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. Would I return if she got stuck or needed more help? Of course! In a few months’ time, would I come to her office to help with reducing the piles of paper? Of course!
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 hung it. He then hung skillets from it, 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.
Newlyweds Judy and Robert asked for help. She moved into his house several months before their wedding. Since they’re middle-aged and avid cooks, they have all that they need. Some things, like spices, were in unneeded multiples.
As we discussed first working in their basement, Judy said, “Let the festivities commence.” All righty, then!
We would work top to bottom, organizing some shelves that weren’t really all that bad. Similar items, like for baking, were grouped together better. Plus, since the basement floor very occasionally gets wet, we would clear it.
We brought some things, like spices, upstairs, for easier access in their pantry. Its spices already were alphabetized. Some were old. We tossed them. We took cans of cat food out of cardboard packaging and stacked them, to save space. We discussed a wall grid, to use some extra space and to hang some often-used skillets that wouldn’t fit elsewhere in the kitchen.
There were so many spices, including some from Judy’s former home, that Robert arranged them on the floor.
When we were done, Robert smiled and said, “You have made a permanent impact on our house.”
That’s what Ann called our first “double session” day together. For decades, she and husband Bill had skipped organizing it. With wide-ranging interests like their large and extended family, sailing, the arts, and volunteering for varied community organizations and projects, the basement wasn’t a priority.
He had passed away a couple of months previously. She decided it was time. Viewing the large room, I suggested that, as with other clients, we start in one corner and work our way around the room.
Some friends, including former Lost Boys of Sudan, would come by between our two three-hour sessions to haul recycling and trash, including old paint cans, upstairs and into the garage for pick-up.
She and I devoted most of our time to some shelves that were full. The most valuable “real estate” – the shelves that were easiest to reach – would hold items needed most often. Others, like holiday platters, would be placed on those at the top and bottom. We filled several garbage bags and separated recycling. We also set aside a variety of items that she would donate to a local women’s chorus annual tag sale, scheduled for September. She graciously offered to store the contributions for the eight months until the sale.
In our next “double session” day, we would continue working our way around the room.
They’re a busy family – two professional parents, two teenagers. This time, the husband and dad of the family and I cleared a corner of the bedroom, in front of a dresser, then between it and another one. Then, the wife and mom joined us. Together, we three started to develop a filing system for their bills and other financial statements.
When we’re together next, we’ll work more on the new filing system.
Julie is a busy medical professional. Beyond her work, she enjoys many crafts activities. Her crafts room had become cluttered so, when she had time for her hobbies, its space wasn’t really useable.
We started first on the closet. We worked from top to bottom, reserving the most easily-reached shelving for items she would want to use most. The top and bottom shelves would be for projects done less often. We added some things that were on the crowded table.
Next, we cleared the space in front of the table, then started on the table itself. We moved some table items to the shelves lining a nearby wall. Again, we reserved the “most valuable real estate” – the shelves most easily reached – for items she would want to use most.
Our time used up, we discussed how Julie might finish the project on her own. She would not have free time in the next couple of months for full sessions together. Instead, she would “chip away” at it as shorter periods of time became available.
Liam is a bright, engaging and pleasant teenager. Busy with school and sports, keeping his room neat isn’t his highest priority. In our first session, we started with the space behind the door. Next, we neatened his dresser. He really wanted to keep the “display” of shoe boxes next to it. How could I resist his sweet smile?
After that, we cleared the corner floor space, then rearranged the table next to his bunk beds.
In our next session, we’ll tackle the corner at the foot of the bunk beds and his closet.
Though it was her wedding anniversary, Josie chose to devote the day to a “double session” day of de-cluttering. She, husband David and their three young children live on a secluded lot up a dirt road. She and David are entrepreneurs with a booming educational software company. Like Josie said, their busy household is “full of love.”
At first planning to work in their downstairs office, Josie switched to fixing other parts of the basement instead. Two of its rooms especially needed care. One, newly called the “Inner Sanctum,” had shelves that could be reorganized. The floor was covered with other boxes, cushions for an outdoor deck sofa, tools, bed frame parts and other wood.
We started with the shelves, working top to bottom. We placed at the top items that the family uses rarely, though want to have handy. On the next two shelves (the most valuable “real estate”), we placed bins with some of David’s tools. We moved to the floor big bins with various cords, electronics parts and other items that Josie and David would sort at another time.
We also worked in the outer basement room. It includes an ingenious arrangement – a chute for firewood to be dropped down through a window at ground level, across from the big box holding their wood stove. I suggested placing plastic bins at the bottom of the chute to catch wood, instead of it landing on the floor. Jodie then thought of having a more permanent box built. Firewood on the floor was placed in a tall bin, then pushed under the big box, along with a smaller kindling container and a few other items.
David’s mother Judith, who lives nearby, was a huge help, hauling trash and recycling up the bulkhead stairs.
Perhaps the best part of the day? Beyond Josie’s smile, that magically grew even brighter as we worked, she found some polish to use on her wedding ring – great for her anniversary!