Organizing in Lockdown

I recently had the opportunity to help a virtual client clear an organizing hurdle. She works full-time, is a mother to two boys, a wife, musician, volunteer, and the list goes on.

She told me that she has come to realize that it’s not that her family is sloppy, but that they’re never home long enough, or awake long enough, to get or stay organized. But now that the entire family is on lock-down, it has given her the opportunity to assess and correct. She knew what she needed to do, but she didn’t know where to start, or what to do with the items she did want to keep. Her storage was at full capacity.

I asked her to send me some photographs of the challenging areas and then we met for a virtual appointment.

We used the first part of our appointment to discuss her organizational challenges, the flow of information and items into the house, and their storage options. We also discussed things like their hobbies and what their daily lives are like under normal circumstances.

She granted me permission to share her situation with you, in hopes that you will be inspired to work through your own organizing challenges. Here are some tips and insights from our session:

1. Create a realistic vision of what your newly organized space will look like.

The pretty pictures you see of perfectly organized spaces may not align with your current lifestyle. Think about what your typical week is like and if you can meet the expectations of your vision. If you have children, your household and organizing needs will evolve as they grow, and you grow as a family.

2. Clear storage areas of unwanted/unused items so you can open up space for the items you currently use or want to keep.

Getting rid of old and unused items now, as the family continues to grow, will help you maintain adequate storage space for items you currently use or are necessary to keep. Downsizing as you and your family age will help you maintain a clutter-free home. Her first task was to tackle the packed closets and other storage areas to free up space. She emptied an entire closet on the first day! She was able to relocate items from the dining room that really should have been in the closet in the first place.

3. When you don’t have anywhere to store things you want to keep, examine what’s taking up the current space.

When she explored her closets, she discovered items that haven’t been touched in many years. As a result, many things were thrown away.

4. Since yard sales and donation runs may not be an option now, try to create a temporary (and out of the way) landing spot for those items. (As I write this, some donation centers are beginning to receive items again.)

She is fortunate that she has a two-car garage that is used to park their cars. She is using one of the garage bays for a landing area for future yard sale items. Anything that doesn’t sell at the yard sale will be donated. She wants her garage back, so she is motivated to move these items along, as soon as possible.

5. Evaluate what IS working in your home.

Every day she retrieves the mail, discards the junk mail immediately, and keeps only what is needed. She mentioned that she receives an enormous amount of junk mail, so I provided her with some options to get removed from direct mail lists. She discards bills after paying them, with few exceptions. Not everyone is comfortable doing this but doing so reduces paper clutter. The challenge was that she did the review and sorting process in the kitchen, so the “keep” paperwork piled up on the table. At mealtime, the papers would be moved and eventually scattered in the home.

6. Everything should have a home. Create categories or departments.

The kitchen clearly wasn’t a good landing place for paperwork. It’s the heart of their home where they eat every meal together. We talked through the various possibilities for a different landing space.  We determined that after retrieving the mail, she passes through the dining room on the way to the kitchen. The dining room is rarely used and after some decluttering, a landing spot could be established. She purchased baskets – one for each family member, where incoming mail and papers could be distributed. The baskets are pretty and portable. They look nice aesthetically and can easily be put away when it’s time to entertain.

By the end of our call, she had a plan. Within 24 hours of our appointment, she texted pictures of her progress . A few days later, I checked in to see how things were going. Her progress continues. There is excitement and pride in her voice. We’ll meet again if she runs into any roadblocks after the initial cleanse.

Closet Before
Closet After