Organized Home, Clean Home

Seattle Professional OrganizerWhen people find out what I do for a living, they tell me stories. I hear “suffocating,” “drowning,” “overwhelmed” and other descriptions of how they feel about their homes. Some dread going home.

After hearing similar words for years, I decided that the realities I heard were present for many people. So I drew mind maps of people’s relationships with their homes and then drew mind maps of how I thought people could change those relationships with their homes. The change all boiled down to one factor: stuff.

People associate stuff with status. People have stuff that reminds them of happy and sad times. They have stuff that reminds them of relationships. Some of these relationships were not easy or happy.

The method I came up with to deal with stuff and the emotions around the objects has three parts.


Move Your Stuff

Start with the easiest drawer. If you haven’t been in the drawer for a while, wear gloves. If you want to, wear a mask. Clear a surface and put down a white sheet. The sheet lets you easily see the objects, dirt and insects. Empty the contents of the drawer onto the sheet. Snap a photo.

Pick up or place you hand on each object. Ask “do I love this?” “do I use this?” “does it bring me joy, feel positive or make me happy?” If you can remember when you got this object, what were you doing and who were you with?

Depending on the answer, place each item in an area: keep, trash, recycle, repair, donate, sell and no clue.

Put the “keep” items in the drawer. Place items from the other categories into labelled boxes or bags. Place the “donate” bag into your car or garage as soon as it is full. That prevents you from rummaging through the bag every time you walk by it. Dispose of the other boxes appropriately, except for the “no clue” box. Put it away for six months. Then open it and ask if any of the items have any positive value for you. If not, donate or sell them.

After sorting, take a break by assemble cleaning supplies. Snap a photo to track your progress.

Clean Your Space

Wearing cleaning gloves and a mask (for your safety or comfort), spray a clean rag with a non-toxic cleaning solution and wipe the drawer out. If it’s dirty, use paper towels. If you vacuum the drawer first, the dirt and debris in the drawer will become airborne. That may not be a good idea.

Clean the rails of the drawer too. And also the face and knob as well.

Dry it so that it’s dry to the touch. This is important with paper. If you put paper on wet surfaces, the print will bleed onto the surface.

Replace the items you love and use (that either feel neutral or positive) back into the drawer. Traffic flow is key when replacing items. Who uses the drawer? People look for items in different ways. Some expect items to be in certain places. Some hunt by feel. Some are in a hurry and move things around to find what they want.

Depending on who will be using the drawer, put the items back. Leave room in the drawer. This will make it easier to use.

Change Your Life

People report that the process of methodically looking at, touching and considering items’ values affects them on many levels: emotionally, psychologically, intellectually and physically. They sit in the midst of their stuff and realize who and what they had been hanging onto. And why. When they reach a certain point, they are ready to let stuff go.

That point is different for everyone. It’s a feeling of pain, irritability or pressure. Pressure to DO SOMETHING. They report they can’t stand another moment of moving unwanted items from one place to another. They are done. They want stuff gone.

People report that this process doesn’t happen all at once. It occurs in stages. Letting go is a process and occurs in layers, each one is deeper than the previous one. Sometimes, people reach a point and freeze. Having support helps unlock the blocks. So does therapy. So does stopping. Taking breaks from the process brings fresh perspective.

They tell me that when they return, they have different mindsets and the process is faster.

Snap photos along the way to track your progress. Watch your space as you go. It will transform as you create more empty areas. When you are done, ask your space “what do you want?”

Emptiness creates room for new beginnings.

Sources: Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (1999) Karen Kingston; Organizing from the Inside Out (1998, 2004) Julie Morgenstern.