I did it.

I took my craft room, which had turned into a dumping ground, and I cleaned it out and reorganized it.

But I didn't just clean the clutter, I also established new rules for myself so I hopefully won't ever regress to dumping things in that room — or other places — again.

And no, that doesn't mean that I've shoved everything to another room. Nor does that mean I have a completely clutter-free house. We're a family of four with two teenagers, so we do our best.

You may recall that last month, I launched a new organizational series called “The Checklist: Get Organized.” For the inaugural column, I sheepishly offered up my cluttered craft/computer room in the basement.

Professional organizer Lynne Poulton, owner of Akron-based Wholly Organized, teamed up with me to help me assess, start and succeed in my project.

Poulton motivated me by telling me and my readers that breaking down a project into 20-minute sessions makes it much more manageable.

You just need to get started and take that first step you are likely dreading, she said.

She was right.



In all, my project took me six hours and 20 minutes from start to finish. You can see two videos of my progress. One is with the original column, which is available online with this column and at www.ohio.com/betty.

I mostly did the decluttering in 20-minute increments, including one session when I literally ran up and down the stairs for 20 minutes on an otherwise busy Saturday. I was determined to get to it after I had to skip several days. The most I did was about 40 to 45 minutes at a time.

I also delayed my original deadline by a week, taking me a little more than five weeks to finish my project.

And that was OK. I'm so glad Poulton had discouraged me from trying to set an unrealistic goal of completing it in a weekend. I probably could have done it, or maybe I would have just been disappointed.

Instead, I acknowledged that life happens. I didn't beat myself up when things got too busy or my daughter got her wisdom teeth out and I had to play nurse mom, or one week when I had to just take a rest because I hurt my back (I actually told my husband one afternoon that I was going to go downstairs and he convinced me to stay on the couch.)

In the end, I felt accomplished. There's still probably more detailed organizing I can do within my totes and cabinets, but for instance, I whittled down a cabinet packed with 12 years of kids' school supplies.

I recycled a lot. I packed eight boxes of school supplies into the trunk of a friend who is an Akron Public Schools elementary school counselor. I arranged for two pickups by the Easter Seals of Northern Ohio to come to my house during my project to give myself deadlines.

I threw away a decent amount and I put things in their proper place, including in other rooms of the house.

And, yes, as I continued to recycle envelopes that came in the mail after I opened them to keep from holding on to too many “just in case” items, which I acknowledged in my original column had become a problem.

Ironically, the very last item I “cleaned up” was an envelope I found in a pile!

Motivating others

My hope was to use my project to encourage readers to kick-start their own projects.

It worked.

Readers have called, emailed and commented on my Facebook page to say they were inspired to get started on a project in their house. (If you want to join the conversation and encourage each other in our projects, search for “Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal” on Facebook.) Friends and colleagues have also said that they had similar “problems” of holding on to things just in case (one friend told me that while I had a problem by keeping way too many envelopes, she liked to hold on to shipping boxes.)

Linda Barr of Mogadore said she and her husband have an entire hallway — 26 feet long or the length of their entire house — that is full of closets. She's been procrastinating cleaning it out since it has everything under the sun in there.

They even have walnut trees, which originally were supposed to dry and be used to build the house, laying horizontally in the closet. But the Barrs have lived in the house for 52 years.

Barr has also been retired from teaching for 21 years.

“I think I can get rid of my teaching clothes,” she joked.

Barr messaged me to tell me that she had gotten started.

“My husband cooperated, I put him on a chair in the middle bedroom and ask him to say yes or no to keeping or giving away his share of the clothes hanging in the closet. That helped my progress!”

Jen Freebourn Confer of Stow finished her first small project: a junk cabinet in her kitchen and is starting on a chest of drawers next.

Paula Balazs of Tallmadge started by thinning out her closet and dressers, taking donations to area charities.

She still has a way to go to organize, she said, but was happy with the start.

“I am taking baby steps — do not want to get overwhelmed!! Will be starting on organizing my recipes and cookbooks this week,” Balazs told me on Facebook.

Next steps

So now that I've finished a project, what next?

I'm going to restart organizing through years of pictures and school mementos so I can finish my daughter's graduation scrapbook and maybe be ahead of the game for my son's scrapbook, which will need to be done in three years.

There's also this room in the basement we lovingly call the “dungeon,” which has houseware castoffs, empty boxes and lots of things I'm sure we don't need anymore. That's next.

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty