The Clutter Coach


Getting Organized - or How to Survive a Remodel

Cynthia EstesBy Cynthia Estes, Mountain Democrat columnist
November 12, 2010
Reprinted with permission of the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA

As I begin this column, we’re washing dishes in the bathroom sink, and visitors are greeted by an imposing tile saw on our front porch. You guessed it, we’re remodeling again! We’ve pulled up the laminate flooring we so lovingly laid 10 years ago, thanks to a demon icemaker that flooded the kitchen and dining room while we slept (have you noticed that disasters only happen while you’re away or asleep?)

My partner Jim and I (mostly Jim) have remodeled our entire 1947 home, so you would think I’d have this down by now. Luckily (for me), he can do anything around the house. Unluckily (for him) I insist on helping. That being said…if you’ve ever remodeled with the opposite sex, you know that organization or the lack of it is fodder for an argument that can last a week.  For example, my logic is that you clean up as you go and only pick something up once. So while Jim was ripping up the flooring, I was trying to dodge or catch the flying debris so I could pile it up, carry it downstairs and put in the van to take it to the dump. Jim‘s logic is not to waste time cleaning up now. So the pieces fly everywhere, then he picks up those same pieces and throws them out into the patio, the farthest distance from the van. Then he picks them up again at a later date, puts them in a wheelbarrow, (by the time it has rained and the flooring has turned to mush), and then shovels it into the back of the van to take to the dump at some later time. That said here are a few tips that I learned and continue to learn the hard way.

Start time is “whenever”
If they say they will start on Wednesday, you can be sure that they will start on Monday or Friday.  When the mood hits, it rains or doesn’t rain, that’s when they’ll start the project. Unless you want a layer of sheetrock, grout or saw dust on your belongings, move everything out (don’t believe anyone who tells you differently, something will be sanded).  Yes, it’s a lot of work but you’ll save your sanity and your temper if you move things so you’ll know where they are and how to get to them.

Out of sight…
And out of mind. If you can’t see it, it won’t bother you. Right now, most of our dining room is piled in the office, but as I write this my back is to it so I don’t mind. Even if you have to move it farther than you’d like, do it anyway because your remodel is sure to take twice the time you think it will.  Take it from me, if you don’t, sleeping with frying pans piled on your nightstand gets old!

Let the experts be the experts
Every time we start a project, I ask Jim if I can help. His standard answer is, “If you don’t ask why.” I think “why” must have been my first word since it comes so naturally to me. I have a hard time realizing that I’ve said it until Jim gives me that look--not unlike the look my dad used to give.

Cover everything
Because I didn’t plan ahead, our dining room table, now Jim’s work bench, is covered with two of my tablecloths instead of a tarp. The unspoken rule is: once he has laid the first tool on a surface, it now belongs to him.  By the way, you may want to buy a sheet of heavy plastic to tack up over any openings to the next room (did I mention that there would be sanding involved?). They will tell you that you don’t need it and possibly give you that look, but they won’t be the ones cleaning up the dust.

Enjoy a mini vacation
Since you’ll have limited use of the kitchen sink, the electricity will be off for an extended time, and the house will be filled with dust and dirt, your wish for a break from cooking and cleaning has come true. Unless you are a masochist and want to keep cleaning up after them, go out and enjoy those restaurants you’ve wanted to try, see the latest movies, and come home just in time to go to bed.  Sinks can be scrubbed later, along with everything else. 

Learn to be happy with imperfection
I think it was the Shakers who purposely put mistakes into their work, to remind them that only God is perfect. Eventually the project will be done, the house will get cleaned and you’ll forget about the scratch in the furniture and the dent in the doorjamb.

You’ll have a great new room and a relationship that survived it…until the next one!

Cynthia Estes is a Professional Organizer, owner of Uncluttered for Life, and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Uncluttered for Life serves clients throughout Western El Dorado County. 

Call (530) 957-2975 for a free 20 minute phone consultation and estimate!