Tuesday, October 29, 2013

133 Our Storage Spaces: The Plan, The Actual, The Emotions and The Current State

Hi pals!  As I type this, I am heading home after seven long but extremely fantastic days of travel.  Last week I had the opportunity to head to NYC to check out some amazing holiday inspiration thanks to my friends at Lowes Home Improvement {and hang with my blonde besties Courtney, Cassie and Megan}.  From there, my main man and I hopped a plane down to Florida for a few days to help out some family with a little project.  I fully intended to work while I was away, but between all of the travel and getting my hands dirty with some paint, I just had to take an itty bitty bloggy and Etsy shop break.  But as always, it feels good to be back!  And boy do I have a novel of a post for you today.  I apologize for turning into a Chatty Cathy, but let's finally get you caught up with this super mega storage room project we have been working on.

This storage room initiative of mine sure has taught me a lot as I have taken on my biggest organizing project to date.  Although I haven't had daily/weekly updates, I am getting into the nitty gritty today.  Organizing projects of this nature are not like a room makeover.  The process is completely different.  And this is not a two hour sort and make pretty storage type of project.  This is an empty three stash-and-dash rooms, sort them down to the bare essentials, donate donate donate, create a storage plan, put things back where they make sense, label label label type of project.  With room makeovers, you can blog and share along the way, things like, "Today I spray painted this side table which I distressed and embellished with nailheads."  With huge organizing projects each post would be, "Last night I sorted, and felt like I got nowhere."  There are no before and afters, because you just sort and sort and sort some more.  I have spent endless hours sifting through photos, family home videos, home accessories and thrift store items, craft supplies, childhood memories, holiday decor, tools, paint and painting supplies, fabrics, electronics, hardware and more photos.  And there are no afters because the before started out as one giant pile, and as I sorted through that pile, I just created more new piles.  So although I haven't been blogging about the process so far, just know that behind the scenes I have been spending endless woman hours making great progress and drumming up a lot of fun things to share during the final phases.

The Plan:

We started this project by making the choice to address and problem solve our storage areas.  For us, these areas consist of our utility room, the space under our stairs and our garage.  These areas are either rarely seen or are used to work on our DIY projects.  They have never been set up to succeed, and therefore, they have failed us in a major way.  They have become the places where everything that doesn't have a home, goes to die.  Half finished projects, projects to work on later, tool piles from finished projects... all of these items get stashed within these spaces.  And all of these spaces were already filled with massive amounts of bins and baskets overflowing with twelve plus years of memories and holiday decor.  Not a pretty picture.

Our utility room was our main dumping ground for anything that we didn't know what to do with.  The under stairs area already had our memories in large bins, however, they were arranged in a way in which they were not easily accessible which equals to not easily maintained.  And then home decor/accessories and things to donate/sell started getting tossed in there to be "dealt with later".  Our garage was the holding ground for larger items to sell on Craigslist, items to be donated to the Habitat ReStore, our main area to use for working on projects which include spray painting and using our table saw {which also leads to dusty messes} and also was a holding cell for purchased furniture waiting to be made over.  All of those items within the garage ultimately took over, and didn't allow us to enjoy or utilize the garage for the main purpose of storing outdoor supplies and our vehicles. 

My initial plan was simple.  Remove everything from each space.  Sort it.  Purge it.  Donate and sell it.  Organize the rest.  Be done and get back to enjoying our home.

The Actual:

Removing the items from the utility room and under the stairs was easy.  However, the after effect was one of the most challenging parts of the entire process.  Living with this mess:


And this one:


Yikes right?  Can you imagine?  I couldn't.  That photo above is the mess I was left with after emptying the area under our stairs.... bye bye workspace!

How in the world did we fit SO much into such small spaces?  I still can't wrap my brain around it.  It is off the charts on the amazing level.

My personal organizing process is one of needing to start from scratch and to sort everything at once.  This isn't such an overwhelming way of doing things when working on a junk drawer, but when working on three full junk rooms, that is a different story.

The other problem I faced is that I had nowhere to put the sorted items, except back into new piles still around the family room/studio.  The utility room got a quick face-lift, however, I still had to determine the bins, the shelving setup, placement, etc.... Although we decided that it is not cost effective or necessary to finish the walls and ceiling in the utility room, the opposite is true for the space under the stairs.  I ultimately hope to utilize that space as an extension of my studio, and would like for it to be finished with oodles of awesomesauce storage.  Knowing that we need to do the drywall, nothing could be placed back under the stairs once sorted and paired down.

When it came time to start working on the garage, it has been so cold and rainy in Wisconsin, that we couldn't just empty it all out into the driveway/yard and leave it until the entire garage is outfitted with appropriate storage.  Everything has to stay within the garage and be worked around.

Here are a few more details regarding how everything has played out up until this point:
  • Happy dancing commenced for quite awhile after the utility room was given a little attention with shelving and painted floors.  
  • Sorting started and I focused on picking through the piles for all of my paint supplies.  Hours and hours later of transferring paint to jars and sorting down bins and baskets, the paint was given a new home on the shelves within our utility room.
  • Before placing our paint supplies within the utility room, I had done some research and looked at a few sites online for guidelines around paint storage.  We were under the impression that it just needed to be a specific distance from our furnace to be deemed safe, so we proceeded to store our items back where they had lived for the previous twelve years.  After thinking about it further and even stressing about it a little {thanks to writing an entire post about it and even after a few questions from you super sweet readers}, I contacted our HVAC professional for a second opinion and to learn more about the dangers involved.  Although stains and certain paints may appear to be sealed, they still may off-gas dangerous and flammable fumes.  So although we were "probably" OK given the fact they were quite a good distance from our furnace, I was not OK with "probably" safe as far as my family is concerned.  Therefore, late one night I actually got out of bed and moved all of the paints back out of the utility room, and onto shelves within our laundry room instead.  Anything with potentially dangerous fumes were placed within cabinets, the pretty jars got to stay out on the shelves.  Live, learn, share.
  • One night we ran into HomeGoods to grab something, and I stumbled into the most incredible wrapping paper.  It was lust at first sight.  I purchased three rolls and once all of the paints were moved to the laundry room, we removed the foam board backing we had previously lined with shelf liner, and lined the opposite side with the new pretty gift wrap.  SO much better.  I loved that all of the backings were the same and that the pattern was more fresh and simple and even complimented the floor.  Sure, I am cray cray, but for me, it is always those special little details that make these projects more exciting.
  • Once paint was sorted, my next goal was to go through family photographs.  I had organized a lot of our photos previously, however, in the process of emptying the contents of the storage rooms, I found SO many more.  Bins of photos.  Bins of scrapbooks.  Bins of photo albums.  Just to warn you, organizing photos will never be a quick process.  I sat down with the intentions of just getting them all placed inside of a single bin within an hour.  Six hours later, I was sucked into years of memories, endless feelings of gratitude for this beautiful life I have been given and emotions ranging from laughter and grins to tears of sadness for those that I have loved and lost along the way.  I spent time looking at years and years of events ranging from weddings and the birth of my children to simple moments of picking apples and playing card games with the kids.  The goal of the night was to get all of the photos out of albums and every random box and bin, and into one container to be focused on later on.  Ultimately, we hope to have all of the photos organized by event/type and scanned and stored both online and on CD's.  For now, just getting them into a one bin is good enough as photos are only a small piece of this very large project.
  • Then I found our home movies.  Some on mini-VHS tapes and others on DVD's.  We sat down with the boys and watched them all in their entirety.  Some of them twice.  This was my favorite part of the entire organizing process.  Although watching school concerts and Christmas programs that the kids had put on through school was sweet, the videos of the boys searching for their Easter baskets, opening gifts on Christmas morning, counting with their fingers, singing the ABC song and missing 25% of the letters, crawling and walking for the first time, playing sports, swimming in their inflatable pool on the deck and just hanging out on a typical afternoon doing everyday things were my most favorite moments to watch.
  • Back in the day I had done a really good job keeping the really, really important stuff for each family member organized within storage bins under our stairs.  We are talking important milestone items, home from the hospital outfits, publications, etc... However, as the area under the stairs worsened, so did my ability to easily store the items we cherish most.  Wanting to ensure that each member of the family had a proper "memory" bin, we measured an area in our storage room and went on the hunt for the perfect solution.  We searched for weeks until we came across something that fit all of our criteria: it had to fit the shelving space we had available, be sturdy/durable with handles, attractive and ready to stick with us for the long haul of life.  Once we found them {we selected these}, I spent more hours heading back down memory lane, and packaged everything nice and neat within the boxes {more on those within an upcoming post}.
  • Once the main categories were organized down {paint supplies, photos and videos, home accessories, etc...}, I found myself with a new mess.  Because we emptied the contents of our storage areas into giant piles within my studio, I was no longer able to work or craft there.  Instead, I took up residence at the kitchen table.
  • Working at the kitchen table posed a whole new set of problems.  I had my work piles everywhere in our main living area, which we had to eat and live around.  Every few days I would do a "clean up" and take those items/piles back down to the studio.  Only, I couldn't get to my containers and baskets easily, so I just made new piles to deal with after the rest of the stuff was dealt with {sounds pretty silly right?}.  There was this giant trickle effect not being able to use certain areas of our home for their primary purposes, because they were taken over by this other project.
  • Once the storage room items were taken care of and sorted, then I had to focus on my studio storage.  We have really exciting plans for the area under the stairs, which includes finishing it, installing a wrapping station and storing every last electronic, craft supply, printer cartridge and shop material.  The storage for this area will be a combination of items we already had, along with a few of these storage carts from IKEA.  We assembled them, I spray painted the frames, and we set them all up in our playroom so that I could finish sorting down the remainder of my studio piles.  Now the playroom is gonzo as well.  Poor kids.  Lucky for us, the weather has allowed them to play outside while mama sorts her stuff.  I didn't want to put anything back under the stairs if I could help it, because I didn't need any reason to not finish it with drywall and paint right away.  
  • All of this sorting also meant oodles of purging.  We had three new piles forming.  One was for items to donate which went right into the back of our SUV, another was items to sell which went straight to our guest room and the final pile was items to toss which went straight into a trash bag.  We used all of the typical checkpoints when making a decision for each and every item we touched: "Will we ever need/use it again?", "Is it in good condition?", "Is it worth my time to sell this item?", etc...  We even began listing and selling items on Craigslist.
  • For now, "good enough" is enough.  Everything was placed into a bin that fit the storage space we had available.  It didn't matter if the bin "matched" or was "pretty".  It just needed to be purged and sorted.  Once a bin was dedicated for a specific type of item, I slapped a simple post-it label to the front.  Once the entire sort and toss process is done in all three spaces, then I can focus my time on making fancy pants labels.
  • So now the storage spaces have been emptied, piled, sorted, purged and it felt INCREDIBLE.  Wait.  There are no words for the feelings I felt.  Let me thesaurus some for you: amazing, awesome, fascinating, marvelous, shocking, stunning, surprising, unbelievable and wonderful!  And then I walked out to the garage....

  • I promised lots of messy pictures, so I felt the need to follow through on those promises.  Let's just pretend that is why I let my garage turn into a DIY war zone.  
  • We followed the same process with our garage as we did the other two problem areas.  Sort, sort, sort, purge, purge, purge.  We found a weekend day in which our kids were away with Grandma, and knew we had to get as much done while they were away as we could.  We blasted the tunes and sorted until only items we needed/wanted remained.  
  • We were RUTHLESS during this process.  I forced my hubby to say farewell to things he has been holding onto for 20 years!  I did the same.  We found so many things that made us raise our eyebrows, and once we started letting go, it become this freeing and contagious feeling that brought us back to do it more and more.
  • Not only did this project have a negative impact on many other areas around our home, but it also had a huge positive impact as well.   We haven't done a full house purge in about two years, and I found myself also cleaning out my closet, the sideboard in our dining area, kitchen drawers and other small and often times forgotten areas of our home.  I just couldn't stop.
  • So far, we have made three trips to our local donation center, two to the Habitat ReStore, one to my brother's apartment and one to the local recycling center.  Finding a family member who was in need of some items for their home really helped us keep many of the items we purged, within the family.  To us, that felt like a huge win.
  • Total man hours invested thus far has been a minimum of forty hours!  That includes emptying storage rooms, painting floors, assembling storage, sorting every last item, cleaning, running to donation centers, taking photos and creating listings for Craigslist, etc...

The Thoughts & Emotions:

Between looking at the photos and watching the videos, I came to a HUGE realization.  Our life used to be full of simple pleasures such as lazy days on the couch watching football, an afternoon of swinging in the backyard or a competitive game of cards after dinner.  We hosted more gatherings and truly enjoyed our home, vs. always working on our home.  Life was slower.  Life was sweeter.  There was very little social media or technology 10 years ago.  Can you imagine not having a device growing out of your hand?   Not sharing every moment on Instagram or telling the world what you are doing right this moment on Facebook and Twitter?  Just nuts right?!  Now we spend our mornings packing lunches, rushing the kids off to school, working all day, homework, sports, dinner and baths every night.  Once the kids are in bed, we work on house projects, emails or my shop.  Most nights I fall asleep on my laptop and wake up to do it all over again.  Weekends are when we typically catch up on everything that didn't get done throughout the week, work on bigger projects and get our grocery shopping done.  With the boys growing and playing every sport imaginable, my business expanding and technology being front and center of our lives on a daily basis, those simple pleasures are shamefully less frequent.  I know that this is what naturally happens as you have busy work commitments {especially ones you are overly passionate about} and growing kids.  However, this project quickly turned from not just organizing our storage room, but to also evaluating our schedules and habits to get back to our roots as well.  It has opened my eyes to evaluate what matters most.  It made me want to focus on our family blog again, to take more photos and family videos of everyday moments, to spend more Saturday evenings snuggled in watching family movies and eating homemade popcorn, to go on long family bike rides and to dedicate weekends to less work and more play.  

Aside from the major memory lane "Ah Ha" moment, there were also an endless range of emotions encountered during this process:
  • Excited!  The deep excitement we had in the pit of our stomachs is what got the ball rolling to do this project, and is what kept it rolling through the not so easy moments.  Having a set goal of bettering our home and daily lives was always that driving factor.
  • Overwhelmed.  The moment that everything was removed from our storage areas and in the wide open to be seen, that really gross feeling rushed over me and I wondered, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"
  • Invested.  Many of the items we stumbled into were just things.  But many other items were much more than that.  They were forgotten photos and videos and boy scout badges and high school medals.  They were yearbooks and diplomas and love letters.  I felt very invested in making sure I gave each of those items a proper home so they would never get lost in the shuffle again.
  • Confused.  Where did all of this stuff come from?  How did it get so bad?  Of course, deep down I knew the answer boiled down to being too busy or maybe even lazy and just stuffing and stashing into places that were never properly outfitted with good storage solutions.  Saying, "we will get to it later" and then it was later, and later and later....
  • Embarrassed.  Our piles took over our home during this process.  We had to apologize to endless people while entertaining or even those that just happened to pop on over.  "Look away" and "We are in the middle of a huge project" and "We promise this is not normal" along with "We have heard rumors our basement is filled with boogie piles, we advise you to run for your life" were all things we spouted out with bright red faces.  
  • Tired.  I stayed up numerous hours and nights after the kiddos went to bed, to work on this project.  I had to take breaks for a few days at a time to catch up on work, sleep and other projects for sanity purposes.  
  • Frustrated.  Piles everywhere is enough to drive anyone loopy.  I wanted to check into a hotel or just ship everything away and start from scratch.  Too bad there is something called the real world.  I had to face these piles head on.  Who knew that two plus years of neglecting spaces could create such a huge downstream impact?  Every day that went by, I just wanted our home back.  
  • Overwhelmed {again}.  It is really hard to look at piles and know where to start.  I found that I ultimately just needed to pick a spot and go to town.  It was slow going and most days I felt like after hours of picking away at it, I still hadn't gotten anywhere and had no post to share.  The only photos I could post would still all look like the "befores".  This was completely a different ball game from what I am familiar with.  Finding a balance of time management between sorting and working on something that would provide me a post, and spending time on quick projects that didn't "have" to be done, but would give me a post, proved to be very challenging.
  • Grateful.  Although there is nothing easy about giant projects like this, my hubby and I spent many hours reminiscing and chatting and singing and laughing.  We realized how lucky we are for this crazy, beautiful life we are living and found this to be a tremendous learning experience for us both.
  • Smart.  Seriously.  Problem solving makes you feel smart!  We had to think about every item that we shed ourselves of, and question the reason for that.  We had to think about every item that didn't get put back and ended up lost in one of these rooms, and think up better solutions for those items.  We had to think about what category each item fit within, to be sure we could easily find it down the line.  By the end of it all we were self proclaimed geniuses. 
  • Relieved.  Once we left the last donation center with an empty trunk, and had every last item sorted and given a home, I was overcome with a whole new set of those AMAZING feelings and emotions.  Tears may have rolled down my face.  #dontjudge  There was a lot of high fiving, smiling, celebrating and singing going on.  A lot.
  • Excited again!  We finally have our spaces back!

The Current State:

My studio is CLEAN!  Can you hear me screaming it from the rooftops?  I can now be a productive human being again and work in my office.  Who knew I loved it in there so much?  And I can also successfully walk to my laundry room without tripping on something or fearing that my leg will be impaled by a random sharp object.  Shucks, that means I actually have to start doing laundry again....


Wait, that is the first glimpse I have given into the current state of the studio!  Now do you see why I haven't revealed it yet?  For some reason even after priming and painting three coats of white on the built in storage, my drawer fronts and other areas of the cabinets are yellowing.  So strange.  And I have plans to make some changes to the focal wall, finish that sweet little blue desk chair and add a new rug.  More on that when the time finally comes....


Under our stairs is completely cleaned and cleared out, waiting for some lovin'.  All that remains in there is my frame collection, which clearly needs to be used on a gallery wall.   

The rest of the house is back in order as well.  We can get back to those roots I chatted about earlier, and begin living in the home we love so much... Enjoying family dinners without a computer monitor in the way, snuggling on the couch without a pile of tools below our feet and playing games in our family room without tripping over paint cans and being eaten by piles of home accessories.  Life is good.

The playroom has been taken over by my organized office supplies, which will ultimately be stored under our stairs.  I am bribing my kids to drive their daddy crazy so he has a little fire in him to get my storage area finished and the boys can have their play space back in time for the cold weather to hit.  The items are all sorted down to the very last little paperclip, and ready to be moved as soon as the drywall and painting are done.  Crazy excited for that!


The utility/storage room still needs to have the light installed and all of the bins need to be labeled and tidied up a bit.   The tools need to be organized and we also hope to create a shelf dedicated to holding emergency preparation supplies.


Our guest room is packed to the gills with items to sell on Craigslist.  Wish us luck.  We want to start hosting guests again in the near future.

The garage is purged, but far from done as we still have some really fun storage plans up our sleeves.  We have two cars to get in before snow starts falling so time is limited.  Not to mention, I am pretty sure those doors are asking to get painted....


You all know that it is always my primary goal to keep this blog and organizing nothing but light hearted fun, so I apologize if this post comes across as whiny.  That said, you are going to get honesty from me and at the end of the day, there were times when I thought this project, well, stunk.  There, I said it.  I was mad at myself for letting areas get like they did, ashamed, embarrassed and frustrated.  I can't pretend that living with my entire house torn apart for a month and tripping through piles every day was blissful and butterflies.  But there were lessons learned and piles conquered and spaces smiling so big at us that I can now sleep at night.  And that my friends is what it is all about.  Simplifying, learning and bettering our lives.

Now for the fun, happy, sun-shiny parts of this huge project.  You know, the light at the end of the tunnel that has kept me excited and motivated since the beginning.  It is time to get out the paint brushes and tools, create tons of labels, make pretty storage and install a few different systems to ensure that our spaces can stay streamlined and simplified going forward.  We are in the home stretch now, here's hopin' we knock this project out of the park!


133 comments:

  1. Wow you have really made a lot of progress!! I love how you shared real life photos! Love the storage room and your studio is absolutely beautiful! This is just the inspiration I needed to get started on our basement! Thank you!

    Leah @ graceleecottage.blogspot.com

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  2. Oh my, you are amazing. I would have taken one look and run the opposite direction and I guess that's why my mess stays a mess!!
    Julie :-)
    Mrs Stowe's Kinder Cottage

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  3. Go you! I love following your blog and adore how you beautify everything! Reading this - from the challenges to your happy endings, I appreciated your honesty because it gives me hope for my spaces!

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  4. Avid reader, first time commenter. :) What a wonderfully honest post. I'm right in the middle of the very same thing, and am constantly feeling so terrible about myself and so defeated. How refreshing to see that even someone as wonderfully organized like you can struggle in the same way! Thanks for sharing the not so perfect. xoxo

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  5. Wow! You are definitely an inspiration. I have a few areas to tackle and am trying to keep things under control as we enter into a family of four now. But like you, I need some help building shelves and getting place to organize to then actually do it! It always gets worse first. Good luck!

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  6. Such a great progress report that you shared… both in pictures and in all the thoughts going through your head the whole time. I *loved* the inventory of emotions, and found that I could relate to all of them! Thank you for sharing! You're inspiring my own post about emotions-while-organizing soon enough on http://clevergirlorganizing.com

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  7. I love that you're a normal person like the rest of us, Jen! Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your real life - it's reassuring that even you get bogged down with stuff when life gets super busy. :)

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  8. Thanks for being so honest about the process! You should totally post a link to your Craigslist listings for your fans/stalkers here to be able to purchase some of your things... :)

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  9. Good work! And don't be so hard on yourself! You did it :)

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  10. Hi visiting here.....Nice thoughts to ponder here!

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  11. Hey Jen!
    Congrats on all the amazing progress!
    I commend you for sharing your journey. So many others will be encouraged and motivated to tackle their own spaces with the understanding that even someone with a deep love and appreciation for organizing can feel over-whelmed from time-to-time.
    I have also noticed in my own life (as well as the life of my clients) that whenever new routines / activities or out the the ordinary experiences like lots of travel or sickness etc. present themselves in life, that is when clutter/chaos can start to build behind the scenes.

    Check out the fun Organizing / Clutter - Busting soundtrack I put together if you need to inject a little FUN in your next sorting session. :)
    http://www.operationorganizationbyheidi.com/2013/10/rockn-awesome-organizing-clutter.html

    ~H

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    1. Completely agree Heidi! I feel like we have been living in fast forward for the past two years, which is how we let these spaces go with little attention.

      Thanks for the link to the mix - I will have to check it out! :)

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  12. Hi, I like how you tackled everything at once. I'm currently unpacking boxes and purging things from my move over a year ago into my newly setup sewing/crafting room. I'm making note of what storage is still needed for some of the items. Most of the items never really had a place before at my previous home. My sewing/crafting room was always put on hold for some reason or another. I definitely need a bookcase as I still have books in a over sized plastic bin.

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  13. Wow. That must have been an enormous energy-sapping project. I can totally emphasize all your feelings throughout the process. In 2008 I tackled our basement and the before photos you shared all look like mine! :-)

    Congratulations for not giving up!

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  14. Love your honesty! Very refreshing :)

    I recently did the same project to my basement/garage/mudroom... so I can identify! Mine didn't turn out quite as pretty, but I'm inspired now to keep going that extra mile!

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  15. Wow Jen! you have been one busy lady! You have totally inspired me to go through all our stuff that has been stashed under the steps and in the back room. You are such an inspiration and I thank you for being so real,with your spaces.

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  16. Jen thank you so very much for this blog post!!! My hubby and I have been in "moving limbo" for about 8 months now (LONG story) and we have been living in and around boxes and boxes of our things!!! And then last week we decided to empty the storage unit we had (to save $$) and so now there are MORE boxes!! We cant' unpack and put things in their proper places since we are...moving...one day soon we hope....so I have been trying to go through what I can and PURGE!!! Purging is so hard for me as I come from a line of "packrats" and grew up with the mentality of "keep it you might need it"/"so and so gave that to you"/"you should keep that for so and so reason down the road"!!!! I also have a terrible relationship with stuff and a huge guilty feeling when I'm trying to get rid of things!!! Thank you for your inspiration and encouragement to get through the piles and get rid of it!!! There is a long, very long journey ahead of me but I really, truly hope to get rid of those items I truly don't need or want!! Less clutter makes for a happy home thats easier to clean and live in!!!! :)

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    1. Wow! I can only imagine the struggles that come with that! And I also come from a family of self proclaimed "packrats", so I can completely understand. Wishing you nothing but the best as you work to get settled somewhere in the future. xoxoxo!

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  17. I loved this post! This is just what I needed. My husband and I have been working slowly at sorting and organizing our basement. It's about half way there. Thankfully we have the shelves in place and most of the storage bins we need and many of our items have found a home, but it sure is slow and boring sometimes. I was glad for the honesty in this post. Sometimes organizing just isn't fun, so I'm glad even the best and passionate of organizers can feel that way too. Can't wait to see the finished product!

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  18. Wow! What a huge undertaking!!! But, it is looking good. That is something I really need to do. I just need my hubby home to help. He is working too much lately. Weekends too. We too are trying to tackle that garage before the really cold weather sets in. My garage looks like your garage before you purged, almost. I can get the van in there at least. Ours is full of lumber and molding, sheetrock, durarock, too many power items (lawn mower, pressure washer, tiller, mini 4 wheeler, power tools, snow blower). We don't have a shed to store some of that, which we desperately need. So many projects started that we haven't had time to finish.

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  19. WOW! I feel I can breathe with you now. Thanks for your honesty.

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  20. Oh Jen. I love your "chatty" posts and honestly feel like im right there along with you. Well done on getting through it all. You are awsome. I have been thinking about the outcome of these spaces all day waiting for a post haha :)

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    1. Love that! Glad I finally popped in with an update for you! :)

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  21. Oh Jen! What a mess is right! I'm sure that stunk, nobody enjoys having to clean up and reorganize on that magnitude!
    In honesty though, this project makes you look human. I totally love reading your blog and getting creative storage ideas from you. But I don't always have the resources, time, or craftiness to paint and make pretty every storage. Sometimes we just have to be content that there is any order whether gorgeous or not. This post shows that in a large organization process sometimes pretty has to wait. I bet this post will be very popular because not everyone is born organized like you. :). I wish, but we have been given other gifts. ;).
    So for us to see someone whose house is very organized and clean, yes even with the normal family messes here and there, have to do a complete overhaul of storage makes us feel better about our dirty little (OK large) secret areas that need some loving too.

    One step at a time. Thanks for sharing.Also, your family is always the most important. Please feel free to take vacations and breaks, you and yluryour family deserve it.
    Thanks again for sharing. Way to go and tackle the monster living in your house. I promise this is still inspiring to us all!

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  22. Jen - I adore your blog and your home, you are a huge inspiration in my home. I am writing because, for once, I have a life changing suggestion/product for you. You must check out these storage racks called Rough Racks - I think they're available on Amazon. Anyway, they have changed my 'garage life'. One rack holds our cooler, folding chairs, baby gate, stroller, scooters, an old carseat AND a cozy coupe car. Another holds our ladder, hose, weed trimmer, 6 shovels, rakes, brooms, and various other long handled tools I don't know the name of...haha. My husband is always bragging to the neighbors and demonstrating how he can do pullups on them; now the whole block has them. Sorry to sound like a pushy publicist but I'm in love... :)

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing! It is always great to share products that truly work! That is what this blog is about, so I appreciate it, and will absolutely look into the Rough Racks!

      xo!

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  23. I can't imagine how much time, effort and hard work this is taking all of you. What I can imagine is the amazing feelings you're experiencing with getting all of this done. Good for you! You deserve a spa day!

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  24. This looks like a job well done! You and your husband must be proud of the progress made! It's an encouragement to all of us.
    I certainly don't expect you to be polished and perfect for every post - I'm a reader who needs to see how to get from A to B, and my A is often simple, untidy and a bit lost. Thank you for pulling back the curtain in these times; it helps me relate to you better - it makes it easier for me to make a draw from your incredible skills! Thanks for all that you do!

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  25. You are doing fantastic!! I would be so overwhelmed with this entire process. You really are a fantastic inspiration to work through it all and keep going. Knowing it will be worth it in the end. You've accomplished so much so far :D Can't wait to hear and see more!

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  26. And the piles that created new piles and new piles and that sense of scared ashamed and wanting to run away is hopefully a lesson for all who need to ORGANIZE their homes and have a place for everything, and hopefully a kick in the butt enough to keep it this way because that was a dreaded process! :P Kudos to you Jen!

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  27. Way to go Jen! Thanks for posting the nitty gritty! We are prepping to redo our basement and am terrified of the mess of not only construction but the cleaning and sorting that will need to take place! It will feel amazing sorting and cleaning (i'm weird, I know) but the outcome is priceless! You did and always do a great job! Thank you for sharing :)

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  28. ohmygoodness -- so much greatness in this post I don't even know where to start!!! I am sitting in my dreary cubicle, so inspired to go home and rip out every closet and stash in my house!!! I feel liberated just watching you go through your crappola! LOVE the gold Ikea storage bins. LOVE your studio and that dark wall. LOVE your adorable top knot poking up over the computer. LOVE YOU!!! When's our next trip?!!?!?

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  29. Great job! I've enjoyed reading about your progress thru the piles of sludge (and a few gems) we all heap up.

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  30. Wow, Jen, I am SO impressed by the amount of work you have accomplished! You amaze me! Can't wait to see the continued progress.

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  31. Jen, kudos on getting so far on such a massive job(s)! It is truly overwhelming to sift through multiple rooms of delayed decisions. As a mutant in a family of packrats, I have always embraced the minimalist look and style. Recently helping a family member move households, I was struck anew by all the T-H-I-N-G-S in a home. And when you have to touch every single item in order to move, you really start to ponder what's worth the investment of money and time. Occasionally, I ponder what of my "stuff" anyone would care about if something happened to me (I'm a mom of 3 school-age children like you). As you pointed out, it's mostly just the family memories that would be kept, and I'm making it my mission to give those items front and center in my home and purge most everything else. It's a slow process to move throughout an entire home with that type of critical eye... thanks for sharing the advance "relief" moments you're already able to enjoy!!

    Adrienne, Chicago

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  32. You should give yourself a break. Your studio looks gorgeous (even if all you see is what is not done).

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  33. Again, I loved this post about storage areas! This is real life. Filled with raw emotion (and no, it didn't come across as whiny at all!). I love how your list of emotions included overwhelmed twice. That's exactly how I feel even thinking about these spaces in my house. You saying that you had to break it down into piles to create more piles and live with worse before it gets better is SO helpful. I am a "start and keep going until it's finished" kind of girl, and I know the spaces I have to tackle definitely aren't that kind of space. You make it seem OK to live with that in-between state. THANK YOU for putting this out there. It's inspirational.

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    1. Thanks Nicole! I would say I am typically that same kind of gal. I think that is why this project was so hard for me to wrap my head around. There were a few nights where I barely slept because I just. couldn't. stop. :) SO happy I put the time in though, because life is already easier because of it!

      xoxo!

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  34. WOW. I really needed to read this today. My husband and I have started tackling our problem areas (attic and basement). While they don't appear completely awful, it is hard to find things sometimes and I know we are holding on to plenty of things that we don't really need/use anymore. My kids are a lot younger than yours so it's hard to get in there when they're underfoot and get meaningful sorting/purging done, but you've inspired me to keep on keeping on. This was a great post.

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  35. I have to say this is my most favourite post of yours to date! Not that any of your past posts have seemed less genuine or "real life", but I found that this post really spoke to me in terms of how we let spaces get they way they do because life happens, and also how we let the special moments pass us by because we don't pay attention to them with all the new technology of today. This post, and many others, are the reason that this is my favourite blog, Jen. I hope the rest of your project goes well, and congrats on all you've accomplished in only a month!
    Sarah

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    1. Thank you so much Sarah! That makes me so happy to hear. I appreciate you checking in and keeping up with the good, the bad and the ugly ;)

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  36. Oh Jen, you have gotten so much farther than I ever could in the time you've had. Our house has been one big reno project after another without ever really finishing anything. You are so amazing!

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  37. awesome from start to finish!
    thanks for thee honesty!

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  38. Wow, this was indeed a huge project but looks like you tackled it quite successfully ! Thank you for sharing this process as well as the feelings that went along with it. You have given me a good load of inspiration and motivation to continue the endless decluttering and organizing in my own home.

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  39. Can so relate. We did a major purge this past weekend. I looked around and thought, "Surely I am not a hoarder but where did all of this come from?" No matter how organized you are . . time causes clutter. And good for you for realizing that you miss some of the quiet family moments. I am having a very similar reaction these days. Can't wait to see your progress . . all in your own time, my friend.

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  40. Jen, your posts *never* come across as whiny. Just *real*, you know? As usual, you have given me so much inspiration to JUST.DO. IT. ALL of it, because your notion of "getting back to your roots" and enjoying the fruits of your labor is so true. Once the major work is done it's just a matter of maintain and tweaking.

    Thanks so much for yet another fab blog post!

    -Deby

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  41. Hi
    Great post. You are truly an inspiration. Do you usually have good luck posting things on Craigslist? I have never done it but am looking at selling some things on there. Do you usually post in Wi or MN? Now to change the subject-do you do a lot of baking for the holidays? Would love to see how you plan a holiday meal. I really enjoy your blog. Have a great day

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    1. I have had pretty good luck with furniture for the most part. A neighbor recommended checking out Facebook as there is a local garage sale group which they have had really good luck with. I figure it is worth a try for some things to try and recoup some of the cost before just shipping things off to the donation center.

      Oh, and not much baking takes place here {other than boxed treats occasionally}. I am no pro in the kitchen, however, we are hosting this year so I think it is time to put on my big girl panties and figure it out! :)

      xo!

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  42. I have just two words...HOLY MOLY! :) I have followed your blog for quite awhile and am so inspired by your creativity! Just this weekend I roped my husband into helping me to start clearing out our guest room closet...it lasted about 30 minutes before I was overwhelmed and panicked. We too have more than one area of storage/mess ... we say we have an office, but you can barely see the floor! Thank you for your willingness to share the good, the bad, and the nitty gritty. I am inspired to start again and reclaim our "office" to an actual office and purge the closet clutter from the guest room so our guests are not flattened when they open the closet door! :)

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    1. Thanks so much Julie! Cheering you on as you take on the office space! You can do it! Just go into it knowing it will take time and patience, I am sure you will conquer it will smiles in the end! xoxo!

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  43. My goodness what a megalithic job. Been through some of these house clearing exercises myself so I appreciate the extreme organising skills that need to go into each part of the project to make it work. It seems you did such a good job there - quite an inspiration....

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  44. Thanks for keepin' it real!! Everything is looking great!

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  45. Jen - I know this project probably wasn't "fun" or easy, but as a reader, this is probably the most inspirational thing I've seen on your blog. THIS is real life, this is what happens to all our houses, and this is what is most helpful to read when a person decides to clean out problem areas in their home. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks so much Michele, that is so great to know. These posts are a little out of my comfort zone, but knowing it helps anyone makes it SO worth it! :)

      xo!

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  46. LOVE this post!! As a professional organizer this is how I spend my days... and I LOVE it, but I have been longing to do some of the fun "finishing" type organization you do! My goal for 2014 is to do one FUN organizing space a month in my own. Home.

    Thanks so much for sharing your process and your spaces with us...ALL your spaces!

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  47. Hang in there. Take your time. We will wait. :) Thank you for sharing all of it.

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  48. Jen... I have some spaces and projects like this I have been dreaded "diving" into. Especially my photos...it makes me anxious just thinking about them. After one my girls came home and needed 5 photos for "Rockstar of the Week" AND I was completely out of ink on Sunday evening, I decided to pull some from albums...all I could find were photos from when she was 2 (she's now 7). I have a third little one whose pics are ALL on the computer. I know I can't put this off anymore! I am a little bit of a perfectionist and I put things off when I can't figure out the PERFECT way to do them. I procastinate and they just compile. It's helps knowing that you too have these projects. You have inspired me to jump in, even though I know it won't be simple. I look forward to hearing about how you handle your photos and memories! Thanks for being so honest, real and transparent! Jen H

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    1. YES! This! That is how I feel also! I was amazed how much more I had for my oldest than I do for my youngest. Made me feel a little sad inside. Hope your daughter had fun being Rockstar of the Week! My youngest is this week as well, I was thankful I could quickly print off some of my Instagram photos! :)

      xo!

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  49. Thanks so much for keeping it candid & real (not whiny at all, I swear)! Sometimes I feel like I take two steps forward, one step back when it comes to organizing. Best of luck in this home stretch, you can do eeeeet!

    PS. Just read the Lowe's NYC trip recaps via Cassie, Courtney, & Megan. Just want to say that y'all are such hard workers, having worked your blog buns off. It makes my heart happy to see you lovely gals having a blast together!

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  50. LOVE IT! I am totally with Michele.... this post isn't whiny, it's keepin' things real! I started trying to sort, purge, and organize our garage this summer and lost steam after a few quick fixes. This makes me want to get back out there and press on through all of the mess and get things whipped back into functional, organized, pretty (well, as pretty as a garage can get) shape! Thanks for the inspiration!!

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  51. love it! once again, you have given me hope and inspiration. it all started when i found your old-playroom (with the little round ikea table in the middle) i've been hooked ever since! for real.
    xoxo

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  52. This is my favorite post that I've read of yours so far! You nailed the steps that we go through when doing a big organization project including the emotional side. It's so worth it though!

    You definitely have me thinking about cherishing our families and getting back the basics. My blog is new right now. Of course I want it to grow, but I'm also learning how to deal with the massive amount of time that I spend on it and social media. Technology is wonderful, but it also takes so much time. Please keep sharing on how you manage this with a successful blog because that's super interesting to me and I'm sure many of your other readers. :)

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    1. Great suggestion Jen! I get a few questions about managing my schedule and the blog and although it is something I am always working on, I think a post is due on the subject.

      xo!

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  53. Holy moly!!! Y'all did some major over haulin'!!! My husband & I are getting ready to do this same thing in our house! We moved in in April, 3 weeks before our wedding.... needless to say the office still isn't completely unpacked or organized, the guest room is a mess, again & we have a 4th room that is literally the catch all room! It houses all of our wedding gifts I still don't know what to do with, old decorations, etc., etc. I am beyond ready to tackle it all so I can feel like I actually want to step foot in there again! Y'all did such an awesome job!! Makes me not feel as bad that ours is out of hand too! HAHA!

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    1. YAY! Congrats on the new home! Rootin' you on as you tackle those boxes!

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  54. Wow! You have been BUSY! I have to admit ... the befores gave me total anxiety, but the afters are amazing! Loving your workroom!
    emma @ {from my little pink couch}

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    1. Haha, yeah, anxiety totally sums that up for me as well! :)

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  55. I am huge on giving/selling my stuff to friends or family. It is so helpful esp for poor college kids and those starting out to get great deals on stuff. Plus as you said it stays in the family. When my in laws moved out of state they were nice enough to let us pick through their stuff for free :-)

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  56. Thanks for admitting to being human!! I read blogs, including yours, about organizing and alternate between feeling inspired and ashamed that I'm so NOT organized. It's really refreshing that you show the ugly side of things - that you're not always organized and that sometimes things/places start to slip. Thank you!!

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  57. I totally love this post. It is so real, and so applicable to daily life. I follow more than a dozen home/organization blogs, and posts like this are what I love the most! I can relate to all the things you talk about here, and have to commend you for taking on this enormous project and seeing it through. I would have been so tempted to shove it all back behind the doors! I also was nodding along at your comments about realizing how distracting work/projects/technology can be, and how easy it is to lose focus on the little family things around us. Excellent points!

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  58. Your honesty is so refreshing. I thank you for the reminders that while we love our work, we will never at the end of the day say, "oh I wish I worked more". What we will long for is more "home movies, snuggling, homeade popcorn, bike rides, and simplicity". That, in a nutshell, is what matters most. So don't give up on that dream. Stay true to your heart and stay focused on keeping the balance.

    You are an inspiration!

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    1. Thanks Kerry! It's not always an easy balance, that is for sure! It is nice when projects like this lead to multiple rewards in the end. :)

      xo!

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  59. This is my first time commenting, although I've been reading your blog for several months now. It recently occurred to me that by never commenting, it was like receiving a gift and never taking the time to say "thank you". So thanks for all the hard work that you put into your blog and all the beautiful, amazing, & inspirational ideas that you share with us.
    To this post, all I can say is WOW!!! I would love to be able to get my husband's home office, our playroom & garage finished & organized like this. You have totally inspired me! Can't wait to continue to follow the progress of this project!
    You are the best! Blessings to you & your family!!!

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    1. Thank you so much for taking a moment to comment Emily! It always means so much to hear from my readers, so thank YOU!

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  60. This may be my favorite post right now. I am currently in the "fixin to" stage of tackling a similar problem. Thank you for sharing both the joys, and stressful moments of your endeavor. I am looking forward to starting fresh with spaces that really work for our family and lifestyle. I know I will be able to find lots of inspiration from you and the iheart team! Y'all are fantastic!

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  61. I am getting ready to tackle a similar project in my garage and office and this post gives me so much inspiration! I know it is going to suck. That's why I haven't done it all these years. But overall it's not too bad. I just moved from a 950 sq ft. apartment to a 2200 sq ft house so I actually have relatively little and tons of open space. I just need to get the things that were put wherever when I moved in into permanent, organized homes. That way it won't get out of control. It's starting to get cold where I live so I'm looking forward to many a nights in front of the TV going through things and deciding what to do with them. I hope to be as ruthless as you were. And I know it will feel SOO good to be done. Thanks for your honesty and congratulations on your achievement. It is something to be very proud of!

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    1. Wow, such a nice jump in space! I bet it feels really great to have the extra storage, congratulations on the recent move! Best wishes to you as you take on your garage, I know that those can be pretty hard to get excited about, but it will feel incredible when it is all said and done!

      xo!

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  62. I love how REAL you were here! Thanks!

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  63. Crazy how projects have that trickle effect, isn't it?! Thank you for sharing! You are not alone. And this lets me know that I'm not alone either, LOL!

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  64. I can definitely relate to the emotional part of this post. I miss the days of less technology, I feel like it allowed us all to enjoy each other more and also taught us how to be genuine. Sometimes I feel like all of our gadgets sabotage us from having real moments with one another and allow us to cop out out commitments rather easily. I'm slowly pulling away from social media because of this. I'm glad you are finally giving yourself time to sort, sort, sort and purge, purge, purge. Our environments are so crucial to how we thrive, I'm sure you will feel the BIGGEST sigh of relief in the end. I have a rule in my house where if I bring something new into the house, something old must come out. This keeps me from over consuming in a way because I have a lot of things I'm just not ready to give up, so I won't over-shop/over-consume. Sorry this is such a long comment, great post, Jen!

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    1. Yes yes yes Lyndsey! To all you said!

      And I totally have the one in and one out rule. My problem was that my one out went into a pile in the garage or in the storage room, lol. I need to create a permanent set of bins for items to sell, to return and to donate so they don't just get tossed to be dealt with later. :)

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    2. I found stackable bins from Walmart to try and solve the mess that is the "one out" pile. It has worked so far but now the bins are full--time to donate, sell etc! I'm sure you could find something similar for the garage or storage room when you're ready :)

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  65. I have several areas that need this kind of organizing, but it's just so daunting. I have the same feelings you had of starting and need to get over with it and get on with it! One is my spare bedroom that is just a storage area. I want it as a sitting room that I can walk in! Too much stuff that needs to be moved out! Thanks for the honest post!

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  66. I love this post! I TOTALLY get how emotional the process probably is-thanks so much for sharing it with us! I've been a LONG time reader and have loved watching your blog, and now business, grow! you're an inspiration every day and especially today :)

    Thanks Jen!
    -courtney

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  67. Wowzers!!! I'm super impressed how you were able to stay with it all! I've tried to organize my son's closet aka the black hole a few times. I'll get a lot of the stuff out and then get overwhelmed and shove it back in there for months on in. I finally went through it about a month ago because the nesting instinct kicked in.
    Way to go on all of it. Once again, you've inspired me!!

    -Megan

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  68. Gosh, it's good to read this. I'm in the middle of a move- downsizing and losing 600 square feet... up to my eyeballs in boxes and choices and trying to find storage options that won't break the bank.
    It's just nice to know I am not the only one who has clutter going on right now.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You can do it! :) You will be so happy when it is all said and done, but I know those choices when sorting through boxes can be really challenging. Congrats on the new place!

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  69. Hi Jen,

    I have to say that it was very refreshing to read this post. I feel like it was a post from your blog back in the ol' days. LOL. I appreciated all of the honesty and all of the photos. It makes your post relatable. I was just talking to my husband about how overwhelmed I have been feeling due to being a mom and going to school. Things have gotten way out of hand so this post has motivated me to get started with a massive purge. Thanks Jen!

    Lisa

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    1. I agree Lisa, I have those same feelings trying to manage being an at home mom and at home business owner. Never be too hard on yourself! Little organizing bits here and there should ultimately put you at ease a bit. Even just the time we invested this past month on this project has already proven beneficial and a bit of relief. xoxoxo!

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  70. I really enjoyed this post. Yes, it is a daunting task and I guess I worked on things in the opposite way than you, meaning I did most of those things first before I tackled the other things you usually do. I think that's because we unfortunately moved a few times over the past 10 years and well, moving is the greatest incentive for getting rid of things you don't want or need anymore. Even then, it took a while to get settled, but because of the moves, it was more a matter of where things should be put. The garage though, was my most recent major improvement. I had a goal - nothing on the floor - and with lots of planning, adding an attic, adding Gladiator tracks to the walls - mission accomplished. Now more time to do the other types of projects you usually work on! Good luck! It will feel sooo good when you are done!

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    1. Wow, that is A LOT of moving!

      Funny, sounds like I did things backwards. Although, two years ago, we didn't have any of these messes in our storage room or garage. They were pretty organized, but I think focusing on all of the other little projects and life and not ever having the best systems in place all resulted in two years of behind doors clutter. Hopefully all of the new systems we are planning will prevent us from having to do this again in two years!

      Congrats on tackling the garage, those are one of the more challenging spaces to take on, and not always the most fun. Sounds like you really did a great job!!

      xo!

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  71. I really appreciate your honesty about the difficulties of this project, because it makes me sigh with relief when I encounter the same feelings! Glad you are getting where you want to be!

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  72. You never cease to amaze on your decorating and organizing skills! I had the same problem with yellow coming through primer and paint when I painted a wood cabinet white. I did a little research and found it's caused by oils in the wood seeping through. I fixed my cabinet by lightly sanding the topcoat of paint and then painting on an oil based primer followed by a coat of my white paint I used previously. This fixed the problem. Good luck to you!

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    1. Thanks for the tip! So strange! Glad to know that it can be fixed as I was {and still sort-of am} considering using a color instead of the white because I really don't want to paint them again.

      xoxo!

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  73. Oh Jen. I know exactly what you've been going through. I have started the same. A huge purge after my marriage breakdown, my mother passing and inheriting all of her stuff and trying to get rid of the ex's stuff. Stuff I wanted to keep had to be kept somewhere and stuff I wanted to sell had to be kept somewhere, all while trying to revamp the space. I'm nearly at the stage where i can start to beautify this space but life still goes on. I read a quote the other day by Michael A Singer, an American. “We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don't do them and see what happens.” It really has resonated with me. I can see how the way I did things once my children were born has held them in good stead and now I'm in a position to have a really nice, well organized home, I don't want to give up on the time I spend with them. I'm including them in the organising process like you do with your boys. I wish you well and can't wait to see the final outcome. Mine won't be anything as nice as yours but I know I'll be content as it'll be something my little family will have done together and I will be organized again. xx

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    1. Love the quote Anne! SO SO great! Congrats to you for taking on such a time intensive and most likely sentimental organizing project. Glad to hear you are getting through the tough parts.

      xoxo!

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  74. I so love your honesty, Jen! This looks like a HUGE undertaking. Those projects are exhausting in every way. Kudos for actually making your way through the piles....I think I would have just remained in the fetal position praying for someone to come rescue me from the madness. It's so easy to let those other things slowly overtake the simple but precious moments of family time. We can be grateful for those reminders to step away from the work that never ends, and get back to those roots....even if it's in the form of a colossal clean-out that turns your house upside down for awhile. I've always admired you for putting your family first, and I hope the trips down memory lane over the past few weeks continue to bless your family. And - your studio looks amazing!!

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    1. Haha! I may have been in the fetal position a few times during this project, but probably never would have been found if I wouldn't have just sucked it up and sorted. ;)

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  75. So glad your back. I realized this weekend that I have an iheartorganizing addiction.
    I love your blog. LOVE IT! I read other organizing blogs but yours is my fav. I am especially grateful for your post today. Novel as it was :). I am in the middle of an organizing/remodel/pinterest inspiration gone to far project. We started redoing a room in our house back in JANUARY and my front room still looks like a storage garage. I bit off way more than we could chew and we are barely now starting to make some bites at it. Oh it feels GOOD! But in this process I realized I am not moving stuff back in to my room that I don't love, need, or use often. That means I have a lot of stuff I don't know what to do with...and your pics and post, helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was especially helpful from you, because every other corner of your house is almost perfect. Nice to see your human.

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    1. Awww, so sweet Monique! You totally just made my day. :)

      Congrats on facing the project with that attitude and only keeping the things you really love and need. So hard right? But so worth it in the end. Best wishes to you as you continue to make progress.

      xoxo!

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  76. Wow!!! What a JOB! And "only" 40 hrs - I would guess closer to 100 or more! :) Your story is inspirational - not whiny - it's real life, right where I live! I've been trying to do one room at a time for a while, but it inevitably involves another room or two as things get put where they belong. Seems it's always a work in progress. Thanks for the encouragement!

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    1. Thanks Sharon! I wanted to say it was 300 hours because that is how it felt. :) But I would do it all again in a heartbeat because the aftermath has felt so great!

      xo!

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  77. I squealed when I saw the wrapping paper you bought at Home goods... I bought the EXACT SAME ONE! I used it to line one of the closet's that needed desperate attention. After putting it off 3 months, I decided to tackle it, and now it looks fab. I'll take pictures and send it to you. I love before and afters.

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    1. Yes! I would love to see the pictures! And that paper is amazing isn't it? <3

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  78. This is your most helpful post yet. I've been chipping away at the excess for 18 years now. My attic is nearly empty. My garage is organized into bins and labeled--just don't open most of the bins. The basement is coming together. But you've done it all in such a short time. You will soon be able to include proud as one of the emotions.

    Thank you for the blow by blow.

    Barbara in Connecticut

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  79. This is such an encouraging post! I like the list of emotions... sometimes it feels like everyone is having so much fun organizing things on the internet, that I'm strange for feeling overwhelmed. It great to see how things are turning out. I currently have my own pile of frames and wall art in the closet, and I am trying to see if it all needs to go out on the walls. Or maybe I'll switch things in and out. Keep up the good work!

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  80. Keep up the good work! When it comes to sorting, I always warn my clients that it will get BIGGER before it gets BETTER.

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  81. What a great post. I would easily get overwhelmed in your shoes. We are hosting Thanksgiving this year and I have committed myself to several projects over the next four weeks---things that we have put off way too long. I hope I can stick with it like you did! I especially like reading about how you and your husband do so much of it together. My husband and I do things like build fences well together, but cleaning house and organizing, not so much. I feel like I have to wait until he is gone. He just wants to stack and cram things into bins and won't take the time to think about individual items

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    1. I hope you are able to sit back, kick your feet up and enjoy hosting Thanksgiving! We are doing the same, and also trying to finish up a few last minute projects ahead of time. Holidays are always a good reason to knock out a few projects, as long as it isn't creating additional stresses along the way. xoxoxo!

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  82. Or he'll keep asking me "what about this, what about that?" And it makes me crazy!

    Oh, well. Thanks for the inspirational and honest post! My comment got split up somehow. Sorry.

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  83. Wow! I will be pinning this under "Favourite Posts". I have been living in a horrible mess for over three years. My own things, my Mom's estate and my sister's estate: accumulation of over 40 years, over 60 years and over 30 years respectively. Altogether over 300 moving boxes I didn't know where to start. I didn't have room to sort. Like you I kept making piles and then more piles, and on and on and on.
    Finally, convinced my Dad to help me pay for storage and that has helped hugely. It's still hard going but now I have room to move. I live in an apartment that is barely big enough for one person and my "stuff" let alone all the extras. I have had to do this all by myself. It definitely has not been easy. You're right all kinds of emotions: mostly crying since I lost most of my family in a space of 4-1/2 months; lots of laughs; lots of sighs. And to top it all off I haven't been well for the last 2 years.
    I still don't see the end in sight but it is a lot closer than it was 2 even 3 years ago. I've set up a table in storage to sort right there. I have 4 main criteria - keep (for now) and reboxed; throw away; donation centres; and selling. Over time some things change from one criteria to anaother but for now things are going in the right direction.
    You have helped immensely. I would get so overwhelmed not knowing what to do or where to turn then you would come up with an idea at what seemed to be at just the right time and I would start again. This particular post has also helped when I try to put all of this into words. Try to explain it to someone. Very hard. I truly believe you have to have lived something like this in order to have the barest understanding.
    Thanks just doesn't seem enough for what you've done for me and likely will continue to do for me.
    All the very best,
    Cathy
    London, ON

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    1. Cathy, your story is so touching! I can't imagine trying to tackle that on your own, kudos to you for all of you have accomplished thus far. When it comes to projects that big, I think it is really important to celebrate small milestones along the way, vs. waiting to celebrate at the end. Because even a few hours of sorting is really making a difference.

      I sincerely appreciate your sweetness! xoxoxo!

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  84. Well done Jen! You nailed a few key points about being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. Also, anytime I read a blog about organizing (and I've been reading yours for 3 years now, I think?) I often wonder where the messy rooms are, haha..we as readers and fellow bloggers like to know that we're all human, we all have stuff and we all have to figure out how to manage and handle that "stuff". Keep rockin' it out!

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  85. I loved this post. So real and honest.

    I am currently helping my mom clear out her house, so I feel your pain. We're talking 50 PLUS years worth of STUFF she NEVER through away. I've been meaning to blog about it, because....well. I need to PROCESS, ha! Reading your words were like reading MY thoughts on a screen.

    I too experienced the joy of finding items I did not even know existed. My favorite was the hospital bracelets my mother and I wore when I was born. As I sat for hours going through cards from my birth, 1st birthday, etc. I cried. I, too, was overwhelmed with gratitude of these momentos saved while exhausted from others that were not meant to be kept lol.

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    1. Those bracelets are the best right? I found the ones from each of my boys and just held them... And you should totally blog about the process. It feels great to let it all out and it is incredible how many folks out there can relate.

      xoxoxo!

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  86. That studio is amazing. I love that even someone who loves organizing gets overwhelmed by all their is to do. It is nice to know that everybody feels that way :)

    sixpackofcrazy.blogspot.com

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  87. WOW!!! What a huge undertaking! I'm sure it feels so good to be in the final stages and wrapping up the details! I totally hear you about living amongst clutter, too. We are finishing up a room right now and had projects EVERYWHERE in the house this month. I'm hoping we'll be finished this weekend and can finally claim our house back! Thanks for sharing your process, Jen! Happy Halloween!

    ~Abby =)

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  88. I would love to know where your green wire baskets came from that are in your laundry room. They seem to fit the Expedit really well. Thanks for being so inspiring! :D

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    1. I found them from Home Decorators a few years ago, but have since seen similar ones at HomeGoods. :)

      xo!

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  89. I have been organizing my whole house for the past few months. I was tired of having so many items that didn't really have a home. I am probably about half way through everything and I know exactly how you were feeling during your project. Right now, we are still living with a ton of piles and chaos. I just keep reminding myself of the end result. I know it will be worth it, but the actual process is sort of tortuous. I thrive on order and routine and our house has been anything but lately. We have lived in our house for 8 years and although I have organized and purged, I have never really done the whole house. We started out with just my husband and I and now have two kids. Our spaces are constantly evolving and I just want to be able to do exactly what you stated - get back to basics with my family and have time to enjoy each other rather than just dealing with all our 'stuff'. I loved reading this post to know I am not alone in everything we have been dealing with over here at my house! :)

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  90. Jen,
    First I'd like to say that I love you're blog and have been following you for quite some time...kudos!
    Now, what a great job! I love all the projects you do. Keep up the fantastic work.
    Oh, by the way, did I see you at Penn Station, lol. I was just there for a few days took the train this trip, what a great way to travel.
    Look forward to seeing the finished product and I love the photos on the wall!!!

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  91. Thank you!!! I feel like this is where I'm at right now & it's so frustrating. I want the picture-perfect rooms & perfectly organized life, but frankly, with a 3 year old & a 3 month old (+ 2 very furry dogs), it is just not happening. I try to remind myself that for now, it just can't be the priority - living life, making memories, & surviving on minimal sleep is more important.

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  92. I’m happily nodding my head and thinking “you too?!” I feel kindred spirits connecting across the planet. Thank you making this gal feel so much better about my reality. I’d been putting off the same scope of work, but can report with certainty that nothing motivates like a backed up sewer drain into the basement work room. Fortunately, there was not much damage (the nightstands waiting for new glory can still be saved), and I got just the “ah ha!” I needed to figure out a new plan for my three spaces. I frequently have thanked my husband and boys for their patience.
    Thanks so much for sharing your passion and the inspirations of your journey through the process.

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  93. Hi Jen! Sorry, I know that you posted this almost a month ago but... omg... your office. I can't even. Where did you get the Holla sign? It's SO CUTE! Also, what happened to your DIY desk next to the inspiration board? I thought that is was really pretty. I mean I think that I look at that pic of your office around 832,528,452 times a day. Not kidding. Also, since I am so OCD, can you update your house tour so that it shows this update/ the first photo (the one of the front of your house) can show your blue front door and new porch look? Thanks!!

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    1. Hi Sarah!

      Thank you for noticing the details! Love that!

      The Holla sign was an Etsy find. The DIY console desk was a bit too narrow and I decided I wanted something that could either go against the wall or rotate and face out. Our oldest needed a sturdier desk in his room, so we moved the DIY console to his space and it works perfectly there: http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/2013/09/closet-office-makeover-mission.html

      I try and update the House Tour with projects as I do them, but I ultimately want to re-photograph the entire house after the holidays to that it flows better. It is on my list, I promise. :)

      Thanks again!
      Jen

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  94. Such a great post!! Would you mind sharing where you got that (which looks like plastic) container with the 3 dividers on it. Its in the BW photo of you going through your photos... I have scanned though these comments but didn't seem to find it or I could of possibly missed it if someone else has asked. Thanks so much! Love your blog!

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    1. Hi Summer!

      The bin I am using is from The Container Store: http://www.containerstore.com/shop/storage/storageBoxes?productId=10028031&N=71226

      xo!

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  95. Thanks so much for this honest post! I am cleaning and purging my basement and office in preparation of a new baby this summer and this really helped me feel better about the current state of overwhelming that I am living in. Thanks!

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  96. Jen, thank you for sharing all your thoughts and emotions. Keeping stuff and trying to manage takes a lot of energy and when you decide to let it go, then comes the feeling of elation. I too went through this process and I thought I had "edited out" so much stuff. One of my neighbors had an emergency in her basement and I realized, "I don't want to keep anything that will cause me that much grief." Slowly but surely, the hubs and I have thrown out and organized the items we would like to keep. I feel like I'm carrying less around and I don't want to nurture any kind of maniacal attachment to "stuff!" Thanks to you and your husband for sharing your journey. Cindy

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  97. Hi Jen!
    I love your blog and read it all the time! Somewhere I read about your scrap lumber storage pile and as we are re-doing our garage I am looking for a solution for this pile! I can't find anything in the search, so I am wondering if you could tell me where to find this info or maybe comment on how you handle this much needed messy item? Thank you!

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    1. Hi Kathryn!

      We haven't tackled our pile yet, but we may just end up utilizing the open space in our garage attic or creating a ledge for it to be stored on, or even just donating it. Haven't quite decided yet, but here is another idea for you as well: http://www.listotic.com/brilliant-garage-organization-ideas/10/

      xo!

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