeping our possessions organised is about appreciating what you have. “When you have objects that you respect and love, it shows when it’s given a place. Every item in your house needs a home, otherwise it’s just clutter.”

Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator

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