If this is going to ruin our friendship, just walk away…

So Emily has this problem….

I call it “Waytoomuch(stuff)ititus”.

Between moving from home to school and back again and trying to keep her ever burgeoning wardrobe under control, she’s in way over her head, and has been lamenting her plight to me all summer.  So last week I finally relented and offered to help.  We each took the day off of work today and started early, tackling the project head on.

Now, in case you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s just her bedroom.  How bad could it possibly be?” I offer you photographic evidence:


Emily prefaced this adventure with the words (no joke), “I’d like us to be friends at the end of this, so if, at any time, you feel like you’re going to hate me forever, just walk away.  I swear I won’t be mad.”

We filled 2 giant trash bags (42 gallons each) an enormous bin for charity and reorganized a ton of stuff. Along the way, we found several humorous and largely unexplainable items.  These are my favorites.

6 hours, 1 pizza, 1,849 bobby pins, and 5 times vacuuming the carpet later, and it looked like this:

I’m good, yeah?

Ultimately, I knew I could do it, but there were definitely moments when I wasn’t so sure.  In case you have a messy space (though hopefully not that messy) that you need to clean, here are my top 6 tips for cleaning and organizing.

6 – Do It…NOW

Set aside a day (or an hour, or a weekend) to clean.  Designate that time and finish the job in one sitting.  If you swear you’ll get back to it, I swear you never will.  Have your meals and snacks delivered or pre-made, so you don’t lose focus making food.  Keep drinks handy so you don’t have to stop.  The name of the game is MOMENTUM!

5 – Prioritize

Think seriously about the things you keep available.  We sorted Emily’s shoes into ones she wears regularly for work or casual wear, and the ones she wears rarely, or seasonally (like boots). Everyday shoes went on a rack in her closet and seldom used shoes went in an organizer under the bed.  This is a good strategy for dealing with anything seasonal, or just items you rarely use.  After all, you’ll want to keep the latest novel or two by your bed, but there’s no need to keep an entire library there.

4 – Relocate

If sheer volume of the items in your designated area is overwhelming, take it all out and start from scratch.  In this case, we relocated everything in Emily’s room to the guest room (and the hall, the staircase, the bathroom…it was a LOT of stuff).  By getting everything out of your space, it’s easier to bring back in one thing at a time and fight small battles.  Just remember that when you lay it all out, it will look like even more stuff, so don’t get discouraged.

3 – Quick Sort

When dealing with boxes with varied content, do a quick sort.  Health and Beauty here, Office and Electronics here, Books, Clothes, whatever.  Don’t spent a lot of time trying to figure out where everything goes, just sort them into piles and move on.  This will help you get rid of trash quickly, and start to create order.  Since things of the same category are likely to end up in approximately the same place, pre-sorting is the first step to more refined organization.

2 – Phone a friend

It’s always easier to organize and clean if you have someone with you.  Even just having someone there to give you permissions to throw things away that you don’t want, can’t use, but feel guilty getting rid of.  It’s nice to have someone to talk to, commiserate with, and laugh at all the ridiculous things you find.  A friend will also be a lot less sentimental about the whole thing, so she’ll keep you going, even when you want to sit and look through a box of baby pictures.  Make sure you have boundaries though, like providing lunch and never NEVER asking your bestie to clean your bathroom. Also, you’ll want a deep, firm friendship for this; it isn’t the kind of thing that a fledgling friendship is likely to survive.

1 – Singular Focus

Focus on exactly one thing at a time.  If you are on a mission to round-up all of your shoes and put them away, don’t get distracted untangling electronics cords.  It seems ridiculous to pass up an easy job if it’s right in front of you, but that’s how you get pulled away from finishing anything.  You’ll end up with 27 half done things and nothing to show for it. Finish one job and then move on to the next.  You’ll be making room for yourself as you go, and you’ll feel accomplished.

Seriously, the best thing to do is just start, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  If you stress about everything you have to do, you won’t get anything done, so take it easy, and just dive in.  It’s amazing how accomplished you feel.

Happy Monday!


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