Organized Giving

Designer finds inspiration beneath the clutter.

ira Vanderlan’s passion for design has been a constant throughout her life. Even before she started her organization and interior design business, Zestful Design, Vanderlan helped declutter and reorganize the homes of friends and family.

“As I was doing this with friends and family, I started seeing patterns in the process that really helped form the idea of Zestful Design,” Maple Grove’s Vanderlan says. “It’s a unique business; most people either do design or organization, but what I found with it was that when people start decluttering and start seeing the space, they realize the room could use updating or want to try a new design in the space.”

Especially while people are sticking closer to home during the pandemic, they’re taking stock of all the necessary and not-so-needed items they’ve accumulated over the years. After an initial burst of DIY mentality, Vanderlan says many people realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew and are looking for professional advice.

Reorganizing is often a daunting task, and client Sue S. of Minneapolis knew she didn’t want to do it alone. “I needed a fresh set of eyes,” she says. “Kira came in and helped me with my basement. Being a teacher, I have so much curriculum that I hang on to. [Additionally], my kids are older, so there’s just things we aren’t using anymore that need to be passed along to someone else, and Kira knows where to take things. I’m trying to keep them out of landfills.”

After tackling the basement together, the duo turned its attention to the upcoming school year and an outdated office space in Sue’s home. “I needed a space to work productively—a place to be productive,” Sue says, noting she also needed a spot that was visually pleasant, not cluttered, for when she’s on virtual platforms teaching her students.

To liven up the room, Vanderlan’s first step was to cover up the dated, dark wood paneling with an on-trend coat of white paint. Next came the unexpected project of tearing out the old carpeting and going with bold new blue flooring. “Painting the walls totally changed the room and getting the carpeting out,” Sue says. “The sunlight is just amazing now, and Kira had that vision.”

Once they finished getting the room prepared, a new problem arose. “Then came the hard part— finding a desk during COVID, when everyone’s at home and working from home,” Vanderlan says. While her normal business philosophy points her to sourcing furniture from local businesses, this time around she was lucky to snatch up a desk from Wayfair before it went back out of stock.

Even with the setback of acquiring furniture, Sue couldn’t wait to move into the space. “I’ve already started going in the room and spreading my work out, even though we’re still in the process of finishing it,” Sue says. “It’s such a welcoming, bright, warm space. When I’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of work online, it helps ease the stress and burden when I work in that room. It lightens the load, and it’s a pleasant place to be.”

Through the experience, Sue garnered some words of wisdom for others considering taking a similar home design step. Be kind to yourself, she notes, and understand it’s a process—a process that may seem to get worse before it gets better. “You deserve a beautiful space,” she says. “That’s what I’ve learned from Kira.”

Noteworthy Ideas

We could all use some decluttering know-how, and Vanderlan’s expertise will be available in a new monthly column, Organize, appearing in Maple Grove Magazine

Vanderlan looks forward to her bimonthly contributions to the magazine and plans to kick it off with the basics. “I’m going to start with the most popular rooms to reorganize, so pantries, closets,” she says, along with offering advice about organizing products and discussing organizing for kids.

The act of decluttering is mirrored by a correlating mental decluttering. It’s easier to feel productive in a space that is well organized, an experience that Vanderlan is also excited to share with our readers. “It’s amazing what happens to people when you declutter, when you put things where they belong and when you create a beautiful surrounding. That’s what I love about this job,” she says.

Donate with a Purpose

Decluttering a home shouldn’t come at the cost of overloading local landfills. Vanderlan’s sourced a long list of great local donation centers to help keep as much as possible out of the landfills. “One of my favorite places around is Bridging, which helps people transition into their first home,” she says. “A lot of my clients have household goods that would benefit [the organization].”

Other organizations that welcome used (but in good repair) items include Habitat for Humanity and Interfaith Outreach in Plymouth. “I think a lot of people don’t know [Habitat for Humanity] takes more than just tools,” Vanderlan says. “And one thing that’s neat about [Interfaith Outreach] is you can donate food, too.”

Another recycling superstar in the local scene is Tech Dump, a one-stop drop-off for all things electronic. “A lot of my clients have tons of cords, things where they don’t know where it came from or what it goes to,” Vanderlan says. It’s also a great place to drop off out-of-date phones and laptops, as data security is a top priority with the folks at Tech Dump.