New Jen's Horde

Monday, October 15, 2007

Renee needs help! ie Jen's Desperation Cleaning Method

Renee has a long-term guest coming, and she needs some help getting her house organized because she'll need to move some furniture, etc. You can read about her plight here. She and her husband have a daughter, Darly, and they will have her medical-needs mom come to stay for the holidays.

Even though I'm pretty disorganized in general, I'm pretty good at de-cluttering in short spurts when things need to be done! For instance, we went through the house and moved rooms and furniture, and cleaned out the whole garage in a short period of time this summer to make room for Mara to move in and for the camper. I bet we got rid of at least a ton of stuff, no lie. It was bad.

The first thing I would do is call someplace like ARC, and set a pick up date. It helps me to have a goal to go through all the stuff.

Then go buy a bunch of big black lawn and leaf bags, and white kitchen bags and have at it. I use one bag for garbage (you'll be shocked at how much crap kids squirrel away everywhere!) and the other for donations, just to keep things simple. I don't know that I've ever donated a bag of garbage (I sure hope not!) but I've definitely thrown away bags of donations on accident. Also, snag a laundry basket, and use it for stuff that you intend to keep, but that needs to be delivered to another room.

So, at this point, you'll have 4 ways any item can go. It can 1. stay right where it is, 2. stay, but it belongs elsewhere in the house, 3. get donated or 4. get thrown away. (You can save stuff for a garage sale if you like, but that's never worked for me. That's why I don't do it. If you'll actually get the stuff out, tag it and sell it, more power to you.)

Then you just start somewhere. If you're like me, you'll freeze up trying to decide the best place to start, so I just start randomly or I won't ever get going!

Say you're starting with a bookshelf. I take everything off of the shelf and put it in big messy piles all over. (To me, that makes it more likely that I'll finish it up before I move on, because the big piles will annoy me.) I dust off the shelves, and start putting stuff back. With each item I ask myself some questions: Do I really need this? Do I use this? If I donate it, will it get more use from someone else? Do I love this item? etc. The hardest part of this is choosing what to get rid of, so be brutal! When in doubt, get rid of the item. I'm an awful pack rat, and in all the times I've purged something out of my house, there's only been once that I wish I could get something back.

I read somewhere that Americans in general tend to regularly use only 10% of the stuff they have in their house. That means that 90% of anyone's stuff is just taking up space! I'm not saying that 90% of your stuff is clutter, but I bet a lot more of it is than you suspect. This is why people benefit from those Clean Sweep folks, it can be very difficult to recognize what to get rid of at times. I think they're a little too mean about it, but they do get the job done. With a little self-discipline, you can manage your own clutter pretty well.

As you start filling bags, stack any donation bags and items in the garage as you fill them, and drag them out the day of the pick up. Put any trash where you normally put trash. You won't believe how much stuff you can get rid of!

If you think there's going to be a lot of stuff to throw away, you may consider getting a dumpster. But, that's pretty extreme, in all of my major purges I've only had to do that one time, and that was mostly because of a build up of broken-down furniture that I couldn't put out with the regular trash.

If possible, I'd go through Darly's stuff on a day she isn't there. What I've done in the past is to explain to the kids what needs to be done, and give each of them a good-sized box and I tell them that I won't touch anything in the box. No matter what it is. They fill the box with the "treasures" they can't bear to lose, and then I go through everything else while they're gone, and sort it out into the four piles like I mentioned above. I really try hard not to get rid of anything they still play with, but there's still a ton of stuff that can go.

They're usually pretty receptive to the idea that some other kid out there would love to play with the stuff they don't use any more. It helps that we shop at the ARC sometimes, and that they've bought toys and clothes there, so they see how the cycle works.

Another thing I do with the kids' stuff, is that I stack their stuff in the garage for about a week. I tell them that anything they want back that they can ask me for specifically, I will dig out for them. It's never happened. If they could SEE all the stuff, they'd totally want it ALL back, but I figure if they don't even know what's gone, how can they miss it?

So, anyway, that's my method for trying to get a handle on the stuff in the house! As far as the rearranging of furniture, etc, only you guys can decide what will work for you, but once you've cleared out the clutter, you'll have a lot more freedom to decide what can go where. Then you'll know exactly what you still need to buy.

Let me know if you need any hands-on help!

I feel I should mention that there are a ton of plans out there for keeping your house clean and clutter-free on a regular basis, so that you don't need to do these massive pogroms. I have never gotten any of them to work for me for any length of time, so I'll let someone else comment on those. I understand them in theory, but apaprently I'm not set up to do things like that.

One last piece of advice. If you don't get everything done on time, you can always put stuff in boxes and pile them in the garage until after your mom goes home. I'm not proud, but I've done that in the past, too. The good thing about that is that you forget what's out there, and it makes it easier to get rid of on the next big clean out!

Best of luck!

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Wow! That's exactally what I need. I think my biggest obstical is wanting to dontate items and just not getting it I have piles of stuff to donate that never get donated.

My hidey place can be the basement if needed since Mom can't do stairs she won't be going down there to see it...ha ha!

Thanks for your tips!
Excellent advice for me... a bookaholic packrat who hoards office supplies :-)
We're so doing that today and tomorrow, and that's pretty much my method as well. I've already been inspired to throw a bunch of stuff away so I don't miss it so much.

Have a good week!
Put all the dirt in one room and say it's being redecorated.
You've got it down to a science!
My kids and hubby are messy, messy, messy, and they are BIG time pack rats. I like things organized and clean and orderly. I am outnumbered!!!
This past weekend, we took everything out of our kids' rooms and they switched bedrooms. That means everything got moved. What a job that was!!!!
I still have several piles of stuff that Courtney has to go through and decide if she wants to keep it or not.
I'm hoping not.
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