Sunday, May 15, 2011

52 Week Challenge: Exposing yourself (and the skeleton in the closet)

Each week, I really enjoy surfing all the blogs of those participating in the Organizing Junkie's 52 Week Challenge. I'm always amazed to see that there are so many people who are continually overcome by their stuff and, like me, are working on getting out from under it all!

For Week 19, I had to call in extra resources... See, I know myself too well and I know there are several good words that describe me: creative, fun, silly, kind, passionate, dedicated. But there are others too - like scatterbrained and disorganized. I don't like those words. Sure, I always joke about my piles and my chaotic filing system and I've purchased something twice forgetting that I had already purchased one but couldn't find it when I needed it (ask me how many large sized bias tape makers I have).

I want to be organized and I want my world to fall neatly into line and stay there for more than five minutes!

Participating in the 52 Week Challenge has made me see a few things. First, I like to think I thrive with chaos around me. I've learned that I'm (more often than not) out of control because my environment is out of control.

It's like the old saying 'contempt breeds contempt' - chaos breeds chaos and one does not thrive: one adapts and learns to exist and survive in the world they created around them. To do anything less would be tantamount to admitting defeat.


I am defeated.

I've also learned that my stuff bordered on hoarding. I'm fairly certain that my entire house would like like my office (if I lived alone). I would just keep piling more and more stuff until I couldn't dig my way out with a forklift!

BUT noticed I said "bordered" - not "borders".

Sometime in the past three or four years I quit buying stuff (mostly). But generally speaking, I'm getting better. I realized that those things do not make me happier or feel better nor do they add any value to my life. But I've spent over 12 years getting everything I have because I really tied my sense of happiness and well being to my possessions. I became so overwhelmed that I just stopped dealing with it. I've moved things around and re stacked the piles but I've never really dealt with all the issues tied to it, in part because I don't know where to start.

This week, I had the opportunity to attend an Organizing seminar with a local professional organizer. I've gathered information from the wonderful online communities and I think hearing it in person helped it click. I've also gone back and read many of Laura's older posts (I easily succumb to obsession).

Quite simply, my office, as it exists now, is more than I can do.


So, armed with a little knowledge (enough to be a little dangerous, anyway) I set out to use the PROCESS and a couple of the tricks from the seminar.

First, I really took a look at Laura's PROCESS. We are renovating the basement, I've spent many hours looking and planning (storage) solutions to my sewing and design studio clutter problem. I've pictured a place for everything and room to grow. I also decided know that I could not possibly keep everything I have and fit it into the new space.

PhotobucketNorth Elevation

Photobucket West Elevation

This is what I've allowed myself for storage. The nearly 250 metres of fabric, the hundreds of spools of thread, miles of ribbon, cutting rulers, pins, books, magazines (don't ask me about my button collection) has just this much space to exist in along with the crochet supplies, scrabooking stuff, clay modeling and acrylic painting supplies. No storage solution would allow me to keep everything and keep it even a little organized. Trust me, I tried and tried to get everything to fit but I do believe it would be physically impossible for me to squish the current 160 sq ft of clutter and stuff into 14' feet by 18" deep space I will have. Did I mention I also do interior design jobs on the side so I have a sample library too (of paint chips, product guides and laminate samples)?

So, I planned. Then I 'removed' my stuff from the space - well, sort of. The room is adjacent to our main living space so there is no way I could dump put everything out there. Some of the big stuff is in the living room - at least the huge stuff that I can't contend with. As my husband said, I need space to work at the clutter!

And this is where I began to employ some of the tips I learned at the seminar.

First, remember I said I didn't know where to start? Well, this week I learned about "White sheeting" and not biting off more than I can chew. I knew from the get-go my office was going to be a struggle so the White sheeting idea seemed a good one. I used two table clothes to 'hide' part of my room.Photobucket

This allowed me to focus on one, small manageable piece of the room. Then I applied "containerize" - but not in the typical way. I got boxes and labeled them "Keep" and "Give-away". I also had a garbage bag and a blue bag (for recycling). Then I set to work and I was ruthless.

The Purge Pile

The Undecided Pile

And I know it doesn't look like much, but it is a huge start for me and combining the two helpful techniques allowed me to positively focus on one area as well as allowing me to see instant results.


And although I did not find any Mom jeans or medication older than 2002, I did find three large sized bias tape makers, 17 garbage CD's (old software - I was keeping for a craft), several floppy discs and the notebook I kept when I had my back surgery in 2003 - in which I document every detail of the surgery and resulting complications... And I only did 1/4 of the room...

I have Freecycled all my old design resource guides and paint fan decks, 18 gift bags (I have a dozen still saved for my own use) and I have two - two cubic foot boxes filled with craft items to be played forward. I also have about 70 bottles of acrylic paint I'll be passing on to my Painting Princess of a Sister!

It was a good week and very rewarding for me to see actual progress!


  1. Wow, that's impressive! I like the tip about covering up part of the pile with a sheet or tablecloth and focusing just on one area. I may try that myself!

  2. Thank you! It just seems so overwhelming! My husband joked that it looked like I was 'hiding' the real disaster but when he saw the result, he got how well the concept worked for me. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I am also working in a similar room, the attic. It seems like the more I do, the more mess I make. Hopefully, I will be able to regain the control of the room. I need to take some stuff out of there. Mostly items I want to donate to a church. Once I get that out I will be able to have more space for the items I'm keeping.

  4. Good luck getting control back - I like to think that once i get it sorted and employ the new tools I have (for keeping it organized) that it will stay that way! I appreciate the comment - it's good knowing we're not alone in these daunting tasks!



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