This is my closet and this is my dresser.
And these are my boyfriend's.
As you can see, we're very different. Sometimes those differences prove complementary: he likes to cook, I like to eat. I'm obsessive and he's chill. However, when it comes to my messiness, this is not the case. It is the single sorest subject in our relationship, and the sore only got worse when we moved in together.
What our room looks like, according to my boyfriend:
Like your typical fifth grader, I absolutely hate cleaning my room. I'd rather put a piece of clothing on the floor than put it in a drawer. Add onto that my packrat tendencies when it comes to clothes or dumb shit I'll never use, like an emergency toilet, and you'll get someone who is very difficult to share space with. My boyfriend, an adult, likes to keep things organized and tidy. Although he has made several pleas for me to try to change my habits, they have all fallen on deaf ears. I continue to be a mess.
I likely would have gone on living this way if it hadn’t been for The Fall.
The Fall is so named for the night my boyfriend hit his boiling point. I had strewn coats and purses across the living room, and he wanted me to put them away. So he collected them and tossed them down the stairs, toward our room.
Obnoxiously, I refused, mostly because I didn't feel like it. I proceeded to march up and down the stairs, over my clothes, just to show how little I cared about what he had done. And then, I Fell. On my ass.
Of course, this was very funny. It was like the first time a bully gets punched back and can't take it. It was the physical manifestation of the pain I had been putting everyone living with me through by being a hot mess.
So I did what anyone would have done. I called a professional organizer.
Her name was Jeni Aron, and she went by the pseudonym "Clutter Cowgirl". And she was about to try to tame a wild mess-horse.
Jeni's face before and after working with me:
Considering the number of items strewn on the floor, Jeni recommended that I start by combing through everything and tossing stuff out.
We started by dividing stuff into "donate," "trash," and "maybe" piles. I felt like we were really cruising initially, but once we got into my closet, I started to get scared. My "maybe" pile started to stack up… I needed Jeni's help to get me through it.
Trends change, as do our tastes — you likely have stuff in your closet that was very cool once, like maybe five years ago. Sometimes the best way to love something is to let it go. Jeni's question helped, but honestly, what helped more than anything was when I stared at a dress for ten seconds too long and Jeni gave me a vicious side-eye that said, "Really? You're going to keep that?"
"Really Sarah? Really?"
I also had a fair number of outfits that had seemingly, mysteriously shrunk while in my closet. If you, too, have been visited by the clothes-shrinking fairy, take Johnnie Cochran's advice: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
This dress had mysteriously transformed into a shirt overnight. It had to go.
I have piles of old blankets and towels on the floor, so Jeni gave me some advice that made me excited to get rid of them:
Sure, I was going to hang onto my bleach-stained sheets just in case, but knowing a dog in need would get to snuggle with it made me super pumped to donate them instead.
Hangers like these:
I had a mix of wire and plastic, and honestly, I didn't see how velvet hangers could make a difference. And then I put my clothes on them. Not only do they look nice, they also actually stay on the hangers. For someone like me, who never properly buttons shirts or dresses, this is a godsend. I can continue using minimal effort and my clothes will not slide of the hangers.
Jeni also recommended organizing clothing by type: skirts, dresses, short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters. I've heard this tip before, but I've never been able to successfully implement it for longer than a week. This would be the test.
Before and after of my closet:
Shoe trees and shoe racks had never worked for me before. Everything would end up culminating in a pile. For someone like me, who doesn't like to open/close boxes, I'm not sure I'll be able to keep this up. But it definitely looks nice.
Shoe storage before and after:
Get a labelmaker and go to town. This is particularly useful if you have a lot of bins and can never remember what the hell you put in them, so you just end up with ten bins holding a hodgepodge of accessories.
When I showed Jeni my drawers, I was proudest of my underwear drawer. Sure, it didn't look good, but I had bought those honeycomb organizers, so at least she knew I was trying. That's when she gave me a piece of very useful advice:
While honeycombs might work for some people, it requires putting every pair of underwear in a separate place, and that was something I wasn't going to ever do. Jeni pulled out shoe boxes and put them into the drawer instead, since dividing my underwear into 4 sections was much more doable than 36.
Dressers before and after:
I often leave things sprawled on the floor or spread on top of my dresser. There is rarely space to put anything, not even a cup of tea. To solve this messy conundrum, Jeni broke out the command strip hooks. We used them to hold my purses, my necklaces, and my glasses. The glasses was a particularly good idea; at one time I had a tacky rack to hold my glasses, and everyone (my boyfriend) mercilessly made fun of me.
Public libraries are great ideas for hoarders, since you are not allowed to keep them longer than a few weeks. You can also buy books for a kindle or tablet. But if you like owning books, you should donate them if you're not going to read them.
I like to keep my vibrator ~conveniently~ close to my bed, but apparently, that's a no-no.
Jeni took an old, silk-lined glasses case I wasn't using and put my vibrator inside for safe-keeping. Or, rather, she made me put my vibrator in the case. She understandably refused to touch my vibrator.
There are a million places you can donate! But if you are looking for recommendations, Jeni suggests:
So what did my boyfriend think?
He was very impressed. Yes, he did say, "Can't you do anything for yourself?" but I think he meant it with love. He then promised me he wouldn't dump me and move out to his own studio.
The relationship is saved. For now.
It's a week after Jeni left, and I'm pretty proud at the job I've done maintaining the cleanliness. The shoes are still stacked, and I even went back through some drawers and threw more stuff out. Although, as my boyfriend was quick to point out, there are about eight trash bags of clothes and other stuff for donation still sitting in our hallway and room. But procrastination is a different issue. I'll have to hire someone else to help me out with that.