Before I get into the questions and photos, I just want to say that I’m very glad that I took this challenge! Our craft room / office went from being the least-used room in the house, to the room where we hang out together as a family. We have spent many happy hours together in the room already, and it’s been less than a month that it’s been truly usable. Ultimately, my goal for every room in the house is to foster togetherness and family bonding, so this room is now doing its job!
The bulk of the organization was complete within the first week of February, so I’ve had a chance to live in the room for a while and see how it’s working. The time I initially spent trying to figure out how to organize things has paid off; the workflow in the room is efficient, and things are organized in a way that makes sense to me and has kept them easily accessible.
I still have some prettying up to do, like replacing the post-it notes with prettier labels, but the room is fully functional. I can’t say that the room is “finished” yet, because I still have a lot of things to go through and projects to complete like the photos, memorabilia, quilts for the boys, our military shadowbox, school and scout albums, digitizing paperwork, etc. Besides, I know that the purge I did was just a first pass. As time goes by, I’ll go through everything even more thoroughly and I’m sure I’ll purge things later that I wasn’t willing to part with this time. This room is good enough for now, though, because we have other spaces that need the attention more.
I have a deadline to get as much done as possible because we found out about ten days ago that we’ll be moving next summer (2013). That gives me a little over a year to complete as many of the projects as I can, because the finished product will take up much less space than all the “stuff” I have devoted to them now.
The official questions (with my answers):
1. What space did you decide to organize and why?
I organized our craft room / office. Of all the rooms in the house, this is the one that always descended into chaos faster and further than any other. I think that this is because we didn’t have to use the room, so we could ignore it when it was messy (which it almost always was). Because we didn’t use it, the room was a dumping ground for all the “stuff” around the house that didn’t fit anywhere else. We could put off making decisions about things by putting them downstairs. I really didn’t like going into the room or even thinking about it because it was always such a mess. I think another reason I didn’t like the room is that it was full of reminders of my failures. There were lots of craft supplies and unfinished projects that were taunting me about wasting money and not finishing things. We were starting to use the room, though, because the gaming computers are there. It was really starting to bother me that I was providing such a bad example of organization and cleanliness to my kids. The thing that gave me the final push was my husband’s wish to adopt a pair of chinchillas and a pair of gerbils that would have to be kept in that room – and the chinchillas have to be let out to run around to exercise (and they love to chew on everything). Eek!!
To summarize my reasons for choosing the craft room / office:
- So that I won’t be able to use it as a dumping ground for things from the rest of the house.
- So that it can be a good, rather than bad, example of cleanliness and organization for my kids.
- So that I can use the room without feeling guilty about all the unfinished projects and wasted money.
- So that it will be a fun place for the family to hang out.
- So that we can make it a safe and comfortable environment for our new pets.
2. What steps did you take to ensure you completed the space within the 29 day timeline?
I didn’t really plan anything; I just jumped in and did it. This is not my preferred method for completing projects, but I had some built-in deadlines so I knew I’d have to stay on track. Besides the deadlines, I just made myself keep working on it each day. These are the steps I took:
- Empty just about everything out of the room, which took many hours and filled up my husband’s gaming room. I knew that he was going to be out of town for a few days, so he wouldn’t mind me using his space.
- Think about how I’ve used the space in the past and figure out how to organize things to make the best use of the space.
- Decide how much space I was going to budget for categories of things.
- Clean and put back only the things I really want to keep.
- Go through the stuff I don’t want to keep and decide what to do with it – then follow through and get it out of the house.
- Live in the space for a while and tweak the organization a bit to fit our needs.
- Label the containers.
3. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
I think the hardest part of the challenge was to stick to my space allocations and let go of the things that just didn’t fit in the space. I had an especially hard time letting go of some high dollar items that I don’t use but felt guilty about getting rid of. I just forced myself to stick to the space allocations. Once I started getting the unwanted stuff out of my house and I started seeing all the space I had, it became much easier to let go of things. Also, making sure that the things were going to people who would use them made me feel much better about getting rid of things for which I had spent lots of money.
4. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
The stuff that I purged went a few places:
- I donated the art supplies to my son’s art teacher.
- Many of the stamping and scrapbooking supplies (including the Cricut machine I only used a couple of times) went to the MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group at church.
- Some things, like the bookcase we took out, were repurposed to other rooms. The bookcase is now in my older son’s room and is already full of books that he didn’t really have a good place for.
- Empty containers went up into the attic for probably future use. My husband is active-duty military and we tend to move around a bit, so we keep containers to aid in packing things for moves.
- Other items went to the “too good to toss” section of our county landfill. Most of the time, folks took the things we were bringing before we even put the boxes down.
- If something was truly junk, it went into the landfill.
Disclaimer: I still have one card table with a few items that I have to make decisions about or get to their final destination. There are a few things that I’m going to mail to family members as well as some more craft supplies and a few sentimental items that I have to make decisions about or just get around to photographing so that I can get rid of the item. I’ve given myself until the end of March to clear that table off.
5. Tell me one of your proudest moments during this challenge?
One of the toughest things for me is to follow through and actually get things out of the house. I want to make sure that anything that has value is going to someone who wants it and can use it. I like the idea of trying to sell things that are still worth money, but I’ve never bothered putting anything online and rarely consign them. One of the things that I’m proudest of (and that my husband is relieved about) is that I’m actually getting things out of the house, not just moving them out of the space I’m organizing and having them become clutter in other parts of the house.
6. Explain any organizing “tools” you used to help you create additional space and to establish some limits and boundaries?
Hmmm, this is a somewhat tough question. My focus while doing this organization project was to purge and not to try to find ways to creatively store more things. I wanted the room to both feel, and actually be, emptier. I did move a set of shelves that I recently cleaned off in another room into the closet so that the things I decided to keep could be stored in a way to make them accessible. I already had many shelves and containers in the room and used them to group like things together. The most effective “tool” that I used was a budget for the available space. I decided how much space I was willing to devote to a category of stuff and only used that amount of space. I think the most creative thing I did was to take two of my Ikea hanging shelves and move them into the closet to store the gift wrap so that it’s accessible.
7. What is ONE piece of advice you’d give to someone else to encourage them on their organizational journey?
Just one? I think the best piece of advice I could give someone would be to get started with a small project first, and one that doesn’t have a lot of emotions tied to it. Once they see how good it feels to have that space organized, they’ll be motived to tackle another… and another… until they’re living in a clean, uncluttered, and organized space.
The “crafty corner”
In the “before” shot, the shelves are full (double-stacked) of scrapbook papers and other supplies, memorabilia, photos, card making supplies, and other assorted crafty stuff. The counter on the left has some of the military insignia that I was sorting to make a shadowbox, covered by all sorts of other stuff. There’s a box of cardstock on the filing cabinet and lego robots on top of that (for a club I’m coaching at my son’s school) because I didn’t have anywhere else to keep them. There’s also a CD holder in the photo, which holds some old backups and program discs.
In the “after” shot, the shelves now hold just scrapbooks, some solid cardstock that my kids use for school projects and I use occasionally to make greeting cards, photos, and file containers with memorabilia. Also, only one set of each double shelf is holding stuff. The gerbil cage sits in the corner of the counter and the shelves nearby hold their food and snacks as well as a basket for small trash (which makes it very easy to refill their food bowl). My laptop generally stays on the other counter, which keeps it off the dining room table, although it’s easy to unplug if I want to take it somewhere. The laser printer is now on the filing cabinet, which makes it much easier to use than when it was on the bottom shelf under the other side of the counter. There’s a file box on the counter which holds various paperwork that I still have to go through and some decorations that I plan to keep, but haven’t put up yet. Next to it are temporary boxes for recycling and shredding, which makes going through all the papers much easier.
The “office corner”
Notice the pile of old school papers and art projects on top of the computer cabinet in the “before” shot. Also, note the same type of papers in the milk crate on the floor (as well as a few more scattered around the room). They’re now consolidated and on the top shelf in the closet ready to be sorted. It doesn’t show up well, but the computer cabinet is a mess of wires and gear. The bookshelves are equally messy. Now, the computer cabinet is clean and organized and holding just about all of the computer supplies – and the doors can close. There are two drawers in the closet that hold extra cables and the external hard drives that we don’t use on a regular basis. The laser printer is now next to the laptop and the file box on the bottom shelf holds our old tax records that I plan to go through, digitize, and purge what I can in the next few weeks. There are some boxes with photos and memorabilia on the top shelf of the bookcase, as well as a few more in other places in the room. They are just about the only thing that isn’t consolidated as well as I’d like – that’s a project I plan to undertake in the next few months, probably over the summer when the boys are visiting their grandparents.
The “Chin wall”
At one time, the little table with the shelves above it had been organized to hold some of the yarn and fabric craft supplies. Over time the system broke down because there was just too much stuff in the room. This bookcase is now in my older son’s room and the small table is holding the chin daily supplies as well as a few unfinished projects. On the table there’s a pile of photos that I need to consolidate with the others, a pile of letters that I want to make a layout about, and a pile of CD’s that I still have to go through. Under the table is a small pile of magazines and the military insignia and shadowbox. The drawer is empty. I hope to have these projects finished and the table cleared off by the end of April.
All I’m going to say about these pictures is that the closet used to be a disorganized mess! The closet is now clean and organized and holds the remainder of the craft supplies, extra school supplies, and in-progress projects. Plus, everything is more easily accessible.
This is probably only 1/3 of the stuff that had been in the room. Just about all of it has been put back into the room, repurposed elsewhere in the house, or disposed of.
Some final thoughts:
What I like about the space now:
- Everything has a place; that makes it much easier to find things and get to them.
- There’s much less stuff in the room. I enjoy being in there now; it’s both relaxing and energizing!
- It’s much easier to clean, which is good because we have to clean the room daily after the chinchillas have their exercise.
- We plugged in the computers in such a way that we can now turn off the power strips when we’re not using them and save some electricity.
- There’s space on the counters now to spread out and work on a project.
- The boys enjoy being in there with me; they hang out reading and doing their homework when I’m there.
- The boys see that I was successful in organizing the space and keeping it clean. Hopefully my success will rub off onto them and they’ll start keeping their rooms cleaner (ha!).
- There are fewer unfinished projects and I feel like I can actually finish the ones I decided to keep.
One thing I’ve been thinking about is – Why was I successful getting this room organized now when I hadn’t been successful for the first 4-1/2 years we lived in this house? It’s not really a great answer, but I think it’s because I was finally ready. When we first moved in, I was still using many of the paper scrapbooking supplies. Switching to digital scrapbooking helped, but it took me a few years to finally admit to myself that I wasn’t going to use all those paper supplies and albums. I was also holding on to other craft supplies for similar reasons. Another factor is my boys’ ages. When we moved in, they were still playing with play-doh and using crayons frequently. Now that they’re older, they’ve moved on to other toys and they use the same art supplies as me so I don’t have to store extra stuff in this room anymore. I think the biggest thing, though, is that I’ve decluttered several other spaces and really enjoy the peaceful feeling I have in those spaces, so I was willing to spend the time and make the choices to make this space similarly peaceful.
I was willing to spend some money to get the right storage solutions, once I decided what those were. I’ll admit that I did a bit of browsing in some online stores that feature organizational supplies. However, I’m very excited that I managed to get this far without spending a dime! I do want two more pencil cups for the boys’ markers and crayons, but I have a few elsewhere in the house and I want to see if I can find alternate solutions for the things they’re containing so that I can complete this room without spending anything.
Well, that’s it for the office / craft room for now. Now I have to decide what to tackle next. I think I’ll go through my bedroom again and see what else I can get rid of. I went through the closet and most of my dresser once already while I was working on the office, but I didn’t really give it the attention it needs. Of all the rooms in the house, the master bedroom should be a retreat. I’m off to start making ours into one.