Professional Organizers Are Not a Luxury: Digging to China in a Kid’s Bedroom (Part 2)

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • As I mentioned in my previous post, I have used a Professional Organizer on more than one occasion. Ten years after my extra bedroom was transformed into a home office, I knew that this was a resource I would use again in the future.


    And that day came about six months ago when I gave up trying to keep my ADHD daughter's room organized. Wait, organized is not a fair description of what my goal was. No, I simply wanted to remove the chances of any potential injuries whenever a living creature- human or pet- accessed that room. I've written about Mackenzie before, but this wild child of mine is unusually hyperactive and impulsive for the average ADHD kid (who, by the way, is now 20 but that's another story. Suffice it to say she will be living at home for a while yet). At any rate, her room was unlivable even by my loose, casual standards.

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    With another birthday on the horizon (mine, not hers), I again asked my husband that I be gifted with the services of a Professional Organizer. Seeing the miracles that were created a few years back with my home office, he quickly agreed. Besides, it meant he wouldn't have to agonize over what to buy me.


    Armed with a new set of eyes and skills, this poor organizer was warned that she was about to entire a war zone; a kid cave I fondly (?) called the China Room, for in order to clean that room, it felt like you were digging all the way to China as layers of clothes, papers, electronic gear and food wrappers were peeled away to get to what used to be known as... the...floor (noun : the level base of a room- who would have known?).


    If you're like me, you have mastered the art of "Face Reaction Analysis". You know...studying a person's face with the utmost of attention and scrutiny when you're worried about their reaction to something you've said or done. You look for any little emotional giveaway, like a tiny twitch of the upper lip, a blink or jaw clench, all with a smile on your face, as if you're simply holding court in a friendly conversation so as not to give away your little psychological on - the - spot assessment.


    Little do they know that your heart is flip-flopping through your chest wall, full of worry that you'll be thought of as a total incompetent slob. Well, that's how I felt when Deb, my professional organizer bravely entered the China Room. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. My FRA revealed no gulps, muscle tension or hyperventilating. Deb was totally unfazed, sharing stories of homes that were "really" a challenge. This, she said, was a piece of cake. I found myself breathing again.


    On to her strategies. She asked me about Mackenzie's habits; how she uses the room; what is working, what isn't working. She asked Mackenzie what she liked and didn't like.

    Deb began by drawing diagrams, figuring out the best way to utilize the (small) space. We were to move the furniture, for starters. But what about all the clothes, books, stuffed animals and knick knacks? Deb explained something that I had never thought of before in my entire life. She noted that Mackenzie had tons of clothes and wondered why she owned so much. I explained that Mackenzie has a tendency to change outfits 2-3 times a day and that she simply goes through lots of clothes because she's so hard on them. My solution had been to buy more and more, of course. Of course!


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    I learned that what I was doing was counter-intuitive; it was creating more problems rather than solving them. We simply had too many clothes. Instead of filling up the already overflowing closets and dresser drawers with tops and jeans strewn all over the floor, it was time to purge. And purge we did. Mackenzie gave us permission to do this, of course, and she was to go through everything we removed in case she wanted to hang on to certain items.


    As we began to go through five years of accumulated clothes, I realized that she didn't need 50 t-shirts, ten of which said New York City on the front. Or many many orphaned socks. Or pajamas that didn't match. As we began dumping things, categorizing them by


    1. things to give to charity

    2. things to throw away and

    3. things to run by Mackenzie for her decision, Deb explained that we would open up a LOT of space by doing this and that it only meant we'd have to keep up with the laundry a bit more frequently so that items would be quickly rotated from er...floor to drawers and closet before they had a chance to pile up. The goal, then was to get her to get those clothes in the hamper or down the chute.


    Knowing that my daughter is a visual type, like myself, Deb suggested pulling off all the fronts of the drawers that are in her built in closet. This served a few purposes. For starters, it meant no more "stuffed to the gills" drawers with shirts she couldn't even access, since they were so packed together. The shirts would be moved to the closet so she could see what she needed. Now, she could use those open drawers for her CDs, magazines, and other items that she needed to be able to see; not store away.


    Deb explained that by de-cluttering her space, Mackenzie would most likely feel a sense of calm, since her eyes wouldn't be darting all over the room. So we stripped it down, putting most of her non essentials down in the basement play room.


    Already, there was a transformation. With drawers that were no longer over filled with clothes, it was easier to put things away and to keep the room up.


    We ended up removing as many things as possible so that there was less chance for the room to become chaotic. We found a basket to put all of her re-chargeable electronic gear and put it in the kitchen, on the counter she sees as she walks in from school. We call it her gadget bed and she's trying to get into the habit of dumping her iPod and cell phone in there as soon as she walks in the door.


    I'm not saying the system is perfect, by any means. There are still clothes to pick up and other stuff that gets thrown around, but for the first time in years, I can actually see the floor of the China Room.


    Do you have any strategies or tips for keeping your kiddo's room organized? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Published On: February 07, 2008