My clients are amazed at the speed in which they can transform their home when I help them. I feel fulfilled, joyful, and energized when I have the honor of supporting people to get a handle on their (up until I enter the picture) unmanageable stuff.
“No brag, just fact,” was a phrase I heard growing up when I watched the series, “The Guns of Will Sonnet.” Those words occurred to me just now as I was thinking about the speed and efficiency with which we tackled the job.
Silvia (my client gave me permission to write this with a name change to protect her confidentiality) and I had an initial consultation where she gave me a virtual tour of all the places she wanted to declutter. Having this head start helped me to be even more supportive as we sped through the various rooms working fast and efficiently.
We started in the room that was bothering Silvia the most–the office. I set out boxes that were labeled with super sticky post it notes. I had simple categories that we adjusted as we saw that we could do some initial sorting into easy categories.
Super Sticky post-it notes, with the official name being “Extreme Notes” are one of my secret weapons. Being able to quickly label something as well as change the label easily cuts down on many minutes. Since my goal is to help clients save money and time, those minutes are important.
Normal post it notes fall off easily when they are moved about, so Extreme Notes, which have a waterproof and extra-sticky backing, are perfect for the job.
The main problem that Silvia had was that the drawers, cabinets and closets in her house were filled up with mostly un-needed stuff. Therefore, clutter easily got piled on surfaces and finding homes for the objects she needed to have easily accessible was impossible.
We quickly boxed up the hidden contents of drawers, cabinets and surfaces. Silvia laughed so hard when she saw how much stuff could be fit into what seemed like small spaces. The whole office space (which was also her spacious living room) was filled with boxes! Her laughter was infectious, and I joined in and had a good belly laugh!
I have seen this situation over my past 20 years of professional organizing. The amount of space that is taken up by objects taken out of a closet in order to put it into order seems a lot larger than the size of the closet.
Yet a similar seemingly miraculous thing happens when items are boxed up and stacked in a staging area. Silvia and I had identified a spare bedroom as the place where we would put the boxes that were to be sorted later. At the end of 3 hours, with an hour left to go, I started re-organizing that bedroom and stacking boxes in the room in such a way that all the things that needed to be sorted were in one place.
We continued to go through the house. The kitchen was the next priority. Silvia stood on a stool and handed me items which were on a high, deep shelf. Something that is time consuming and tedious is to get things out of a high space, so having a helper can save so much time and energy. Discovering that much of the stuff was old birthday decorations that took up a lot of space, I put those items in a big box. She knew she was not going to keep much of the decorations so keeping them in a category meant that box would be able to be sorted quickly.
Sometimes we don’t have time to any sorting except for “important–keep out.” My clients almost always find things and happily exclaim, “I’ve been looking for this!” Setting such materials on a surface for them to deal with later contributes to them needing to declutter later. But with the clearing of space, it is much easier to find homes for these precious items.
Silvia quickly realized after emptying a very spacious cabinet the she could put certain foods back, freeing up a cluttered floor space. I handed her the items and she put them right where she wanted them.
Cleaning out large drawers was easy because Silvia was able to dump everything in a box to be sorted later. She found just a few things she knew she wanted to keep.
Having a “get rid of box” where we put recycling, give away, and even trash, was much simpler than trying to haul around 3 different boxes. I have discovered that the less categories we have, the faster we move. Silvia would periodically quickly clean the trash out of the box.
We needed to prioritize because of our limited time. Silvia would look into a drawer or cabinet and make a decision–do together, or she would say, “I can do this later.”
In about 5 minutes she reorganized under the sink when I suggested that she put some things in plastic containers she had purchased. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better.
The only areas that needed to be sorted in the dining room were what Silvia called “her hidden cabinet.” She had not looked into the cabinet for years, although she knew it was mostly crafts. She was the one to pull things out, and I boxed the items up. The only sorting that I did was to make a box of games which she wanted to put back into the shelf.
The Mostly crafts and fairly lightweight items went into a big moving box.
Having a variety of sizes of boxes is essential. I was glad that Silvia had followed my advice and bought a combination of plastic bins and boxes. I brought a long some as well, since I had time to pick some up. I have never seen too many boxes!
We looked at the time. Two hours were left. We had already gotten so much done! Silvia decided that her bedroom was next. One drawer had a large variety of items, mostly electronics, which were easily put into a box.
The bottom drawer had tools and manuals. Removing the manuals and putting into a small bin left enough room for Silvia to be able to get to her tools.
With 90 minutes to go, I knew we needed to look at the staging area where she would be storing the boxes to sort. Taking out some large items and putting them in the garage was quite easy. We did a tiny bit of re-organizing in the garage in order for these things to fit.
I got permission from Silvia to reorganize some things in the bedroom staging area so more stuff could fit. We were finishing strong.Silvia kept handing me boxes to take out, and the most efficient use of space in the closet unfolded.
Sorting and letting go of clothes was something Silvia knew she could do later. The goal we had was to get everything else out of the closet so that she could easily move around in the space.
We took the risk of tacking her large walk in closet. We made the right decision. As she pulled out bins and boxes, she decided which ones needed to go back into the closet and I set those aside. The rest I hauled to the staging area, which fortunately was very close.
Once the whole closet was decluttered, Silvia could put the things back that she wanted to have easily accessible. I swept the floor and put any papers or non-trash into a box. I do not throw anything away without permission! Of course the dirt went into the trash.
I had prayed a lot before our session that things would go smoothly and that we could accomplish our goals in record time. And we did! It was just a few minutes past the 4 hour mark, and we could declare the job completed. We both felt such a sense of satisfaction.
Before we started the job, Silvia wondered where she would ever find the time to declutter. Making the commitment to spend just 4 hours felt doable. I just heard from her that she sorted out two big boxes and a bag of plastic bags. Before, she dreaded the idea of having to spend her precious time doing this work.
During our session, Silvia felt a lot of emotions. She decided to set aside the emotions, knowing that at some point she could process them. The priority right now was to get the physical job done. And clearing out all this stuff actually helped her to feel more energized and stronger so the emotions did not control her. –
Now, with everything in one place, it is easy for her to work 1/2 hour a day and see progress. I’ve written up a google doc which gives her a list of things to do and some ideas on how to proceed. Silvia says she feels confident that she can sort this stuff now that it is manageable.
Because Silvia needed to work later in the evening, and I preferred not to drive back home so late, she graciously let me spend the night. Of course I made my request in advance so that she would know what to expect.
Silvia made a lovely dinner, and we enjoyed lively conversation and getting to know each other. Something I really value about my work is that in some ways I am like a therapist. My clients need to trust me and be vulnerable. They don’t want to be judged–often they are already judging themselves.
I have a way with making it easy for people to feel safe, and I reassure them that many people have challenges like this. I have not yet found a client that I felt a need to judge or criticize. Everyone is doing their best, whether they are like the hoarders on the programs which used to be popular (and I have had a number of these kinds of people) or they just need 4 hours to get a jump start.
I left Silvia’s home the next morning feeling very satisfied, fulfilled and happy. I love my work, and feel so grateful that I have this talent.
I am in the process of figuring out how I can help a client find someone to help them to physically assist them and do my job. I prefer not to drive because I am wanting to live on the earth lightly. I also want to save my clients money, because I can charge less if we do the job virtually.
I have found that long-distance coaching is effective for people who want to spend an hour or two at a time. I continue to learn about how to be ever more efficient whether supporting people in person or long-distance. I love to learn!
If you have any interest in hiring me, text me at 479-313-0414 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 1/2 hour exploratory session.