The Dreaded Spare Room

When I first started Everything in Its Place, I knew my goals: to organize my home so that I could find what I wanted when I wanted, and to create an atmosphere in my home that was welcoming and comfortable.  As I’ve continued working with these goals, I’ve come to realize that not only are there steps or individual locations to work on, but there are overarching phases to the project itself.  I currently see three phases: (1) Getting rid of the dumping grounds–these are the locations that are so bad I’m ashamed for people to see them.  This stage is probably both the most daunting and the easiest.  The sub-projects are intimidating, but there are fewer of them (three to be exact), and the work is pretty clear cut.  (2) Cleaning up the details–this is organizing small spaces like drawers, and clearing away the semi-organized stashes of things here and there, the stuff that I’m not all that worried about other people seeing, but that could grow and get out of hand and are not terribly pleasant either to look at or to deal with.  I anticipate that this phase will take the longest as there are many little stashes to be dealt with and a lot of little decisions to be made.  (3) Decorating–at this phase I should know what I have and where it is, and my work is to decide how I want my home to look.   This will be a phase of maintenance and manipulation.  In my last two posts, I have described my work with the first two of the three locations in Phase 1.  I’ve mentioned and I’ll say again, these were the easy ones.  The last location in Phase 1 is the Dreaded Spare Room.

Every story has a climax.  Some are small, some monumental, some are long and multi-phased, some are quick and explosive.  In some stories, there is a long slow build up to the final climax; then everything quickly resolves to the end.  In others, the climactic event happens early, and there is a long journey to final resolution.  In the story of the first Phase of EiiP, we have reached the climax, but I think in this story, we’re about half way through.

The Dreaded Spare Room has not always been so fearsome.  It has gone in and out of dumping ground status.  Though I had it nicely organized for a time, over the last year or so, it reverted to a place I put the things I didn’t want to deal with.  It became my closet of skeletons, and for a long time, I would just shut the door.  At long last, it was time again to open the door.

Opening the Door

Opening the Door

Scary, isn't it?

Scary, isn’t it?

The place was a mess.  It was so bad that it was challenging to walk more than a few feet in, and then pretty much all I could was turn around.

I hated going in there, and avoided the place as best I could.  It made things like working from home pretty miserable, and retrieving print jobs from my barely visible printer required contortionist skills.  As set my dread and fear aside and actually looked around, I saw that a good portion of the central clutter was really quite ridiculous.

In the middle of the room were two chairs that belonged out at the kitchen bar, and several empty boxes for appliances that I had recently bought.  I didn’t want to destroy the boxes too soon in case there were any problems with the appliances, but that period of time had long since past.  Just dealing with those two simple things made it possible to actually move around in the space.

A little bit of breathing room.

A little bit of breathing room.

The space was still atrocious, but I could get to the printer with much less risk of physical harm.  Then I was faced with how to approach the rest of the stuff.  Remember, this is all the stuff from the rest of my apartment that I did not want to throw away, but that I had no real clue what to do with.  This stuff ranges from crafting supplies to office supplies to books to old computers. I decided first to remove the things that really belonged in storage.  I know that may sound antithetical to some of my EiiP goals, but I don’t intend on living in this apartment for the rest of my life, and there are somethings that I may want when I am living somewhere else.  I know there are some problems with that way of thinking, but I will deal with those problems later, maybe in Phase 3.

As I removed the stuff I knew I didn’t need or have any use for here, I decided that my goal for today would be to group like things with like.  Once I had things grouped, I figured I would be able to deal with each group in turn without becoming too overwhelmed.  I ended up finding four basic groups of stuff: Paper and things to be sorted through, crafting supplies to be organized, books, and old computers and electronic devices to be dealt with.  I am not sure which group I will start with next week, but as I left the room this afternoon, I can actually walk around in there.

Sectioned Off

Sectioned Off

So here are my next projects.

Papers to SortCraft Supplies to OrganizeBooksOld computers

(left to right: Papers to Sort; Craft Supplies to Organize; Books; Old Computers)

Oh, and here’s all these stuff going away:

Good bye (at least for now)

Good bye (at least for now)

There will be more to add to that pile, no doubt.  And just so that you don’t think I’m a total loser, there is a bag of stuff in there that is going to the local non-profit thrift store, and a bag of trash and recycle.  I’m not putting all of that into my storage facility.

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No really, I’m still here…

This post is a long time in coming.  I’ve been a little busy the last couple months, but I didn’t forget what I was doing.  In my last post, I promised I would next tackle the laundry closet, which I did promptly the next week.  Then I put everything down while I trained to be an advocate for children in foster care.  I’m all official now, so I don’t have any more excuses.  It’s time to pick back up where I left off.

The closet organizations were pretty easy.  They are such contained spaces.  However, the laundry closet reorg and the subsequent haitus posed for me two challenges that the clearing out and reorganization of the hall closet did not pose.

In chronological order, the first challenge that I came across with the laundry closet was letting go of stuff I like, and I have to admit that I largely found ways around this issue.  I have a bit of candles and candle holder thing.  This is not completely my fault.  For several years my friends and family knew I liked candles so at every gifting holiday I got more candles and things to put candles in.  I like candles.  I like the soft flickering light.  I like the smell of the melting wax.  Candles make me feel safe and warm and loved, and those are all good things.  But, I have a lot of them.  I don’t think that is too big a problem because candles are consumables and I will use them all eventually.  A little more problematic are all the holders.  They take up space, and I have more than I can really use.  However, as I picked each one up, I remembered who gave it to me, or why I purchased it.  I tried, but I could only release one pair of taper holders.  Luckily, I was able to find space for everything else, but the issue is really just on hold.  How to let go of things you love but no longer need?  I think that will part of the “advanced class.”

The next challenge I faced during the haitus: maintenance.  Again, the hall closet was a little easier.  I made a decision about what was meant to go in there and what need a different home, and that was that.  The laundry closet was a little harder.  Its contents shift and change more because I store extra supplies in there.  Keeping it neat and organized takes a bit more effort.  It’s not really hard, but it is an issue, a new habit to be formed.  One thing I’ve noticed is that the more I keep it organized, the easier it is to keep it organized.  There’s something of a reward in knowing I can find what I’m looking for.  The more I get used to being able to find things easily, the more motivated I am to keep things organized, the easier it is to make the small effort.

Here are the before and after pics:

Before

Before

After

After

Before Detail

Before Detail

After Detail

After Detail

My next effort, which I have started but am not ready to post about, is the spare room.  In my very first post here, I alluded to this being my biggest challenge.  For most intents and purposes, this room has been acting as a storage room, with my computer desk shoved in the back and my bookcase somewhere behind a bunch of boxes.  My goal is to make of it a guest bedroom/office/craft space.  This is going to take time and will have to come in stages.  It’s sure to be learning experience!


Step One: In and Out of the Closet

As I said in the introduction to the project, I’ve learned to hide a lot of my clutter–mostly in closets and the Dreaded Spare Bedroom (DSB).  While clearing out the DSB is my ultimate goal, I’m not going to start there.  It’s WAY to complicated.  Rather, I’ll begin with a modest closet:

Hall Closet

Hall Closet

This closet is right next to my front door and just outside my kitchen.  I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly what should go in here so there’s lots of different categories of items on the shelves.  Many of those categories eventually found better places to live, but the stuff that got shoved in here never came out.  My goal: get rid of everything I don’t need, move stuff that has another home to its home, organize what’s left.  I’m really hoping that at the end of my work, this stuff will fit in there too:

EiiP03

The Work Begins:

I thought I’d start with this shelf because it’s sort of the worst, and it’s also got the most stuff that I know will come out of here:

EiiP-Step11

Looks like something very bad happened under all that stuff:

EiiP-Step12

Ultimately, there will need to be some sandpaper and paint, but for now a good scrubbing and shelf-paper and voila:

EiiP-Step16

Now, That Wasn’t So Bad, Was It?

It really only took a couple hours to get things moved out, thrown out, recycled and rearranged, and yes, all the small appliances fit in there just fine:

EiiP-Step13

Oh, wait, did I forget to mention the other-side of the closet?  Oops!  Really, it’s not any where near so bad:

EiiP-Step14

Just a move this there, take that out, and…

EiiP-Step15

Much better!  It does occur to me that I probably have more coats and sweaters than I need here, but I’m going to save that for when I tackle clothes.  For now, I am pleased.  My hall closet opens and closes easily.  I can see everything that is in there so finding stuff should be much easier, and I won’t feel ashamed if I need to get something out of here when someone is visiting.  Step One accomplished.  Now on to Step Two: The Laundry Closet.

Laundry Closet

Laundry Closet


Introducing Project EiiP (Everything in Its Place)

Welcome to a project that has been bubbling for years; a dream demon that has hitched a ride on my shoulder for far too long.  When did I start talking about having too much stuff?  When did I start my first my first campaign against clutter?  Thinking back now, it seems like it was probably around the same time as my first attempt at dieting.  And like my diets, my attempts at clutter reductions have all failed.  Once, a roommate of mine complained about my pile of books about reducing clutter!  Those books are still stashed around my house along with myriad books about nutrition and healthy eating.  Just like the 20 pounds I would like to lose, the piles of half-read books and half-done projects remain.  They follow me through moves, through life changes, and they grow, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.  Periodic campaigns shrink them for a time, but eventually the stacks of paper return, the pieces of unfinished craft-work are left out to be completed and then abandoned.  I get busy.  Work takes over my life.  I’ve got a million excuses.

The truth is, I come from a family of pile-makers and clutter-stashers.  When I visit my folks, I know exactly where my clutter-demon came from.  I was trained from an early age to keep everything just in case one day I might want/need it.  That old tool, sure you can’t use it for what it was intended, but it might be useful for something else.  No, I don’t know what, but next week, next year, who knows?  One day I might really need a screw driver that is bent in half.  It might come in really handy.  Better just stash that somewhere.  Those rubber-bands and twist-ties–you can never have too many of them.  Find a stray washer or nut or screw, better stash that away.  And don’t even think about getting rid of those old magazines and catalogs!

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re not hoarders.  My home is not a giant fire-hazard or rodent’s den.  In fact, I wouldn’t even be that embarrassed if company showed up unexpectedly.  See, here’s my main living space, not too bad, right?

Living room

Living room

But, don’t look in the closets, and don’t go in the spare bedroom…

Dreaded spare room

Dreaded spare room

And thus comes Project Everything in Its Place.