He is extremely neat and she is a cluttered mess. One might ask, “How do they coexist in the same household?” The answer is, “With a lot of turbulence.”

At one time, long ago, our couple did have similar housekeeping habits — not so messy and largely functional. Then life happened. Health issues, retirement and ultimately a change of lifestyle led to things being simply out of control.

They never felt they needed to hire outside help to assist in the regular cleaning of their home. However after I assessed their four bedrooms, four-washroom 2,700-square-foot home, I knew they needed a mess intervention.


The top floor of the home was a huge area of contention. Three out of four of the bedrooms were in rough shape. The first bedroom used to be the daughter’s space. But that was 11 years ago, before she moved out and got married.

Now the room is unrecognizable. The king-size bed has mountains of clothing and you can hardly pry the door open to get a glimpse. The next bedroom has boxes and boxes of heaven knows what, and the third bedroom contains an astonishingly large collection of assorted broken and mismatched furniture — the result of inheriting items from relatives and never throwing anything out.

The master bedroom was actually funny. Her side of the room had heaps of items towering on a side table and the floor. And his side had a light and one book.

It was easy to identify which bathrooms each used. The one with an electric razor and a toothbrush on the counter was his, and the bathroom with no visible counter space was hers.

He can’t stand it anymore and she feels sick looking at cluttered rooms. They were both overwhelmed with the magnitude of stuff they possessed, and just wanted to know where to start.

So I told them to follow these five steps:

  • Start with an attitude shift — no more blaming each other.

  • Commit to doing whatever it takes, including hiring professional organizers and casual labourers.

  • Be willing to let go of items you no longer use, by way of sale, donating to charity, giving to family, recycling or garbage.

  • Work on one room at a time.

  • Have supplies on hand, such as stackable boxes, markers for labelling, large clear bags and bags for recycling.

With much anticipation we start the project this weekend, and I know the transformation will be spectacular.

Until next time, I look forward to receiving your organizing questions and stories at metro@organizedzone.com.


Brenda Borenstein is your professional organizing guru. Look for her column every second Thursday. For more, visit www.organizedzone.com or call 416-665-2165. “There is nothing I haven’t seen and nothing that can’t be overcome.”