5 simple steps to tacking the {daunting} mess

5 steps to tackling the mess_edited-1

Getting organized is the New Year’s resolution most people make, second only to losing weight.*  For me, that’s good news. I have loved containers and organizing things ever since I was a young girl. I would spend hours “cleaning” my room, when really what I was doing was going through my closet or my desk making everything a little prettier. A Facebook post by a friend the other day caught my eye. Her post read:

half way into project “I may barf.” my husband is a packrat. time to purge. he doesn’t need hunting magazines from 1992!

and it was accompanied by the03245def577290f5579753442df29857 photo I used in my title — a room completely overwhelmed with boxes and “stuff.” Can you relate? I can. Even as someone who likes to organize, it’s not very fun to look at something and be completely overwhelmed. Where do you start?

I will admit something to you, my dear friends. I had a similar situation less than a year ago. Yep, I did. Me, the one who likes everything tidy and organized. The problem? My basement. As an unfinished space, everything ended up down there that I didn’t use, need or know what to do with. So, after a few years, that space looked like an episode of Hoarders. Ok, not quite, but close. I had made a path. My point is, when I let things pile up, they got out of control. When we decided to finish our basement last spring, well, I knew everything needed to be cleared out. Everything.

These photos do not do my mess justice. Unfortunately, or maybe subconsciously on purpose (is that possible?), I have no photo evidence of the real mess. These photos are after most of it is cleared out. Honestly, that cement floor? You could barely see it.

IMG_4365 IMG_4364In 2012, we had refinished our kitchen cabinets. There were things from my kitchen I never put back because I didn’t want it. I had lots of kids stuff: Pottery Barn bedding, kid gadgets like Icee Makers and Play-Do machines, toys. The problem is I don’t do garage sales; I don’t have them and I don’t buy from them. I like to donate when I can. Not the Goodwill drop-off, but to places where it will go to people who truly need it. If you live in the Twin Cities area, I created a list of places where you can donate gently used “stuff” you no longer want. I organized it by categories (of course). There are some great charities, like Bridging, which will take housewares and furniture. There’s the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which takes building supplies, such as bathroom pedestals, mirrors, lights and even wire closet racks, of which we had all of the above from redoing things in our house. What do you do with piles of old sheets or towels when you’re cleaning out your linen closet? What about books you no longer want? I was so embarrassed with all of the “stuff” we had accumulated. In fact, it made me practically ill to think of the excess. The good news is I tackled the project, bag by bag, box by box. After a couple months, a lot of trips in my SUV to various donation sites, and a friend’s garage sale, it was empty. What you can’t see in this photo is we have a storage room with large shelves. I, of course, still have items, such as Christmas decor, housed in that area.

I will discuss organizing specific areas, such as closets, cabinets, paperwork, etc., in future posts. Here are some tips I have to tackle those overwhelming big projects:

  1. Start Small. Start with one box, bag or corner in that space. Looking at the project/room as a whole will make you want to run and never come back.
  2. Categorize Clutter. As you go through the items, categorize your clutter into three piles: keep, donate and toss.
  3. Consider two questions. If you intend to keep the item, ask yourself: Have I used this item in the last year? Will I use this item in the next year? (Or, if you must, use a time increment you’re comfortable with, such as 2 years, or 6 months, etc.) If not, donate.donating_old_stuff
  4. Separate donations. Within the donate pile, separate into places you can take the items. Clothes versus housewares, for example. I know it’s an extra step, but do a little research to find places in your area that will take your donations and give them to people who truly need them. You will feel so much better about getting rid of the items. For my friends who live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I have done the research for you. Here is a link to my list:  http://wp.me/P5qXnZ-4X
  5. Call on large items. If you have a toss pile, which you will, contact your local waste management company as most will take large items for recycling. For instance, we had a rollaway bed stashed away underneath the basement stairs that my husband used in his first apartment in college. (Yes, we held on to that thing for 18+ years. Sigh.) Unable to donate that type of used mattress, I called our garbage company and they picked it up with our regular garbage at no extra cost to us.
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Totally cleaned out and ready for renovation.

While organizing is often a daunting task, I will tell you from experience that the feeling I got after tackling Project Basement Hoarder was complete freedom. I had accomplished a huge task that had weighed me down for years. Be on the lookout for my posts and photos of how our basement transformed from a total mess to a fun entertaining space. Here’s to your small starts and big accomplishments!

Julee sig 2014_pink_xoxo-1_edited-1

*Source: University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology

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