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Friday, February 01, 2019 3:31 PM | Cindy Greenleaf (Administrator)


In the world of Professional Organizers, January is deemed GO Month.  That is “Get Organized Month.”

As a Chapter, each year we plan a service project in which we assist groups or individuals with organizing challenges they face.  In the past, we have concentrated on helping non-profit groups like Habitat for Humanity or a Human Trafficking home for women and girls get their storage spaces organized in one day.  This means a team of about 20 organizers comes in for one day and divides up the project into manageable tasks to get store rooms or individual offices better organized. 

This year, we decided to help a person in the community with our residential Messiest Room Contest.  This required a smaller group of Organizers so we were a Committee of five.  Chapter President Leigh MacReady and Chapter Secretary Betty Huotari, along with Members Terri Closs, Cindy Greenleaf, and Erica Herker planned and executed this fun project. 

A special thanks to Chapter Member Jane Hale, who was a photojournalist in another life, for taking the great Before, During and After pictures featured in the newspaper and in this post.   Some of the pictures shown here were taken by Cindy Greenleaf.

Planning began in late October as we decided on the rules for applying, preparing the application form and obtaining sponsorship donations.  We knew we would need to buy organizing supplies for whatever room was selected.  Planning continued right up until and during the day of the project. 

NAPO Michigan partnered up with the Detroit News Homestyle section to announce the contest on November 2. 

Mark had not seen the contest announced in the newspaper but a friend told him about it so he submitted his application. 

We received over two dozen submissions and narrowed it down to three finalists.  Each finalist was interviewed and the winner chosen was a unanimous decision.  It was announced in the Detroit News Homestyle section on December 7, 2018.

As our contest winter, Mark Steele wrote this in his submission: “This room was originally my computer room.  Slowly but surely my wife took it over.  She beads, does handcreams, knitting, collecting...My wife passed away in March from cancer. I can’t bring myself to go through this pile of things for fear of reminders of the past and/or not being able to let things go…Please I need help.”   He also said he had had a rummage sale and done five carloads of donations as well.  He seemed “stuck” with where to start in this room (as a lot of clients are) but was also “ready” to do it with our help.

Ever wonder what it takes to do a large project like this?  

It was only a 10’ x 10’ room but it was chock full of stuff. 

Here’s how we did it.

Once Mark was selected, Betty and Leigh went to see the room in it’s cluttered Before state and discuss Mark’s goals for the room.  He wanted the room to be his computer room again.  He’s a Corvette car guy who owns two of them.  In addition, he had a lot of Corvette art, model cars, manuals and magazines he wanted displayed once the clutter was removed. 

Here are two Before pictures were taken that day.  

Photo credit Jane Hale

Once we saw the room and reviewed the pictures, planning began.  We selected Billy bookcases (which Mark put together), Magazine files and a rug from Ikea, and a lamp from Target.  Mark selected new window blinds from Lowes, which we installed to remove the turquoise vertical blinds that were in the house when they bought it twenty years ago, completing the look. 

On Project Day, in mid-January, we arrived at 9:30 am.  Mark’s homework had been to build the book shelves and remove any personal items he or his children wanted from the room so this was done when we arrived.  

Clients are always in charge when it comes to deciding what items are kept, donated or be tossed.  Organizers offer options if they are unclear but the client is in charge of the decluttering process and their goal for the room.

Since the room was too small for all of us to work in, Betty and Leigh worked with Mark in the room and Erica, Terri and Cindy worked at tables in an area around the corner from the Office where we had set up tables in a U-shape to sort and box items for donation.  We had boxes donated to us as well.  The goal was to have the room emptied of the clutter by noon.  Some of the wife’s craft stuff was already boxed up so Mark was easily able to release those items for donation.

Mark had a great attitude towards lots of his clutter.  He said, “Everything I need to remember my wife is in my heart and memory.  I don’t need these things around to do that.”

In the end, we had 38 boxes of donations by the time the room was emptied just before lunch.  Twenty-eight of those were craft items.  A second desk in the room was deemed unnecessary and donated as well. 

Photo credit Cindy Greenleaf

Professional Organizers always bring one or several different types of tool kits with them to a client’s home, depending on the project at hand.  This includes sharpie markers, labeling machines and various types of tape.  Since we knew we’d be doing the blind removal and installation, two of us brought drills and screwdrivers as well.  Leigh even spackled some picture-hanging holes in the wall.  We wanted to be full-service in this office as we tend to be detail-oriented on the small things like that.

Organizers do not ordinarily do things like spackle wall holes or take down or install blinds but we wanted this room to be completely finished when we left so we did those things here.

Photo credit Cindy Greenleaf

Mark’s readiness to release the items that he didn’t use or need made this an easy project for us Professional Organizers.   He had shown that by his prior actions and his attitude towards clutter, this was going to be a relatively easy project.  Clients may say they are ready but when faced with actually releasing clutter, sometimes it’s a different story.  Not so with Mark.

Mark took this opportunity to sweep and mop the room just before lunch so it was a clean slate when we got to work after lunch.  Leigh gave that beautiful desk a once over with furniture oil, making it glow.

Photo credit Cindy Greenleaf

By noon, we took a short lunch break and with the decluttering done, got straight to the organizing and decorating of the room.  As a committee, we had discussed one potential space plan for the desk, file cabinets and bookcases before arriving there. So once the room was empty, Mark decided on how he wanted the room laid out.  We used furniture sliders to make it easy to move a bookcase around to see how it looked to Mark. 

Terri, with a little assistance from Cindy, removed the old blinds and installed the dark wood ones which matched the window sill perfectly.  It took about an hour to get that done. 

Photo credit Jane Hale

Betty and Erica put together the Magazine files outside the office in preparation for the final bookcase placement.  Once that was determined, Mark had additional art he wanted hung so we got that up.  Leigh polished up the star of the show, the beautiful oak roll top desk Mark had.  The new lamp on roll top looked great and the new area rug completed the look. 

Photo credit Jane Hale

An antique child’s school desk sits in one corner awaiting a visit from his grand-kids. 

In another nod to his wife, beside it sits a small trunk with key rings his wife collected from places they had visited in their cross-country drives in their Corvette.   With the Corvette model cars on the shelves, including a pink one in honor of his wife, his computer room was complete. It was his again free of the crafts and clutter there at the beginning of the day.

Photo credit Jane Hale

It took five Organizers about six hours to get the room complete.  So including Mark’s time before and during, it approached 40 hours of work that day to get the amazing After pictures shown here.

Mark was as thrilled with the result as we were.  We checked in with him a couple weeks after we left him and he says the room is very productive and he loves it.  No clutter has crept in as he likes it so much. 

Photo credit Cindy Greenleaf

He also said doing that room has inspired him to tackle other parts of the house that need attention.  He continues to spend an hour or two in a room and loves the momentum this Room Re-do has given him to continue decluttering in other areas of the home. 

As for us Organizers, it was very fulfilling to give a very deserving man a productive Computer Room that was all his again.  Plus working as a cohesive team of Professional Organizers is always a fun day.

Here’s the link to the Detroit News article:

Participating Professional Organizers were:

Terri Closs, As You Wish Organizing, LLC

Cindy Greenleaf, New Leaf Organizing LLC

Erica Herker, Erica Organizes

Betty Huotari, Logical Placement LLC

Leigh MacReady, Re-Nest LLC

Sponsors include Studio Z Architecture, Momentum Construction LLC, and Joe Tiberi Agency. 

Chapter Member Sponsors include Need to Organize LLC, As You Wish Organizing LLC, Logical Placement, Nia Spongberg Organizing and Coaching, and Re-Nest. 

Business Partner Sponsors were College Hunks Hauling Junk and Frisbie Moving and Storage. 

We thank them all for their generous financial donations which enabled us to do this inspiring project.

This article was written by Cindy Greenleaf, Professional Organizer and Owner of New Leaf Organizing LLC


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