Natalie and Tom would soon welcome friends who often stay with them to ski. This time, the wife in the couple would stay in one of their guest rooms, recovering from double knee replacement surgery. Her husband would sleep in another guest room, close by.
As Natalie had indicated, I arrived to find the bed covered with neatly folded clothes. She was sure about parting with some, though we would discuss other items.
We carefully looked at all. She graciously decided to donate some to SCHIP’s Treasure Resale Shop, an interfaith program’s second-hand shop in Shelburne, VT. All of its sale proceeds benefit needy families and individuals in Shelburne, Charlotte and Hinesburg. I offered to drop off her contributions to SCHIP’s on the way home, and to send a tax deduction receipt for her taxes.
With a scratchy throat and a cold coming on, Natalie helped load donations into my car, and promised to send a photo of the bed, once it was made.
She posted a search for a professional organizer on the Front Porch Forum, Vermont’s online community bulletin board, accessible in all towns. She especially sought someone with experience. After several exchanged emails and a phone conversation, including about recipes that needed better storage, we set a date.
There are two pantry areas in the house. She is a massage therapist with a home practice, so she is especially concerned that those she treats there see tidy areas.
We decided to focus on the pantry closer to the kitchen. We first pulled out recipes that were stored in a crate lying on its side. I suggested organizing them in a three-ring binder, with side tabs for different kinds of foods, like breads/muffins, appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, etc. I showed her one of mine brought along for “show and tell.” It’s useful and fun to leaf through it when looking for yummy eats to make. It’s so low-tech as to be no-tech. It would take some time to develop, though ultimately can save time. No screen needed!
Next, working top to bottom, we cleared off the top shelf, storing there platters and other serving bowls used rarely, but still good to have handy. We consolidated other items, like cookie sheets. We brought to the garage some things to be tossed or recycled, and loaded others to be donated into her car.
Pleased with our results, she felt confident about clearing the clutter in the second pantry.
I know Karen from the pool. She has clothes in two different rooms at home. Would I come over to help her consolidate and move summer clothes into storage and fall items into “rotation,” as she called it? The timing would be good, since her husband was away on a vacation. We wouldn’t be in his way or otherwise disturb him. Of course!
To get rid of “visual noise,” I suggested that we first focus on the area directly in front of her closet. We cleared the top of a low chest and the window sill.
Next, we turned our attention to the top of her dresser and the coat rack next to it. A few small items were placed with her luggage, to be ready for her next trip. We started a box of goodies for visiting little ones to enjoy, including the colorful plastic rings.
Finally, we worked on the closet. We pulled boxes and bags from its top right shelf and the floor. We stored elsewhere some contents, and returned a couple of boxes with family photos and other items for her future consideration. We refolded some tops. We took a comforter out of the chest and placed in it swim goggles, and a handful of summer tops and shorts. They’ll be handy for packing when she and her husband go on their annual March sailing vacation, somewhere in the Caribbean.
In our next session, we’ll work on the second room where Karen has stored clothes.
Marcia had on her desk the March 2014 issue of Vermont Maturity, which included an article about De-clutter Me! She emailed, somewhat tentatively, asking if I were still in business. Of course! We wrote back and forth, talked, then scheduled a first session together.
Our first focus would be her husband’s closet, then the walk-in closet that she and Bob share. Bob’s closet wasn’t bad at all – not crammed full, with items hanging from shelves. It just needed some attention to silence the “visual noise,” as another client has called it. It’s a relatively minor point, but simply turning a folded item so that the fold shows dramatically softens the view.
Working from top to bottom, we folded items, and she graciously chose some items for donation to the upcoming annual Tag Sale of a local women’s chorus. Others would be tossed or brought to Goodwill.
Next, we walked across the hall to the walk-in closet. Again working from top to bottom, we folded items to keep and, as with Bob’s closet, separated others for donation or the trash.
With our little bit of time left, Marcia showed me some other projects for our next sessions together in their beautiful house.
How to tame a table? Impossible, since it’s an inanimate object, but the alliteration was fun to write.
You know how it can happen. One area gets cluttered, then the clutter spreads. Ann and I spent our session together clearing her table and, in the process, created some new files that would make sense, and whose papers would be easy to find when needed.
We moved her portable files near to her desk, which is a better spot for them. As we finished, and with great energy, Ann polished the top of her very nice teak table.
She found De-clutter me! online. Renee left a somewhat anxious-sounding voicemail message. She mentioned family visitors and having been ill. Two rooms needed help. I called back, we chatted and scheduled a “double session” day – three morning hours, a break, then three more hours in the afternoon.
She called at 7.00 on the scheduled morning. She was ill, including with a fever of 101. We rescheduled and I urged her not to worry. Better to concentrate on feeling better, and we’d get it all done soon.
I arrived on a Saturday morning that was changing from rainy to glorious. She lives in a sweet second-floor apartment within a farmhouse surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Her landlady has a good eye, and is a talented gardener. Farther afield are some 150 acres of the family farm.
We strategized. She wanted to clear the guest room, moving some items to the storage room. (There’s no basement or attic space.) First, we would have to conquer the clutter in the storage room. We hauled from the garage two shelving units, discussing how they would best use space in the room, while allowing air flow from its two windows. We placed on them holiday decorations and wrapping, a printer and scanner, photos, winter clothes, and various other items. With the center of the room clear, she may even be able to do yoga there!
We brought some items from the guest room across the hall, then worked on it. We cleared floor space and the bed.
It was a very good start. She will be able to confidently welcome her visiting family. Tired, though smiling broadly and hugging me as I leaving, she called me an angel. Aw, shucks…
Ann and I continued, and mostly finished, emptying and transforming Bill’s office. It will become a guest room.
The room’s closet was chock full of boxes, office supplies, tools, three-ring binders, more financial records, and other varied items. We cleared it, separating items to be tossed, recycled, shredded and donated.
Next, we finished emptying a bookcase, which had held framed family photos, and many books. In an earlier session, we had placed some of them in a bookcase backing up to the big desk. We completed that task.
Moving around the room, we finished clearing off the desk. At last report, Ann said that someone from her church might want it. Once it’s gone, and the carpet has been cleaned, the room will be more ready to become the planned guest room.
When all was done, I showed Ann the saved photo of how the room looked from the hallway before we started working. A big bonus, she now could look at the room from outside without feeling overwhelmed about how it needed to be changed. That accomplished, she now could do the fun part – choose furniture and accent colors to go with its warm brown walls.
Emma contacted me in mid-December, asking about a possible Christmas present for her wife Megan. Their basement was cluttered with some of the usual stuff. It also had excess tools. Could I help Megan decide about duplicates? Could I ask if she really needed five hammers? If needed, could I approach the task with tough love?
After a series of back-and-forth emails, they decided to hire De-clutter Me! The holidays and their aftermath took over, then Megan went to visit family in South Africa for three weeks in February. We finally settled on a Saturday morning in the early spring. Christmas in April – what a hoot!
We first focused on the tool bench. Working top to bottom, we cleared its upper and lower shelves, work surface, peg board and two drawers.
We next turned to shelves along the back wall of the basement. First clearing the floor in front, we then moved some things around and eliminated (what another client has called) “visual noise.”
Our time used up, Megan felt good, and excited to continue on her own in the afternoon.
After our two “double session” days working in the basement, Ann and I started transforming another room. Her husband Bill, who had died several months previously, seemingly kept every piece of mail ever sent to him during their many years together in the house. His office had lots of paper, most of which could be recycled or shredded. There also were boxes, CDs about computer operating systems, political buttons, books, office supplies and other items to be discarded or given away. Our task was to de-clutter the room to make possible its transformation into a guest room for visitors, including grandchildren.
As with the basement, we started at one point in the room and started working our way around it. Some interim result photos follow.
During our next session, scheduled in several weeks, we will continue working our way around the room, as it changes into a warm and welcoming guest room.
As Judy, Robert and I finished our pantry session, I suggested that they consider hanging a grid on its side wall – if there were studs to support it and whatever weight it would hold.
Robert promptly bought one and installed it. He then hung skillets, making some kitchen storage space less congested. Part of the fun and utility of grids is their flexibility. It’s usually easy to change how they’re best used.