A very short month ago, I began organizing my office for the 29 Day Organizational Challenge at Orgjunkie.com.
Twenty-nine days later, I have one room in my house that doesn't look like a tornado tore through it. I never thought I'd say that about any room in my house. Laura at Orgjunkie.com asked that we answer a few questions, so I'll tackle those first before unveiling the before and after pics.
1. What space did you decide to organize and why?
My office/guest room/Little M's room. Yes, it is all one room. I don't actually work in my office, but it's where I keep all of my files. The room was always overrun with bills, office supplies, paper, clothes, toys, and electronics. When I had guests, I would try to shove everything into one pile to make room for them. It was embarrassing. Little M was starting to get his hands on anything and everything that was lying around. I could never find what I was looking for. And because I'm focusing on organizing my business this spring, I needed to organize the physical space first.
2. What steps did you take to ensure you completed the space within the 29 day timeline?
I wrote out a list of tasks that needed to be accomplished. After I wrote the list, I was completely overwhelmed. I didn't think I could do it all in 29 days. But I tried to do something small in the room every day. It was great to be able to cross things off the list. There were some things I didn't get to, but those were mostly decorative. It's amazing how much cuter a room looks just by being more organized. It's not about buying expensive organizational gear or artwork for the walls. Just clean up!
3. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
Not getting sucked into organizing every space in my house. (See question 4).
4. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
I didn't have much junk in this room. It was mostly stuff that needed to be filed, computer paper, and stuff I use all the time. Don't get me wrong--I was able to purge quite a few things. One of my first steps was getting rid of random stuff filling random baskets. I had an adorable purse that I never used sitting in a basket. I loved the purse, but I wasn't going to use it. One of the first days of the challenge, I took that along with a change purse and some other random items to a friend's house and gave it away. The other items taking up space in the room ended up in other rooms in the house. (My house is a huge work in progress, so it was nice to be able to make small, quick changes in other rooms).
My favorite part of purging, though, was going through all of my computer wires and CDs. I had wires for phones and electronics that I hadn't owned in years, and I think I had kept every CD-ROM I had ever owned. Now I have the wires I do need neatly organized in a storage box in the closet, and the CDs are in the living room next to the DVDs, so when the kids try to fight me to play with a shiny DVD, I just hand them one of the old ones and avoid a tantrum.
5. Tell me one of your proudest moments during this challenge?
My mind is really what needed to get organized during this challenge. I think organizing my office was symbolically organizing my brain. One of my biggest challenges in life is keeping a calendar. I often have a few different calendars going at one time, and I'll frantically thumb through all of them to find appointments and playdates I set up.
Since I've been working on organizing my business, however, I needed to look at the big picture. I've been saying for a long time that I need a huge wall calendar so I can see every month at once and plan out goals for the entire year. I tossed around the idea of getting a large calendar at the office supply store or building a giant bulletin board. I finally ended up with a really simple solution.
I took my kids' brown craft paper and unrolled it onto the wall. Using a word processor, I typed up and printed out the names of the month in a cute red font and glued them along the top of the paper. I drew 30 lines under each month. Now I have an easy way to see my entire year at once. I can plan out my goals and lay out specific tasks necessary to reach those goals. After I got that up, it was a huge sigh of relief. All of a sudden, I didn't have to hold all of the information in my brain anymore. It was free, simple, and it's my favorite part of the room now.
6. Explain any organizing “tools” you used to help you create additional space and to establish some limits and boundaries?
Since the room is very multifunctional, I wanted to establish decorative spaces and office spaces. The armoire has some great hidden areas where I could stash ugly office supplies like my giant hole punch and computer speakers. The drawers had been stashed with computer wires I didn't use, and the space was mostly empty since it was so hard to open the drawer that was missing the knob. Once I organized my office supplies in the drawers, the armoire was empty. I didn't know what to put in it. Then I realized that it's nice to have one space in the room that's purely decorative. So I decorated it. It's nice to not have to have a productive space in every corner of my house.
At one point in my life, I was convinced that I could organize all of the inspirational pictures I tear out of magazines and other information I keep in paper form in three-ring binders. The problem with binders is that I never take the time to punch holes in the papers and actually file them away. I needed a better system. Making file boxes out of cereal boxes was so easy, so free, and made it simple to drop in all of the loose papers that inspire me. They are easy to access and easy to clean out periodically.
The biggest challenge was making the furniture work in the room. The file cabinet is a strange size, the glider is necessary in the room for rocking Little M to sleep, and there is a pack n' play at the end of the bed. I love the armoire, but I never saw it because my back was to it as I entered the room. It was also blocking the space instead of inviting you in. And the chair just didn't make sense next to the bed. Once I rearranged the furniture, I was so excited. Now, it's easy to file paperwork because the cabinet is right by the door, and the glider seems to have its own space.
7. What is ONE piece of advice you’d give to someone else to encourage them on their organizational journey?
It is possible; just start small.
I had always gotten overwhelmed with the idea of organizing anything. I can't even get a handle on my laundry. Especially with two kids running around. But I had a whole month in front of me, and I only had one room to tackle. I didn't even consider doing the closet. Just the room. And I did it. (Although I did have to forget about some of my more lofty goals, like spray painting the file cabinet). I put one foot in front of the other, took one step at a time, and I did it. The room got worse before it got better (just see the photos from the 20-day update), but then all of a sudden it was done. I love going in there now. I wish it was the room I hung out in all the time. Now I guess I'm going to have to do this to all of my rooms. In fact, I'm going to tackle one small part of each room every month. Next is the kids' craft cabinet. Focusing on one small thing each month has also worked its way into my business plan, and I feel so much more focused overall now.
And voila. The before-and-after photos:
Compare the unmade bed, too-small, crooked pictures on the wall,and random chair next to the bed to the more pulled-together look in the second picture.
Every inch of space in the first picture is overflowing with papers because they had no home. Now they have a home. And it's not in the armoire. Look underneath the armoire: I covered a box of computer paper with kraft paper and burlap to hide messy-looking boxes of papers, folders, and page protectors.
Words can't even express the difference. The space seems so much bigger now! I hung a shutter (purchased for $8 from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store) to organize paperwork that isn't filed yet or can't be filed for some reason. The basket on the file cabinet will catch any overflow.
Less is so much more. I love my burlap-covered file boxes, and I put uniform computer paper in the green storage bin at the bottom so it looks more peaceful. I left an empty shelf for guests.
Even Little M seems to like it better.
And a few extras:
This little setup on top of the armoire hides the modem and router and gave me a place to put my greeting card organizer and pretty turquoise candle.
The piece de resistance: My free, giant wall calendar.
Cereal boxes covered in burlap. The chalkboard labels are made from old business cards painted with chalkboard paint and hot glued onto the boxes.
Not every place has to be functional. This room is now decorative too.