Jennifer found De-clutter Me! online, reading the website Timely Tips. She got in touch shortly before Thanksgiving. We emailed back and forth, spoke, and set a date for just after the holidays, during the first week of January. A nasty snow storm got in the way, so we postponed.
Our first session date finally arrived – on a brilliantly sunny and cold afternoon, the day after another snow storm. Quite typically January.
Jennifer, her husband Jim and I sat down at their table to get more acquainted and discuss their project. There were a number of areas in the house that could use attention. We toured around, then I suggested that we start at the table itself, so they could enjoy meals in a peaceful setting without bills and other mail “intruding.”
We set to work, and cleared the table. We found a quote, from the 19th century Arts and Crafts designer, William Morris. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” That’s good guidance!
In the pile also was a handwritten note, based on a conversation with Jennifer’s friend Jari, who suggested that they “lean into it” – their de-cluttering work. Jennifer said that she could tell that I, as a professional organizer, would be “fuel for the jet engine,” their catalyst.
Our first session’s time used up, we discussed a homework assignment for before our next session. As part of it, I suggested that they trim “dead stuff” off the plants near the table, and give them showers. (I do that monthly, in the kitchen sink or in the shower during the winter then, as much as possible, outside with the hose during the summer. Why? I figure that photosynthesis works better when not competing with dust. Plants actually look happier afterwards! An encouraging bonus, especially during the winter – the opportunity to smell the plant dirt. Spring will come!)
We spoke about areas to focus on next time, looked at our calendars and scheduled our second session for just under three weeks away. Smiles all around! Success!
That’s what Alison said at the beginning of our session, meaning that I provided the needed energy, instead of caffeine. She had requested time with a professional organizer for Christmas. Her mother, who lives in Pennsylvania, looked online, and emailed me, encouraged, in part, by my musical interests. She’s a professional violinist.
After a few exchanged emails and a phone conversation, Martha sent a check, with Alison’s local contact information. We scheduled a date during the first week of January.
Alison has a small business, in which she leads “early childhood and movement classes for babies to five-year-olds and the grownups who love them.” We would focus our time on two bookcases in the guest room/office of the apartment shared with her husband.
Attending to the bookcase on the left and working top to bottom, we first pulled books for donation and give-away. Next, we consolidated instruments. As many other clients have, we collected cords for various electronics and placed them in a basket. We straightened curricula.
Next, the bookcase on the right. We pulled boots, shoes and sandals from the top. They would go into the closet or closer to the front door. We put office supplies together. As with the other bookcase, we stored together some materials for Alison to sort at another time.
Our gift time used up, Alison was delighted, saying that she would ask her mother for another visit in early January of 2019. That’s a first! No one’s asked for de-cluttering a year in advance. Bonus points for Martha – Christmas shopping done!
Based on a recommendation for a professional organizer, Eugenie contacted me about her friend Linda. Her charming, old farmhouse was very full with two houses’ worth of furniture, plus she might benefit from some de-cluttering. We wrote back and forth about how to best help Linda.
After receiving Eugenie’s check for several sessions and some more exchanged emails, Linda and I scheduled our first session. It would be mid-day on a beautifully bright, though very cold, day.
We looked around the first floor. I asked what was bugging her most. Her answer – her upstairs bedroom, but she was concerned that I would be shocked and put off by it. I told her that I’ve seen many situations that could use some attention. Not to worry!
Once upstairs, we started with her dresser. We cleared, then she dusted it. Success!
Next, we started on some piled books, magazines, etc., on the floor next to her bed. Making a good start with it, our time was then used up. We likely would return to it during our next session together.
Azur responded to a posting on the Front Porch Forum, Vermont’s online community bulletin board. He spoke about the family’s basement, and wanting to simplify and minimize it, “like five tiny houses.” He wanted better “flow” between its rooms, which had included his work space and play space for his two daughters. Excited to start our work together, Azur said that he already had brought excess clothes to the Salvation Army.
We started in a basement interior room. I suggested that he devote a corner bookcase to storing photography equipment. Its top shelf needed some attention, but the bookcase was otherwise usable.
Next, we worked our way across two tables, which held computers, memorabilia, and other items. As often seen with other clients, there were cords from varied electronics, which we placed in a separate bin for later sorting.
Our focus switched to a bookcase in another corner of the room, which we then organized. Why no photos? They looked fine in the camera, but then came out blurry. Frustrating!
Azur was pleased, and we agreed to reconnect after the holidays. He, his wife and daughters were thinking about them. We will return to our work when it’s warm enough to create more order in the family garage.
Muneeza emailed from Connecticut. Would I be available to help her best friend Eileen, as a holiday gift? Sure!
Eileen is busy. Her husband is away for work from Sundays through late on Fridays. She home schools their two active and bright children, and works, too.
How to use our two gift sessions (six hours total)? She decided to focus first on an extra downstairs kitchen in their house, part of a former apartment. It stores home schooling supplies, her sewing materials, wrapping paper, books, and other miscellaneous items. In our first session, we made a good “dent” in the kitchen, and would finish it during our second session.
In our second session, we finished the kitchen.
With our remaining time, we turned our attention to the apartment living room’s books and LPs. The smaller bookcase section results follow.
When our time was up, Eileen was pleased, and I was happy to email Muneeza with thanks for her loving gift.
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.