Living in Chaos - Lessons from a Renovation
by Louise D'Allura on September 2nd, 2010

The month of August has tested my skills as a professional organiser! When you’ve lived through a renovation you know how much it impacts upon your life. This month I thought I’d share the challenges and strategies I used as I faced as our second last instalment of renovations.

1. There is always more than we think
I honestly didn’t expect to do much decluttering – after all it was only bedrooms, a linen press and home office that needed to be moved. And well, I’m a professional organiser - of course I’ve decluttered my belongings, and pared them down to the basics!

Hmm famous last words! As soon as I started taking items out, I became aware of the enormity of it – I felt how many of my clients do – when you begin to wonder when will the end be in sight? Eventually all of our belongings were neatly covering every square inch of our living room and dining room furniture and floor. I found it very confronting as I could see what I have always known – my stuff outweighed my husband’s.

2. Breaks are good
I discovered I needed to stop on a regular basis to keep my energy going. I was so grateful for my wonderful clients who welcomed me into their homes to let me organise them during the last month, and wonderful colleagues who met me for coffee to talk business. Thank you for providing me with respite from MY chaos! I also found my slow cooker was a handy little “power tool” for renovating too.

3. Mindful Organising
Organising by yourself can lead to YoYo organising! YoYo is all about starting in one area, then finding something that belongs elsewhere (e.g. tea towel), and before you know it your organising the whole area that you were just meant to drop something off in e.g. linen press or tea towel draws in the kitchen.

Practicing mindful organising meant I had to keep asking myself WHAT am I doing right NOW – walk away from the linen press and put the tea towel DOWN!!
4. Deadlines are helpful
Having a deadline really made a difference to my schedule and when I needed to have rooms organised and emptied by.

5. Everyone is different and so is their organising style
While the work was done on the house we had the good fortune of being able to house sit for my parents and their beautiful vegetable patch! The interesting thing about house sitting is you get to appreciate how your organising style differs from others. In particular my kitchen, pantry, fridge and freezer is set up to suit my menu planning personality!! The only thing I need to confess is I did re-organise their utensil draw (nothing was tossed - just put like with like).

The other benefit of house sitting is it makes you prioritise your can’t live without clothes and items.

6. Ready for a quick escape?
Years ago I created a dedicated travelling toiletries case! If you travel a lot or go camping a lot you must create yourself one and pop in first aid items that are relevant for travelling needs. I can honestly say this saved me an enourmous amount of time pre and post holidays! All I need to do is pop in new soap and the electric toothbrush and we are ready to go! I do keep a spare toothbrush handy if I don’t want to take the electric toothbrush.

7. Do I really need it and where will it live?
Ok this is when it got really tough. This week we arrived back home to a brand new looking home! Freshly painted and luxurious carpet under our feet! Seeing just how wonderful it was helped me re-evaluate how much of this stuff do I really need?

So, over the last two days I have challenged myself – my husband gently encouraging me by saying he knew this great little organising company that might be able to help! So, here are the questions I found very helpful (funnily enough it is the REVAMP process!):

  • What is the purpose of this room/ space/ cupboard (R-emember)
  • What items need to be here/ would I like to have here in this beautiful newly painted and carpeted space? (E-valuate)
  • When was the last time I used it/ wore it (do I look positively fab in it)? Can it be repurposed e.g. a bedside table is repurposed as a printer stand! Could someone love it more than me? (V-alue)
  • If I do keep it what will I do to use and honour it and where will it live? Where will I keep the things I need the most? (A-ssign)
  • What can I do on a regular basis to monitor ‘stuff’ (M-aintain)
  • What can we do to celebrate our new space? (P-arty)

At times it was really tough – especially with the “emotional clutter” mementos from my beloved Nonna and Nonno’s (grandparents). Asking these questions helped me to evaluate each item and it made the process a lot easier. In some cases I had kept an item because of the emotional attachment I have to a memory or person. I really had to cut through that and look at the item and work out when and how I was going to use it, if it still worked and how could I honour it.

We ended up dropping off about 5 garbage bags of clothes, jackets, towels, sheets, knick knacks, clothes hangers, glass ware, and a dinner set to Lifeline and Red Cross, and tossing/ recycling another 2! Not bad when I though I’d have nothing to donate/ toss.

8. Flexibility
One of the other things I learnt was that it is ok to adjust your priorities. Sometimes I got behind in emails, sometimes because the information I needed was on a different computer, in the box near the dining room table or the back up discs on the other side of town!

What else did I learn?
Having gone through the process of organising our space really did help me to reconnect to what my clients go through when we work together. As always it is rarely about the stuff – it is all the feelings, emotions, or busyness of a crazy schedule that led to its accumulation or what the items mean in the bigger picture of life.

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