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A peek into an organizing job

“Do you ever go to an organizing job and just think, ‘Oh my! Where do I even begin?’” I get this question a lot and the answer is, “Yes. All the time!” At first I questioned whether this signaled that I was not a meant to be an organizer, if I felt overwhelmed with the task at hand. Turns out, this is a typical thought for organizers when they first get to a job. (Whew!) The next question is always, “So how do you start?” I tell them, “It’s like peeling off a label. You just start picking at an edge and just keep working at it.”

Usually the first step is just removing any obvious trash. There was one job where a team of organizers (two others and myself) were hired to clear out a basement that had become a catch all area. It was divided into two rooms, one storage/laundry and one family room. We usually work with the client, but on this day, the client was working from home and couldn’t fully participate. This makes removing trash pretty tricky, since you can’t always be sure what is actually trash. (This is where the “Where do I begin?” feeling comes in.) Having to pretty much skip over most of the “trash pick-up” step, we moved right to the heart of organizing - putting like items together

Games, clothing, tools, sports equipment, suitcases all started to get gathered together. (Pick, pick, pick. The label was starting to budge.) Things were coming along. The space was slowly starting to make sense. We could see how much space some items were taking and how little space others needed. We established zones and moved the items into the different basement zones. (pick, pick, pick)

At this point the owner came down, went through the zones and was quickly able to identify a lot of objects to be donated or trashed. We filled bags and boxes. (pick, pick, pick) This freed up space and the zones were further honed depending how much they wanted to access some of their items. (Holiday items in the back, suitcases toward the front.)

At this point, the spouse came home to check things out. He was a little nervous that we were going to just toss all of his stuff. He was quite relieved to see we hadn’t tossed anything, but had merely been categorizing it. While we loaded our cars and made a donation run, (pick, pick, pick) he looked at all his now-organized stuff and tossed about half of it. Once he saw what he had, with like items together, he could quickly determine what was excess. We were so surprised at all he accomplished in the 20 minutes we were gone!

Now we really had some space to work with! We streamlined the laundry space, making that chore a lot easier and talked through why we zoned things the way we did, asking if that was in line with how they would use their items. (with minor tweaks, it was! Yay!) Then we brainstormed with her what their next steps might be to maximize their space. (Uniform clear bins with labels.Getting shelves to put the bins on, instead of stacking them on top of each other etc.) She was THRILLED with the difference in their basement. “We have our basement back!” she said.

It was just several hours of “pick, pick, pick” as we pealed back the label of clutter and revealed the basement space underneath that was now totally usable. Success!

It was interesting to me that she had given herself the gift of an organizing session for her birthday. It was ultimately a gift for her whole family, a space transitioned from turmoil to tranquil.

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed by your space, you are in good company. Put on some comfortable shoes and start with the trash. Then just start putting like items together. Keep picking at it and you will soon discover you have peeled back the overwhelm and discovered peace underneath.

You can do this!

Laura ~ your organizing girlfriend

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