You’re never quite sure how it happened but over time clutter completely took over an area in your home. At first it was just grandma’s china that was put into the room “just for now”. Later you had to quickly clear up the other guest bedroom for company and you just scooted some of the projects you were working on into this area. Then it was already a bit of a mess so anytime you didn’t know where to put something – in it went.
Now, you want to reclaim the room. You’d like a craft room or a place to keep and sell items on eBay. But the mess is huge. You can hardly open the door. You don’t even have a goat path clear across the room. You are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
When I work with clients I like to use a variation of the Mount Vernon Method. This method involves starting at the door and moving clockwise around the room completely cleaning one area at a time. I use a similar method but do it in two or three sweeps around the room.
On the first sweep around the room we only deal with items that are on the floor. Each item is identified and placed where it belongs. To keep from running all over the house, we set up zones outside of the room. One zone is “belongs in the house but not here”. Another zone or stack is “will go back into this room”. Then there are the trash, recycle, shred, and donate piles. Sometimes we also have a “leaving the house but going to someone specific” stack. The client is strongly discouraged from going to another area in the room and is always refocused back to the area at hand. The idea is just to keep on moving around the room one step at a time. Depending on how much stuff we have in the piles, about 30 minutes to an hour before quitting time we go to the stacks in the hall and deal with them. Hopefully by this time we have some clear space in the room to stack the items that will eventually live in this room. Items going somewhere else in the home are now taken to that spot. If there is no place to put them at this time, we just put them as close to where they are supposed to go as possible. Trash is taken out right away. Donate and shred piles can either be dealt with right away or held until more of the room is completed.
After we have cleared the floor, we go back around the room and deal with the surfaces of any furniture. We use the same technique. Then we look at what is stored out of sight in the furniture.
The client has a vision of how she wants this room to look and what function the room will have before we even begin. So the last step is placing everything back into the room that supports that vision.
I love the way this works with clients and they can really see their progress after each session.
If you have one of these “rooms of shame” you can get help to keep you focused or you can try this method on your own. A big part of making this work is to break the project down into manageable tasks and sticking to a timeline. Always allow time at the end of each session to clear up the stacks you have placed in the hallway.
Jonda S. Beattie Professional Organizer