26 September 2010

Things I Don't Need: The Urge to Purge Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about working with a professional organizer.  Let me tell you, it is some of the best money I've ever spent.

I feel so unburdened now, so liberated.  I feel in control of my environment. I feel like I can maintain this. In fact, I have. 

So let me tell you a bit about this journey.  

Entire families live in houses the size of mine or smaller. So how is it that I had no extra storage capacity?  It was a couple of things: as I said in my original post on the Urge to Purge, part of it was laziness and part of it was a sentimental attachment to things that didn't need it.  But one key thing is that I think you have to be in the right headspace to take on this type of effort.  Now, I wasn't a hoarder. I just had too much stuff, and was holding on to things I didn't need. But it was overwhelming to get started on clearing it all out.  It seemed  like too big of a job to start.

But earlier in the year, I got my finances in order, then I worked with a life coach and got my priorities in order.  I think getting my environment in order was the natural next step.  

I worked with Suellen from Creative Order (http://www.creativeorder.com).  Our first meeting, she walked through the house with me, and listened to my goals.  We talked about a plan of attack, and agreed to 4 sessions about 4 hours each.  I secretly wondered if that would be enough. But it was.  We worked through the house room by room. The first thing we tackled was the master bedroom closets.  Remember the "Monica Closet" from Friends? Picture that times two. Or three.  

But we did it.  Here's what they look like now:

The best thing is that since we've done this, I've hung up or returned to the proper drawer or put in the laundry hamper each piece of clothing that comes of off me.  No more piling things at the foot of the bed, or tossing onto the closet floor when I'm in a hurry.

And the guest closet, where the Halloween and Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, and luggage are stored?  It used to be so full that when I had guests, they couldn't actually hang clothes in the closet.  Now?

There are two easy tricks I picked up.  One is a bin that goes up and down the stairs with me. When I need to take things upstairs, they go in the bin, and at the end of the day, the bin goes upstairs with me, and things go in their proper place.  Similarly, when something from upstairs needs to come downstairs, same concept.  This is Magic the Cat trying out the bin:

The other thing is simple storage. Items I need on occasion but not all the time. I needed an easy, but out of the way place to keep them, and keep them organized. The solution? A re-purposed over-the-door shoe rack:

One of the other quick wins?  A re-organized personal workspace.  This is where I pay the bills and shred documents.  Yes, I have a study, but I didn't want this set up there.  Like Suellen said, to be something I'll keep up with, it needs to be an area where I'll use it. So this little unused space in the living room became the perfect work nook.

One of the best things about this effort was the amount of stuff I was able to donate and, for stuff that couldn't be donated, throw out.  See these bins? They all used to be filled with STUFF.  And now they aren't. In fact, they are ready for donation.

That's eleven bins, if you're wondering.

So, like I said, I feel so free now. I feel organized.  I know easily where things are. It is easy to keep things in control because nothing is out of control.  It's expanded into other areas. I've ruthlessly cleaned out and reorganized drawers.  I'm much more discriminating in what I buy, because I realize that now that I know where everything is, I don't really need anything.

Overall, I still think my house is comfortable. You could come in and make yourself at home.  It isn't so perfect that you're afraid to touch anything.  But there's no embarrassment for an overfilled storage bin or too many magazines piled on the coffee table.  They're dropped off for recycling at a local school once a month now.

Suellen was great.  Non-judgemental, supportive, full of ideas, and respectful of my unique style.  I'm so glad I did this, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend hiring someone to anyone with organizational challenges.

To wrap up, I'm going to share with you a list of ten things, in no particular order, that I've discovered I don't need any time soon. I have enough of them, and I know where they are:

1)  Jeans
2)  T-shirts
3)  Purses
4)  Knickers
5)  Shoes
6)  Boots
7)  Bath soaps
8)  Exercise clothes
9)  Socks
10) Linens


  1. I had to smile when I see bath soap on your list. A few years ago, I realized that I bought shower gel everytime I liked the smell. During a move, it was all put in one box and I was horrified. I decided that I would not allow myself to buy shower gel until I was out. I did get a random bottle here or there as an Xmas gift during that time, but I didn't have to buy shower gel for three years.... Same with scented body lotion....

  2. And, I think it is impossible to get to our age without too many t-shirts. Was she able to help you purge the ones you had? (dena)

  3. I'm the same way! I get lots of bath stuff for gifts, and then I'll forget and stock up when I see it on sale. So now I know I don't need it, and I still love all the scents I have so I don't mind using them all. I just don't need to buy any!

    As for the t-shirts, the best purging of those came when I worked with the wardrobe consultant. The thing to be careful with the t-shirts now is to not look like I'm trying to pass for 21. So when Suellen and I went through them all, it was getting rid of ones I really no longer wear from various events over the years, and keeping the ones that fit and I would wear some place other than the gym or to bed.

    I think I probably donated 20 or more huge bags of things. Suellen helped me be ruthless with it all.

  4. I'm definitely going to be interested in calling your lady. Right now we're still finishing the basement so we have stuff that belongs there all over the house. Once we get things where we think they belong, I want to have her tell us what we didn't need to start with. And, we need an impartial person. Michael and I take it personal if the other suggests something to get rid of that doesn't belong to him. A third party would really help!

  5. I completely recommend Suellen. But I think you hit on one of the really important things- you need someone impartial, who can ask you to think about things in a different way. But, I also think you both need to be ready to do this. Otherwise you'll find it too easy to justify keeping something.

    A large amount of what we did was go through and get rid of things, but Suellen also consulted with me on how to make the best use of my storage areas going forward. That was a huge help, and something I wanted out of the process. A lot of it is common sense, but you sometimes need an outside person to point it out to you because you only see what isn't working.