Reconfiguring a Closet and Dresser
At the end of our first session together, a bit tentatively, Tamara asked if I would be available to help her with clothes. She had some things that she liked but didn’t wear much, and might need some encouragement to let them go. Should she keep other things? Sure, happy to help.
We focused first on the closet, and separated its two sides into work and play clothes. How lucky she was to have the space to do that! We also neatened the upper shelf. I pulled out her cross-country skis and poles, suggesting that she store them under her bed to save closet space for things really needed there. (Funny to handle skis in July!)
Next, the dresser. We pulled out each of its drawers and rolled most of the contents, so she could see everything easier.
With our remaining time, we went through two big bins against a wall. Much of their contents were winter clothes, which we consolidated into one bin. With the closet better organized, we were able to put it in the closet, without “crowding” clothes already hanging there.
Bonus points – opened-up wall space, valuable in her small bedroom!
Eliminating “Visual Noise”
Tamara’s apartment had several areas that could use help. What was bugging her most? Where to focus the time during our first session together? She opened a closet door. Its several shelves weren’t overloaded with too much stuff, but they needed some organization. Suggesting that we work from top to bottom, I predicted that the level of “visual noise,” as another client has called it, would be much lower when we finished. The big picture:
Some details about two of the shelves:
The closet finished, we used the remaining time on some nearby open shelves. Again working from top to bottom, we moved some things around on them and elsewhere, making the space more attractive to the eye and its contents easier to reach.
In our next session, could we focus on her bedroom? Maybe the closet? Sure!
Working our Way Around the Room
She is a busy wife, mother of two active teenaged sons, and working professional. The large master bedroom in the family home has space for her office and a treadmill. Horizontal surfaces and the floor collected clutter. I suggested starting in a corner and working our way around the room.
Next to the printer, we cleared a table where her sons sometimes like to do homework and be near their mother as she works. We added printed obsolete work and school information to the scrap paper file and created other new files.
After that, on a tall dresser, we coiled some electronics cords. On the floor, we collapsed boxes for recycling, put some other things into the trash, and separated items bought online for return.
In our next session, we will continue on our path around the room.
Natalie’s Projects – a Process
Natalie feared that I would cringe when first seeing the work we would do together. A house tour showed the piano room, the dining room, the master bedroom and its walk-in closet. Also, some art could be hung. Where to start?
We chose the piano room. We neatened a closet. Next, we focused on a corner near the piano. In it, an antique school desk, covered with music scores and other papers. It deserved to be more visible and enjoyed. Plus, a print of Johannes Brahms at the piano should hang near the piano, right? Yes!
We cleared an area near the closet, a better place for the little desk.
Next, a beginning at tackling the mail, other papers and projects that collect on the dining room table. We made some good progress. Forrest the kitty, who “supervised” our efforts, must have been exhausted since, after I left, he curled up in the top of a box that had held some papers.
A Cleared Room, Savings and Scheduling = Less Physical and Mental Clutter
Amelia shares a rented house with two other people. Her bedroom must provide space for sleep, meditation and music practice, since she’s in a band.
In our first session, while getting acquainted and planning what we would accomplish together, we focused on clearing the floor and meditation area. We talked about files to end paper build-up. In another session, we created an organization system in her closet, using storage bins and baskets she already had. The next time, we discussed finances.
With her goal of attending a dear friend’s wedding, which will require plane travel across several time zones, I suggested that she open a savings account specifically for trips. Adhering to a strict weekly cash budget and “allowance” might help her curb non-essential spending. Anything left over could be deposited into the trips savings account.
We devoted part of our most recent session to scheduling. By writing down where she must be and when, since she also has two jobs and other activities, it cleared some of Amelia’s mental clutter. She looked very relieved and smiled as we finished. We scheduled our next session.
Grace’s House Transformation
Grace lives in an old, charming brick house. She works long days for a non-profit organization, and also cares for her elderly mother and her companion, who live in separate assisted living housing. Though quite busy, she’s also considering joining the Airbnb movement. Our task: clearing clutter to help her thought process about renting a room or rooms. Downstairs? Upstairs? How many?
Unhappy with her living room, we emptied boxes of papers stashed behind the couch, and moved some already-created files into her downstairs den/office for filing there.
Thinking about which room(s) to rent out, she wanted to clean up the room where her Pilates equipment sits. Its closet needed some help. We weeded it out, separating some clothes for the trash and donation.
In another room, where she may sleep, we cleaned out a closet, organizing gift wrapping and other materials, and placing her mother’s photo albums at a height where she can get to them easily when visiting.
While contemplating if/how to rent out part of her home, Grace will be able to think more clearly when looking at some spaces that are de-cluttered. After all, physical clutter = mental clutter.
Before Deanna and Wayne’s Job Relocation
Having accepted a new job in California, Deanna’s new employer hired a corporate relocation company for her move across the country. Needing professional organization to help with part of the preparation, that company hired De-clutter Me! Planning a return to Vermont in several years, she and husband Wayne had found someone to rent the house in the meantime.
Our job – to clean up the garage, a task Deanna and Wayne admittedly had avoided for years. We started in one corner, and worked our way around the room. We separated items for the trash, to be donated, and given away.
When we were done, they seemed a bit surprised by the fast transformation of their garage. Smiling, they were pleased, too.
Bev’s House, Continued
Like most clients, Bev is busy with her family, her job and varied activities. When able to schedule more “double session” days together, we focused on her upstairs hallway to organize her crafts, books and church volunteering materials.
Next, with the upcoming holiday season in mind, we worked in the kitchen. Starting with the kitchen table, we worked our way around the room. We cleared counters and organized the junk drawer.
A possible future project – organizing two upstairs closets, one of which is named Beauregard. Really!
Katherine’s Room Transformation
Katherine is a busy medical professional. An avid reader, she also cherishes time with her friends and visits Disney World a couple of times each year. Her room could use some care. We agreed on a “double session” day – three morning hours, a lunch break, then three more hours in the afternoon. She especially wanted to work on her closet, but first…We started with a book case. We organized its books, concentrated fashion magazines, and displayed on top some photos and cameras, including a vintage Brownie, found at a yard sale.
We then worked our way around the room. We cleared the top and around a standing jewelry storage piece and displayed in the corner a parasol bought at Disney for sun protection.
Next – a bookcase and shallow desk on the other side of her bed. We added books and generally straightened up, including placing a red piggy bank on the desk for her collected change. On to clearing the dresser then, next, what felt a bit scary – the closet.
First, we removed games from the closet’s one shelf, preferring to use that “valuable real estate” for sweaters and other tops. We folded them neatly with the folded part showing, to reduce “visual noise.” Next, we sorted the hanging dresses, skirts, slacks and varied tops so she could see them all easier. We also organized her shoes and discussed floor storage for them, so she could see her options fast, grab a pair and go!
After our “double session” day, Katherine was smiling and looked relieved. Success!
Bev’s Bedroom Sanctuary
In our first session, Bev and I cleared her upholstered chair, the area around it and her desk. We discussed moving the desk next to her two-drawer filing cabinet, nestled in a corner. We might also move her bed, so she could enjoy summer breezes through the two windows. The taller of her two dressers might fit well on the opposite wall in the desk’s current spot, to balance the room.
Our next time together, we picked up where we had left off in our first session. Continuing our progress around the room, we arranged books in her built-in, recessed bookshelves, which also display her collection of owls (ceramic, toy, etc). We moved the bed, now with its head facing into the corner. The upholstered chair went into a corner. We moved the tall dresser, cleared the top of the shorter one.
Next time – organizing crafts materials and projects in the upstairs hallway. Progress!
A Father’s Day Present
Kate met Lee while in her mid-teens. With him five years older, the age difference was a bit of a barrier then. Even so, there was a continual spark between them. They eventually married. Now with two young and active sons, would I come to help Kate with the house as a Father’s Day present for Lee?
Lee, Max and Sam were gone when I arrived. We decided to work in Sam’s room. We started by the door, and worked our way around the room. We planned how to make good use of available storage space, put toys and books away.
When our time together was used, Kate looked relieved and smiled. We spoke about another future session. Another Success Story!
Bev’s Work in Progress
Bev got in touch. She has a Cape-style house. She said that her bedroom is a “mess,” with its contents spilling into other rooms. She felt the need to bring in a professional organizer. We agreed on an afternoon session in two weeks. A day or so before it, we moved the timing back an hour, allowing her to hike first with family and her new puppy.
A house tour revealed a few areas that could be improved. Where to start? What was bugging her most? Quickly answering that her bedroom was the place to begin, I suggested starting in one spot, and moving our way around the room. We cleared off an upholstered chair, the area directly around it, and her desk. As we worked, we discussed re-arranging the room’s furniture, most importantly her bed, to ease opening two side-by-side windows. We also planned where to hang a treasured piece and how to display the last three dinner plates belonging to her great-grandparents.
In our next session or two, we will continue working our way around the room. Future plans – the two-drawer filing cabinet, organizing her crafts and other areas.
“Completely Changed the Energy”
Nellie and I first spoke in early November. The time didn’t feel right. We talked again several times though the winter, which presented some unanticipated challenges. In late April we scheduled a date for the second week in May. Things can take time.
The day finally arrived! Approaching her front porch, Nellie was sitting there. She smiled, welcomed me and we sat, chatting for a while before going inside to work. What to do? The apartment door leads directly into the kitchen, which seemed to be the natural gathering space, in part because the living room didn’t feel welcoming. She wanted space to work on art projects.
How to solve these challenges? A lightbulb moment! Her spare room had a bed, which virtually was never used. I suggested a few ways that she could advertise it for sale. How about converting the room for art, devoted to her varied projects? We could move a strong and substantial table, currently unused and in front of the living room bay windows, into the newly-named Art Room. With its leaf added, she could leave more than one project set up, ready for her attention when time allows. In the living room, I moved two chairs into spots where friends might sit and more easily talk with others on her couch nearby. Nellie said that the room felt so different! Next, I suggested changing the curtains in the bay windows to enhance them, while still providing privacy.
I loaded boxes into her car – books for the town library, and donations for second-hand stores. At the end of our first session, I told Nellie that she had seemed so apprehensive in late April that I almost stepped away, to respect her seeming reluctance to work together. Noting that being “politely persistent” with one person may feel overbearing and pushy to another, I added that I was relieved to have encouraged her. She agreed and we tentatively scheduled another session, in mid-July.
Once home, I called Nellie later in the afternoon. I could sense her bright smile as she answered the phone. With perhaps the loveliest compliment received from a client, Nellie said that I “completely changed the energy” in her apartment. She was excited to move forward with its transformation. Success!
A Christmas Present –
Nan emailed from Massachusetts. Would I be available to help her mother with organizing photos? Of course! Ruth faced some unexpected winter health challenges so, by the time we met for the first time, it was early May. I walked through the wide-open front door into their colorful and spirited home. Husband Bill welcomed me, saying that she was out and soon to return. In the meantime, would I advise about bedroom furniture placement? How to arrange bed, workspace and upholstered chair for reading? Here are some ideas. Okay!
Ruth arrived, and we ventured upstairs. First, we spread frames out on the floor so, as we went through piles of photos, we could match some with frames that would present them nicely. We separated others into new categories – burn onto CDs, give to others, and toss. Our time used up, Ruth smiled, and said that she felt well on the way to working through more of the piles. Would I be willing to return to help with creating a wall photo gallery or two? Of course!
Clearing a Path
The woman is busy. A wife, mother, and educator working in several schools, she says that she’s disorganized. No, it’s more that she doesn’t have enough time. In our most recent session, on a gorgeous spring Saturday morning when we should have been outside playing, she, her husband and I tackled part of their basement home office challenge. The morning’s task – to clear a path to the filing cabinet, so she actually can use it. We stuffed some papers into it. (Hmmm…pretty full. An upcoming summer project – purging papers no longer needed.) We spoke about new categories of files, to help her in her work. We put other items that she’ll use for crafts projects, in the opposite corner of the room. Next time, we’ll work on clearing other parts of the office, including organizing the crafts corner.
A Cleared Space Leads to New Methods
Ann and Ethan live very close to Lake Champlain. I arrived at their condo on a cold, cloudy and blustery winter morning, when it was just about impossible to visualize the lake unfrozen and sparkling in the summer sun.
They share their home with a student and, respecting her, are very concerned about their belongings overflowing and using too much of its space. Where to start? We chose a shelf in their room, which often “collects” some of Ann’s “stuff,” with papers spilled onto the floor. Clearing it would provide visual relief and also could help her with developing new methods for staying ahead of paper clutter. How does she pay bills? By writing checks or online? Where do documents needed for taxes go? She already had a plastic file box, with a lid and handle, but it was full. She had some extra file folders, which we labeled for several specific topics and placed on their hallway shelving unit. Success!
With our remaining time, we moved a few things in their shared, orderly and quite full closet. For our next session, we discussed the kitchen, rearranging its cupboards and better using available wall space. I definitely won’t suggest moving the very cool framed wine corks!
Conquering Corner Clutter
After talking and scheduling, then re-scheduling, the day finally arrived – a drive south to Rutland for work with a new client. It was a bit snowy, and just before serious below-zero cold would blanket the region.
The gentleman has a number of areas needing attention. We decided to focus on a corner just inside his small apartment’s door. It has two tall bookcases and a dorm-size refrigerator sitting atop a smaller stand.
We started at the top of one of the bookcases, first organizing baseball hats and gloves. We worked our way down, straightening its shelves. We placed bills and tax information into colorful file folders on the top shelf. Spare change landed in a mug. In the other bookcase, we put juices and sodas at the top, with foods on the next shelf down. The “most valuable real estate” shelves (the next three down) got cleaning and shoeshine supplies and, to his surprised delight, empty space! A tool kit, lightbulbs and trash bags went on the bottom.
At the end, the gentleman was pleased, and we looked at our calendars for a possible next session in the spring.
Kitchen Cupboards Reclaimed
Simone and I had some time to focus on the kitchen. Husband Ron was away for the day and we had the house to ourselves. We started at one end, first straightening a small bookshelf holding a phone, cookbooks and other items. We next worked on cupboards. Starting at the top of each, we placed items that aren’t used very often on the top shelves. We reserved the “most valuable real estate” (the lowest shelves) for things used most – measuring cups, plates, etc.
Our time together used up, she looked around, smiled and said that she was pleased with her “new” kitchen. Success!
Patricia’s Garage –
a Multi-Step Process
Patricia asked me to help in her garage. Arriving on a fall day, she apologized for its messy condition. Hardly! It wasn’t bad at all. Our tasks – to neaten up along its two side walls, and to empty shelves along its back wall. She had ordered replacement custom, enclosed cabinets to house a variety of items. Along the way, of course, we would de-clutter and better organize.
Since she was slowly recovering from pneumonia, by agreement, I would do the bulk of the work, so that she could protect her energy level. It took more than one session, but we got it done!
Nobody Said that Life was Going to be Fair
During our last session, Nina and I had forced ourselves downstairs into the basement on a perfect, warm and cloudless afternoon. Our next two sessions, devoted to the garage, were rainy. That’s not fair! When I walked in for the first of the two, we whined to each other, laughed, got over it, then went outside.
Our strategy was to work around the garage; that is, starting in one corner, and working our way around it. We started at the tops of shelves, working our way down. We devoted an area to camping gear, another to sporting goods, somewhat arranged by season. Lumber that had been been standing vertically was stacked horizontally. Another area was for her husband’s tools.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We put items needing to be rinsed, like plastic sleds and watering cans, outside in the rain. Though the two afternoons were rainy, they weren’t cold. And, we didn’t get hot!
At the end, Nina was smiling, and said that she was grateful to approach winter with a de-cluttered, organized garage.
It Took Discipline
Nina and I had started work in the family condo’s basement in late July. Our next opportunity turned out to be a perfectly clear, very warm, even hot, day in late September. Such days are gifts! Plus, one of the family’s two cats was sprayed by a skunk the previous evening and had been in the basement. The space was a bit, well, fragrant. Did I want to reschedule, because of the excellent weather and aroma? I was already there and, with our two busy lives, thought it better that I stay.
We went downstairs, where the sprayed kitty was somewhat hiding on a big cushion on the top shelf of the basement’s back room. All I could see was a set of ears. The skunk smell actually was faint, so we decided it was okay to work.
We returned to an area started in our first session, working on shelves, top to bottom. They have lots of sturdy plastic containers, some of which store “memorabilia,” which Nina promises to purge. (Suggested – in stages, early in the morning while sipping coffee, before the rest of the family wakes up.) We moved things around, and cleared the floor.
With our remaining hour or so, we went into the room where the unhappy-looking kitty seemed to be sulking. Understandable! First, we moved a door, which Nina’s husband had removed to hang a bar for pull-ups. We placed it on its side against a wall. Working our way around the room, we added to a trash bag, consolidated craft supplies and generally neatened the space.
At the end of the session, Nina was pleased. Her young daughter would be able to ride her scooter around the basement in the winter. Her husband said that the basement looked great, and ready for “man cave construction.” Our discipline, forcing ourselves downstairs on a perfect Vermont afternoon, had paid off.
Our next project – the garage.
It Was a Dark
and Stormy Night
Well, not really, but it was a rainy afternoon, perfect for de-cluttering! Suzanne is busy. A wife, mother, and professional worker, she needed a push from a professional organizer. Several areas “called out” for help. As often is the case, I asked what was bugging her most. Her quick response – the laundry area. It could use some reorganization. We worked top to bottom, placing on the top shelves items she would want to have handy, but wouldn’t need often. Lower and in the “most valuable real estate” – others she uses more. Why the tennis balls? They’re great in the dryer, with down-filled jackets and vests. They bounce around, returning “puff” to washed clothes.
What was also bugging her? Next, the linen closet. Again working top to bottom, we first purged from the top shelf. It held more wrapping paper and gift bags than really needed. We thinned that collection, then spent some time on lower shelves, refolding towels, so that their folds face out. A small gesture, but it makes the closet look neater and easier on the eye. (Also, as written elsewhere on this website, physical clutter = mental clutter.) We also matched bedding. This was especially important, because everyone in the household does his or her own laundry. Returning bedclothes to the closet would be easier.
With our remaining time, we tamed and moved some cords in Suzanne’s office and strategized for future sessions.
Looking relieved when our session ended, Suzanne said that I had been a catalyst for her to continue with some smaller projects that wouldn’t need my help. Success!
Lori’s major job involves caring for cancer patients. She also works with color clients. Her retired husband is a very skilled woodworker. Pieces in their lovely home look like they’re from a high-end furniture store. Like most of my clients, she’s busy. We worked together on a beautiful Saturday morning, first in the kitchen. A few drawers below a countertop needed reorganizing. We worked from top to bottom, moving things around.
With some remaining time, we worked in their bedroom, clearing the top and a drawer of a dresser that husband Jim built.
Nina’s Work in Progress
Nina is a wife and mother, and has a profession, too. She’s busy. Feeling a bit overwhelmed about my coming to work with her, I encouraged her to relax. (After all, it’s only me!) We first would focus on the basement of the family condo.
Where to start? What to de-clutter? What was bugging her most? She suggested a shelving unit, adding quickly that we had to protect husband Greg’s models. They would stay on the top shelf, along with two dinosaur figures. I suggested working top-to-bottom, reserving the most valuable “real estate” (the shelves most easily reached) for items that the family would use most. We set to work, rearranging, and filling big, plastic garbage bags with trash, items for other rooms and donations. We also set aside two art pieces done by her 8-year-old daughter, for an eventual wall art gallery.
As often is the case, a couple of times, Nina exclaimed, “I was looking for that!” After finishing the shelving unit, and with our remaining time, we started on the rest of the basement. We strategized for the rest of our upcoming sessions. We would work our way around the room. First, though, we cleared off the ping-pong table, so the family could enjoy using it again.
Julia’s Work in Progress, Continued
I first met Julia in May, when spring was just starting to take hold. Our next meeting was in mid-July, during “high summer,” with the days already getting shorter. (Yikes!) What would she like to work on? Firstly, we would rearrange her front room, opening up the space so she could exercise to DVDs playing on her computer.
Next, we spent our remaining time battling with (what her sister calls) the Paper Dragon. A few boxes and bins hold papers of various kinds that need(ed) de-cluttering attention. With more to do, we are developing a new filing system that will work for Julia. That will continue to be our focus until the task is done.
Yet Another Work in Progress
Sue leads a busy life. As a wife, mother of four, full-time worker and very involved volunteer community member, she’s always moving. It’s challenging to keep everyone organized, and the house in order.
Husband David, sensing that she might benefit from working with a professional organizer, gave her a gift session with De-clutter Me! We would work on the house for the family’s current life, though also keeping in mind its move to Florida in a year.
We first focused on the front hall. A closet, with its doors removed, still stored winter jackets (in late June) and many pairs of shoes. With a de-cluttering priority of healthy habits coaching, we decided that each family member would keep just one pair of shoes there. All the rest – into his or her closet!
The hallway was piled with laundry and other stuff, too. We cleared it.
We moved next to the scrapbooking room, where the family’s two young daughters like to work on projects. Its horizontal surfaces were full. We put items away, created spaces for others and strategized for our next session together.
Another work in progress!
Julia’s Work in Progress
Julia lives in a two-room apartment on the third floor of a nationally-recognized historic building in Middlebury. Its back room looks down on the winding Otter Creek, where she actually saw an otter a few months ago! It’s also within easy walking distance of the town’s many shops, cultural and culinary attractions.
She was a bit unsure if we could conquer her clutter, since she has “pack rat on both sides of the family.” Would we be able to slay (what her sister calls) the Paper Dragon, too much saved paper needing to be filed better or recycled?
We scheduled a Saturday morning session for early May. As it turned out, the afternoon’s client had to cancel so, if she was up to it, we could do a “double session day.” The morning was cloudy, with rain threatening. The sky cleared, though, and Julia opened the windows wide to welcome the warm, soft air. Listening to classic rock, we got to work in the back room that holds her bed, sewing table and kitchen area.
We first moved a white bookcase out into the hallway, with a sign declaring it free for the taking. My goal was to open up as much space as possible, to make the room feel bigger, while using every remaining inch to store items efficiently. We grouped small appliances, some food items and cookbooks. We reserved a prime spot for her juicer, which she uses every day. Pot lids that had hung on cupboard doors were moved to nails below them. We strategized about smaller aspects of the kitchen project that Julia could do on her own, before our next available time together.
We cleared her bed, stowed laundry in a corner, organized books. With our remaining time, and as the tired Julia directed, I cleared two shelves in her tiny bathroom, so that some of its space could be used better, too.
Deciding to delay battling the Paper Dragon until after addressing a more pressing need, we spoke about clearing her front room next. After all, it’s where she writes and enjoys crafts and other projects. Looking forward to our next session(s) together, Julia now has a bigger-feeling back room. All the better for spotting otters!
Helping a Busy Student
Alix knew that she needed some help with organizing her student apartment, and with establishing some new habits to keep her ahead of clutter. How? An Internet search for a professional organizer led her to De-clutter Me! She called early on a Friday night, quickly apologizing for calling after 5.00 pm. Luckily, a cancellation for the next afternoon provided an opportunity to help out, and fast.
How best to use our time together? After a tour, as is typical with new clients, I asked what was bugging her most. After a bit of thought, she mentioned her desk, which she couldn’t use. We went to that area. Before clearing it, we straightened up her bureau top. Below it, drawers were open. I suggested that she might roll her t-shirts, so that she could see their varied colors easier, and also to save space.
Next, the desk. Her musician boyfriend Roy’s mother had given her a vintage Smith-Corona typewriter in excellent condition. She wanted to showcase it. We put other items away, including books into the bookcase next to the desk.
When we spoke on the phone, Alix said that she sometimes cleans for about six hours, then doesn’t do anything for a month. As we worked in the bathroom, I suggested that she use disinfecting wipes around the sink and commode every day, to keep ahead of those tasks. It takes almost no time at all, and makes bigger cleaning jobs less daunting.
With our remaining time, we moved into the kitchen. I suggested shelf extenders to “buy” unused, wasted space in the cupboards. We shifted some items around, like grouping baking supplies together, and placing big cereal boxes on their sides on top of the cupboards. Rarely used appliances and big platters went into the cupboard above the fridge. We agreed that some items, like flour and various grains, would stay fresh longer if stored in plastic containers, which also might use cupboard space better.
When our three-hour session ended, Alix was pleased. We’d conquered some clutter. She had some suggestions about how to stay ahead of it, and some new habits to add to her busy routine. Success!
A Work in Progress
A woman called, sounding a bit anxious. There were a number of problem areas in her house. One was a messy room. No one could walk in it. There was a drum kit, which her family wanted to sell. Other stuff was scattered around. Could/would I help? Sure.
I asked her to have ready seven boxes or big, strong garbage bags – for items to stay in that room, to toss, to recycle, to give away, to donate, for other rooms and, if needed, “not a clue.”
We scheduled a Saturday morning session, on a day that was cold, rainy and dreary. (We’ve had so many!) Perfect de-cluttering weather – and better then than the next day, Easter, which was much nicer.
With her son’s help, we first moved the drum kit downstairs into another room, near a door. Potential buyers could see it easily. How to sell it? I recommended the Front Porch Forum.
In just under three hours, we cleared the space, so her family can walk in the room. We placed many items into the available boxes, so that she could continue the process.
What will we do in our next session? We didn’t decide but, for the moment, the messy room’s clutter was conquered!
From Internet Search to Birthday Present!
An email message appeared recently in my inbox. Heather’s signature showed that she’s a realtor/ home stager, with a 952 area code phone number. That’s the Minneapolis area! A bit tentatively, I wrote back that I’m in Vermont, not Minnesota. How might I help? She responded that she wanted to learn about my business, for a possible birthday present for her sister, who lives hereabouts. How did she hear about me? She googled professional organizers in the Burlington area. After a few more notes passed through cyberspace, she hired me for a session. Would I call her sister Heidi on her actual birthday to tell her about the gift and to arrange timing? Sure, this would be fun!
We scheduled a Saturday afternoon session, which turned out to be cloudy and somewhat blustery – great for de-cluttering. Her daughter was home, though her husband and two sons were off for lunch and a movie. We opened up kitchen cupboards. I asked questions, including about what was bugging her most. In the time available, we tamed below the sink and started on two other cupboards, consolidating cookbooks and moving some other items.
We had lots of fun. Heidi worked hard and was pleased with her sister’s gift. For my part, I was tickled to be a birthday present, and was/am truly amazed to get this project from so far across the country!
There was a last, small task for finishing under the sink. Heidi would buy a tension rod, for hanging cleaners from their handles to put unused upper inches to good advantage, and to free lower space for additional storage.
On a bright, sunny (and not freezing!) February Saturday morning, I arrived at Jennifer and Ryan’s house. After sending their three children off for the day, Jennifer and I got to work. First, we moved some things around in the kitchen, and re-arranged some drawers. I recommended containers to hold small pieces, like batteries. Then, a bit hesitant and shyly, Jennifer asked if I would come upstairs to her daughter’s room.
Izzy, a bright and creative kid, is artistic and musical. First, we cleared her desk and reorganized shelves behind it.
Her walk-in closet includes shelves for her various projects. As with many busy and active families, neat storage might not have been at the top of the list. We worked on shelves, consolidating, moving, making some things easier for her to reach.
With the remaining available time, we cleared a corner.
As so often is the case, when our three-hour session time ended, Jennifer looked relieved. Another Success Story!
Joan’s Freshened Closet
I saw Joan while volunteering at a concert. She remembered my work with her husband Dick, as we reorganized files and consolidated financial records in his home office. Would I help with her closet? It held some items that she didn’t wear anymore – including from past professional jobs, high-heeled shoes, a few purchase mistakes. (We all have them!)
We scheduled a session for (what turned out to be) a dreary Sunday afternoon in January – perfect. We set to work, with me pulling individual pieces for Joan’s decision-making. In most cases, first a story about an item’s origin, then I placed it either back into the closet, or into one of three big, black plastic garbage bags for transport – to the trash, or to Goodwill, or to a higher-end second-hand shop whose proceeds benefit needy residents in three towns.
Like most clients, she exclaimed “I’ve been looking for that!” a few times. I vacuumed away some cobwebs, grouped tops, skirts and dresses in the closet. I re-folded sweaters and returned them to shelves, then we were done. She smiled, with an expression of relief. Ta-da!
A Rescued Supply Closet
Singing buddy Allison, new to her development and outreach job at the Burlington Emergency Shelter, emailed. There were several areas within the building that badly needed help. Would I come and take a look? I arrived on a chilly Friday morning in November. What to do? Let’s rescue the supply closet, which housed financial records, computer parts, painting and cleaning supplies, holiday decorations, donated hats, and more. We pulled boxes off shelves, then consolidated their contents. We emptied other, only partially filled, boxes. We placed financial records together, grouped art with holiday supplies, stored paint with varied tools. It was a fairly frenzied hour or so, but Allison and executive director Valerie smiled. Success!
An Office Ready for Work!
Megan’s blended family moved into a new home in July. Some rooms are settled, others can use some attention, and one badly needed work. Megan’s office was messy, really unusable. The desk was piled with stuff and the floor was littered with boxes and bags. We got to work, first clearing the desk, so she could use it. We created new files, then dealt with all on the floor. Many papers went into a bag for recycling, other items into another to be tossed. By the end of our first session together, Megan was thrilled with her office, where she now can work comfortably, instead of at the kitchen table.
Lisa and Jim’s Kitchen Renovation
Lisa and Jim were nearing the end of their extensive kitchen renovation project. They’d been living with the upheaval for six months. Anyone who’s dealt with that knows how tiring and stressful it becomes, and often really fast, too. (I can relate, having existed in my condo while it was being completely redone – painted, new floors, appliances, cupboards, countertops – the works!)
She asked me to help her to decide where to put some items, then to empty the dining room table and return it to its real use. We listened to music, worked fast, and shared some laughs. Before long, the table was back where it belonged, complete with a vase holding gorgeous big, fuschia peony blossoms.
An Organized Pantry
Lell and Rex have a lovely house within viewing distance of Lake Champlain. Our project was to organize the pantry. Its shelves were somewhat organized into categories (baking, condiments, canned goods, etc.), though some spill-over had happened over time. Lell, who is about five feet tall, couldn’t see all that was stored, even when using a step stool. Also, a tray holding precariously-balanced plastic drinking bottles was on top of the small fridge, and some items had “drifted” down to the floor.
First, I pulled everything on the floor out into the kitchen. Lell sampled crackers and other snacks whose bags were closed with clothes pins. We tossed anything “past its prime.” We added some still-good ones to a fabric-lined basket, already holding other snacks. At her direction, I rearranged shelves, using shelf extenders. Soups, tuna, olives, coffee, tomato sauces and cereals for Rex are now grouped. Paper plates and cups are on a low shelf. S’mores ingredients are together, sure to delight two 12-year-old girls who will soon visit from the South.
Sometimes, small details delight us the most. Lell is thrilled that the sugar is visible and easily reached! We worked hard, and she is pleased.
“Curb Appeal” Gardening
Cindy and Dick were preparing to downsize, with a planned move from a large house to a retirement community. During one session, I trimmed their indoor house plants while listening to Joni Mitchell and Mozart. (Wait! This is work?) Cindy and I also cleared, cleaned and organized closets. One had light bulbs, overflowing holiday wrapping paper and note cards, and bulk cat food. We bagged the excess to be tossed, then husband Dick whisked all into their rented dumpster.
With the house on the market, I suggested some “curb appeal” gardening, to enhance the appearance of their beautiful property. I worked in the driveway, leading to the garage, and also in another parking area.
The Paper Room
I saw Sandy and Roger at a concert, and told them about De-clutter Me! She asked me to come and help at their house. What would we do? She mentioned the Paper Room. “Oh no,” I thought, visualizing a room with tall piles of paper everywhere. Arriving at their rural home on a rainy morning, we toured the house, both of them pointing out areas needing help. Roger said that many horizontal surfaces were covered with stuff; relatively easily fixed.
Where to start? In the Paper Room, of course. It wasn’t nearly as bad as my mind’s eye had “seen.” Its closet needed de-cluttering. Sandy and I pulled lots of yearbooks (she’s a retired teacher), bags of photos she’d likely never sort. Clothes and other items were set aside for the town’s weekly budget closet sale. Roger opened the room’s window, so that all could be easily loaded from its sill into their cars. Well, mostly. A load of ~50 small Legos pieces was in a strong plastic bag, which broke, falling between pieces of gravel. Though he said he would clean them up, I helped. Oh, “bird doo” as an extra added benefit. We got it done, and shared some laughs.
Next, we cleared the desk and shelving below it.
What To Do First? Let’s Purge on the Porch!
I arrived at Ann’s house on a sunny, though cool, morning. She showed me several project areas in the house, and wondered what we should do first. We had three hours to make a dent.
I suggested that we work on the back porch. The family enters the house through it, so was always reminded that it needed work. Also, once its mess was tamed and the family could use the porch again, that more positive energy could provide the forward “mo” (momentum) to de-clutter elsewhere.
Ann’s father had died recently, and there were boxes and boxes of books, photos, old papers, furniture and tools from his home stored on the porch. Our first step was sorting boxes and items by destination. We loaded boxes for giving to other family members, for a bookstore, for recycling. Some of these boxes went right into Ann’s barn for storage. We put a few things down cellar, but boxes of photos, papers, old movies and CDs went to the living room for more immediate sorting and purging.
Ann’s daughter arrived home when we were about half-done. She walked through the door and quietly only said, “Wow.” We got enough done that morning to make it possible to discuss where to soon place a table and chairs, so the family can relax and enjoy meals there again.
Cleaning and Organizing
a Free-standing Closet
I worked with a lovely family whose house is near Lake Champlain. Our first task was a free-standing red closet with doors. Mom Meg and I made sense of three young daughters’ art projects, placing all materials on low shelves, so they could get to them easily. We put table linens there, too.
Dad Mike has made some wooden plates, so we displayed them vertically, along with ceramic pieces, candlesticks and candles on higher shelves, for safe keeping.
Meg is attached to some of the girls’ art, so I suggested a changeable art gallery. She could buy inexpensive lucite frames (the ones backed with cardboard “boxes” and finger holes) to preserve and display drawn, glued and other creations, made both at home and at school. I recommended using walls that everyone in the family sees many times each day.
A Good Problem to Have!
I worked recently with Jacqueline, in the house she and Jayne bought a year ago. The kitchen has so many cupboards and drawers (a good problem to have!) that many like items were spread out, rather than stored together. For example, appliances were in three different locations. We consolidated them in a corner lazy susan.
They host lots of big parties. Most shelves of a cupboard were taken up with plastic cutlery, paper cups and reusable picnic plates. Even though it’s warm now and picnic time approaches, we bagged most supplies and put them in the basement, close enough to grab quickly when the urge to eat al fresco becomes irresistible.
Thinking ahead to the time when they will home-school son Liam and daughter Sarah Jane, we devoted two cupboards to art and school supplies.
With this first project done, Jacqueline smiled so brightly that her expression could have lit the town square near their house! Like so many people say, she shared that she felt lighter. Success!
De-clutter Me! serves Burlington, Vermont, and surrounding areas.
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