Last Thursday Sue Duval, owner of the Organized Hive, came to my house to help me get my office situation figured out.
We got about half of the floor and surface areas decluttered and organized.
Today we tackled the other side of the office.
It started out looking like this:
Behind all that crap on the floor are two very large cabinets.
They were full of crap, too.
The goal for today was to clean not only the stuff that was visible in this picture, but also the contents of the cabinets.
We had four hours.
The problem with this side of the room was that I had all the kids’ papers from preschool. Plus any end of the year art portfolios for like the last ten years.
There were also about 476,000 pictures in there.
And then there was all sorts of crafty stuff.
So I started off with all the stuff on the floor and the counter area. Then I moved to the kids’ papers. I went through every one. I kept only the stuff I either wanted to frame and hang up, or the stuff I think the kids would really enjoy looking at when they are older. I’d say I got rid of about 85% of the stuff that I was hanging onto.
Next I went through all the craft stuff.
This is where having Sue was extremely helpful.
Even though there was way less stuff in the room once I went through and got rid of things, thinking about how to organize what was left is, for some reason, overwhelming for me. I don’t know where to start, and that’s where I get stuck. And then I stop.
But today Sue did all that for me. I didn’t have to spend one second thinking about it.
She organized all every single thing for me, labeled it, and put it away.
And here is the thing…
I think when you decide you are going to organize an area or a room, you go out and buy a bunch of containers and organizational things.
I have not spent one penny on containers. Or anything, for that matter.
What I found after I got rid of what I didn’t love or need, I had a whole butt load of containers left over.
I had plenty of stuff to use to get things set up for now. And Sue just used plain old painter’s tape to label everything. If I decide to rearrange things or want to use the containers for something else later, the tape comes off really easily.
And rather than blowing a couple hundred bucks on organizational materials, I can use what I have and see what kind of system I want to set up permanently once I’m done with all the decluttering.
So now one cabinet looks like this:
Here is a before and after of the other cabinet:
I didn’t have time today to go through and organize all the pictures. And the kids papers and artwork and stuff that I want to put into a scrapbook or something like that is just in a container for now. That is a project for another Thursday when Sue comes over.
But now all the clutter on the floor and the countertops is gone. If it was garbage it’s out in the trash. If it’s for donation, it’s in the back of my car in a box I’ll drop off at Goodwill tomorrow. If it’s stuff I wanted to keep, it’s sorted and organized and labeled.
And what started off as this:
Now looks like this:
The front of the office started off looking like this:
Now it looks like this:
That’s fucking awesome.
We did that in four hours.
So, what can I pass along to you?
Here are five things I’ve learned from my eight total hours (so far) with Sue:
1. If you have an area or a room in your house that you have tried repeatedly to declutter and organize but just haven’t been able to do it, if you can afford it, hire a professional organizer. Seriously. It would have taken me a week (at least) to do what we have done in a total of eight hours so far. I will be much more efficient now, and I’ll be able to focus on what I’m doing rather than be distracted by all the clutter surrounding me. I won’t have to spend time looking for a paper in a mountain of chaos. I won’t have to clear off a space every time one of the kids needs help with homework. The little guys now have a spot where they can paint without me having to prepare an area for them.
2. Don’t have money for a professional? Here are some tips from Sue: START SMALL. Pick a drawer or a shelf or a section of counter space. Organizing just one small space will be a “small win” for you, and will give you instant gratification. Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll want to keep going.
3. Aim for progress, not perfection. Painter’s tape and whatever containers you have in your house already are fine for starters. 80% of something is better than 20% of nothing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. My “after” office pictures are not what I’m ultimately envisioning in my head, but HOLY SHIT it looks and feels a million percent better than it did this morning! I wish I hadn’t been so stuck on perfection for the last six years!
4. The stuff you have should make you happy. Happy, not just by holding on to it and seeing it, but also taking care of it. Ask yourself, Do I want to maintain this? The answer to that question can often better help you make the decision between keeping something and getting rid of it.
5. Prioritize. Declutter and organize the most important areas first. I still have two big cabinets to go through that are full of a whole bunch of crap. And I really want to get all the papers I saved for the kids and all the pictures put into scrapbooks and albums. But getting all the surface areas of the office cleaned off first was much more important. And now I actually have clear spaces to work on those more detailed projects!
It’s not easy. It’s tiring. And it’s hard (for me anyway) to stay focused. But boy does it feel good now.
If you’ve got an area or two (or ten) of your house that is really making it hard for you to function the way you want to, don’t wait. This is your sign.
If you can get help, get it.
And if you can’t, well, pick a little spot and once you’ve got that one done, pick another one.
A jug fills drop by drop.
But it empties that way, too.