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School Part II

Most large projects take 6 to 8 hours and that is why I have my "make the time" rule. This however was a HUGE project.

It seems that sorting my friend's things goes rather quickly when that friend actually purchased, and 'put away' those things. But going through her stuff, a retired teacher's stuff, and a no-longer-working-there-teacher's stuff takes a really long time.

The trick seemed to be to go through everything and work in zones. It was very important that we took the time to do this now at the end of the school year, so that my friend can enjoy her short summer (we do year-round school), and focus on next year's plans. I knew that if we left it as it was, she would fret the entire 3 weeks before the next school year, and be too overwhelmed to complete it. That would probably work out okay, but her stuff would just go on top of what was there and eventually we'd have an even bigger mess. (not to mention how hard it would be to concentrate in such an unorganized room).

It turns out that I didn't take good before pictures, and I really must start taking more. The problem is that I never know which area of the room will actually show the most progress. And after I get started, it's too late for snapping pictures of what it looked like before. But just to give you an idea--the room has many cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. Every one was very random. Sometimes there was an idea behind the contents, and sometimes there were duplicates.

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BEFORE
This was the only picture I took of a long wall (North Side) of cabinet/counter space. It was completely filled.

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AFTER

The same counter space after. The cabinets are open to show that the insides are sorted and neat.

The easiest thing seemed to be to start with the biggest cabinets, take everything out of them, and assign them a purpose. The cabinet on the right now houses the craft supplies, and the one on the left houses games and teaching tools. Once we had them working for us, we could go through other cabinets and find a new place for them.


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The long cabinets (left side of the picture) after our big sort. It turned out to be a big help to organize these first, so that we had room to move other things as we came to them.

We had spent 3 or 4 hours previously, and this day we spent 9 hours. It was a little tough because my children were misbehaving, and we had to be quiet because testing was going on in the adjacent room. We got a lot accomplished though, and here is another after pic. This is the East Side of the Room.

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AFTER

East Side of the room was another row of cabinets and drawers, with a sink. These mostly housed painting supplies as the laminate floor and sink were good for clean up.

I took home all of the crayon bins (from the right side of the above pic)and spent the next day cleaning them all out. My advice for these are--Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (love it!)


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Left bins = AFTER Right bins= BEFORE

Then I went back on the third day because I had seen a cabinet with books in it. They were crammed every which way. My friend needed some of these books as references, but had no way of telling what books were there. Since bookshelves are one of my favorite things to organize, I just had to get my hands on this cabinet. Also on this day, I did a few small cabinets. My friend's teenage daughter was amazing!! She helped us on the first day, and on the third, she went through all the lower drawers/cabinets and cleaned the dirt and dust, and pulled out all the toys in the bins and steamed them to disinfect them. I spent only 2 hours at the school on this day.

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Book cabinet AFTER. I put the books into categories by subject (Reading, Math, Art)
I hated not being able to help finish, so I left a note for my friend letting her know that I would love to help her sort all of the papers. Since papers are my least favorite thing to sort, I usually leave them for last. So the room was coming together with maybe a few more cabinets and drawers to be gone through, but on the opposite side was a ton of boxes with papers. The retiring teacher had left her copies for my friend to use. The problem was that the retiring teacher sorted her papers by weeks, and my friend was going to use a different curriculum and so couldn't use the papers in the same way. Since printing copies is a major expense for teachers, she wanted to use as many of the copies as she could, but she needed to be able to find them. She brought them to me and I spent a good chunk of the weekend going through them.

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7 Bins of Papers BEFORE

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6 Bins of Papers AFTER (may not look like much, but I went through every single paper and sorted and collated them. It was a lot of work!!

So lessons:

1.Take the time to sort beforehand, so that you don't end up with this big of a job.

2.When tackling this big of a job, allow yourself several days...but don't put it off. You've got to keep your momentum. (I estimate that I spent 35 hours on this project, and I'm sure my friend and her daughter spent just as much time)

3. Work in stages, and give yourself a cleared-out space to sort into.

4. Take some of the things home with you (if you're sorting for work). Things like craft supplies, papers, and even cleaning crayon bins can be done while watching TV or a movie.

5. Don't get discouraged. You can do it, and you deserve a great big pat on the back when you're done.

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School Sort Part 1

A good friend of mine will be teaching in a new classroom next school year. The problem was that the classroom had belonged to a teacher who retired and was now occupied by a teacher who had not had time to organize the classroom when she came in and would not be at the school next year.

I went in for an evaluation and we ended up asking the occupying teacher if we could help her organize a little. We did get her desk pretty much sorted.

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Before

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After

One problem was that the same craft supplies could be found in multiple locations throughout the room. This may have worked for the retired teacher, but would not work for my friend. And if there was one thing we learned from the occupying teacher, it was if you didn't take the time to sort before you start teaching, it would soon be too overwhelming a task to undertake. Because we couldn't move anything until school was out, I asked my friend to bring me the craft supplies for sorting. Just by grouping "like objects" together, these craft supply drawers are more visually pleasing and will be more practical for use.

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Before

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After

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INFO meeting

Our 2nd INFO (Ideas Necessary For Organizing) meeting was a "closet clarification". One member of our group offered her closet for a purging exercise.
Often, I find that the difficulty in getting rid of things with sentimental value or significant monetary value (like nice clothes or books) is not wanting to appear wasteful. It's hard to "throw away" something that is still practical even if we have a surplus of this item. In such situations, most people are seeking permission to get rid of these things that are cluttering their lives and homes.

Another hindrance is an emotional attachment that we form to objects. It is important to remember that while these objects may have produced real emotions; they do not have real emotions.

To overcome these hurdles, we decided to throw a farewell party for the clothes. We gave them a proper send off and they were donated to a good cause so they were not wasted. As far as permission: if my authority was questioned, we went to our panel. I equipped the panel with signs that said "stay" or "go".

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Our panel gave us great advice and some new ideas while also learning from our hostess' example and receiving motivation to go home and clear out their own closets.
Some areas we discussed were:

Clothes that no longer fit.
Let's be honest. If the clothes don't make you feel good, you're not going to wear them. If you do put back on weight that you've lost, wearing clothes with extra room is only going to allow you to eat more...not motivate you to lose weight again. Some of these clothes were kept and put in a pile to be tailored. If they cannot be altered or if she does not take them to get altered, she has to throw them out.

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Before

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After

Clothes that went out of style that you think might come back in.
There are a few classic styles, however styles that "come back in" usually do not come back in the exact same way. When in doubt, ask a friend (or a panel) - if it's dated then it'll be obvious.
Clothes with sentimental value that you never wear.
In this category are maternity clothes (when your children are all grown up) and funeral wear. For the maternity clothes, you usually have plenty of pictures with you wearing your favorites. As for the dress you wore to your parent's funeral, I'm definitely against keeping. Why keep something that will make you sad and take up room in your life? We did let her keep a scarf that went with the dress as a smaller and not so dreary memento until she's ready to let that go as well.
Clothes that you might wear once a year to a holiday or fancy party.
The panel made an excellent point here. If you wear an outfit to every holiday party, then your coworkers/friends/family have seen it, and it's time for something new. Here I let her keep a few things that were still fashionable, hadn't been over worn, and were fancy enough for a holiday party.
Clothes that duplicate.
Our "victim" (big thanks by the way) had several black skirts. We let her keep most of them because she could give us a reason for them and she actually wore them. But we did make her get rid of 2 that she hadn't worn and couldn't foresee an event that she could wear them to.

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Before

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After

Some other ideas our panel came up with were:
-some items our hostess gets to keep for a year and then reevaluate whether she wears them or they're wasting space.
-there comes a time to dress in what suits you instead of dressing for an image that you're trying to portray.
-try on the clothes that you haven't worn for awhile and see if they might be worn in a different way/for a different occasion.
Thanks group! That was a lot of fun.


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Space/Time Continuum

Last week I made an exception to my "take the time" rule.

A friend of mine has four small children including a baby which means she has maybe 20 minutes at most in which to work by herself. She asked for my help in organizing a basement room that had been set up as a storage room. Because we had less than 2 hours, we decided to work in zones.

Like most other homeowners, the objects stored in this room could be sorted into 3 or 4 categories. The trick is to go through the piles and identify the categories. Then if the room is designated for storage, you can create zones. In this particular instance, we classified 3 areas: crafting, holiday decor, and short term storage. Since eventually my friend wanted to use this room as a craft room, we decided to tackle the crafting supplies first.

We were able to go through the bins and coordinate her supplies, clearly mark the bins, and stack them in one corner in a way that allowed easy access.

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Because we assigned the other side of the room to be for holiday decor and the closet for short term storage (such as winter clothes), we were able to give the homeowner room to work in. We also created one space that is organized which gives her a bright spot to look at and motivation to finish. Now, when she finds a little time, she has a game plan for how to sort the rest of the room.

This week I was reminded that sometimes we need a fresh pair of eyes when deciding on the best layout for our rooms. When we move we often put items in the same space as they occupied in our old homes without consideration for the new set up. When you get overwhelmed, ask a trusted friend to have a look and give you some ideas. You can also map out your room on paper. Then work in small predesignated zones to keep you motivated.

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Basement Guest/Storage Room Organization

Thanks to my friend who asked me over to help her organize. I know that it is hard to let people see your rooms when they've become overwhelming, but I'm so glad that she let me help.
Some challenges from today include:
1. A well-meaning spouse who likes to put random objects together in bags or boxes & transfer them to the basement in an attempt to clean the main floor. This created nice "surprise bags".
2. Gifts bought ahead of time (which I may have to start next year) that were spread across two closets.
3. Hand-me-downs with no clear space to sort them into bins.
4. Furniture and toys clogging up the space.


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For four hours we:
1.
Sorted through all the surprise bags and put like items together in bins.
2. Put all the gifts together-- fully utilizing the space in one closet.
3. Put the clothes in the other closet thus "containing" them until the home owner can sort through them & put them into bins according to size. Now that there's free floor space, it's a perfect room for the sorting task ahead.
4. Moved the furniture around so that the "bedroom" furniture was on one side of the room & the toys on the other. This helped to visually unclutter the space by creating "zones".


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I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3 who likes to organize, craft, & read (among other things)
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