Had fun this week working with a couple on de-cluttering and organizing their kitchen counter (just the mail and other papers), their home office and advising them about how to attack their closets and master bedroom. It was my first time working with a couple and I was a little nervous to start, but they were enthusiastic and ready to reclaim their home.
I felt badly leaving them after the 3-hour session, since they were so eager to continue. Here is part of my follow-up e-mail to encourage and guide them in their ongoing efforts:
Hi Dick and Jane: You guys made a great team the other day; we got a lot of paperwork sorted out. I took the clothes to Goodwill yesterday and will mail you the receipt. Note: I take away the recycling and donations at the end of most sessions.
I wasn't being polite about the fact that much of your place looks de-cluttered and organized. The living room, the kitchen, the kids' rooms look good. You might have some hidden stuff in those rooms but the overall appearance looks tidy.
I know you want to organize the office and that is important for peace of mind and being able to locate information in a timely manner. I think that either of you can work on the office when you have a moment to spare and here are some reminders about the process:
1. Start with the most functional areas and needs first--get rid of the "dead" computer, clear off the desk surface, de-clutter one drawer of the desk or a drawer in the file cabinet close to it. Use the newly de-cluttered drawer for keeping files you have already purged of unnecessary info. You might continue to use the red box for the files we created Tuesday, if that works for you.
2. When going through the office papers, take a 4" stack of papers to another location, like the table we used. Take the red box with files with you to have handy. Have your bags for "recycle" & "shred" right next to you and also label piles "to do/action" and "ask Dick/Jane" By having a pile for papers which need the attention of the other person you can do the organizing when you're alone. If you find that you stay on track better when you're together, by all means do that, too.
3. Work in small batches of time--15 minutes, 30 minutes. Don't burn out, mentally. Leave 5 minutes at the end of a session to tidy up and put things away. If you don't finish going through the 4" stack of papers, take the remainder back to the office for another time. Don't create an new area of unfinished papers to do later, even if it seems efficient at the time. We're going for an uncluttered look throughout the house.
4. I think you're going to like your 3-ring "Control Journal" so keep putting in there the papers you usually post on the refrigerator or keep on little slips of paper on the counter. Let the notebook get jumbled up and messy with handwritten notes and taped-on pieces of scrap paper--you only use it occasionally and no one sees what's inside. You might keep thin booklets, like your church directory, in the front pocket.
5. When we reviewed your closets and bedrooms I got the impression that you will feel a lot better when your master bedroom is more open and organized. I think you can use the 15 minute, 30 minute guide for mini sessions to attack the clothes and other items that need organizing. Use the same idea of bags for "share" & "action needed" when handling clothes. If you really need to keep clothes that you can't wear right now due to the season, pregnancy, special occasions then fold them and bag them up to store under the bed. It will help to make a quick handwritten label on scrap paper and put inside the bag so you can identify the general contents, like "Jane--fall/winter."
Try to be ruthless when going through clothes--if you have several pair of black pants, for example, just keep the 1 or 2 best pairs and pass along the rest.
If you're going to give away clothes or other items to specific friends or charities, label them and put them in a bag, then put them in your car right away. We don't want to create new clusters of clothes in the room--we're working on making the room spacious and peaceful.
If you want to hang up clothes as you work, you might put a broomstick between two chairs or some sturdy furniture; it's not pretty but it will help you see what you're doing and anticipate how much space the clothes will take in the closet. Work on the clothes in the room before working on the master closet(s). Aim for a clutter free master bedroom and it will make you feel great when you walk in. 15 or 30 minute sessions with 5 minutes at the end for tidying up.
I hope the idea of handling mail each day is going well. It will take you 5 minutes to sort by recycle, shred and to do/action and your counters and table will be easier to keep uncluttered. Keep using your calendar for reminders to retrieve items from your "to do" clipboard.
Let me know about your successes and new ideas.