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Self-imposed deadlines don’t always work for procrastinators like me, especially when they involve an organizing project. But, when the directive comes from someone else, that’s more likely to get the ball rolling.

It’s been years since I vowed to get our exercise room in order. Over time, the rather modest space became a giant junk room and I have no one to blame but myself.

When a significant home repair was set to begin, our contractor said I would have to clear out that space for his crew to access the ceiling beneath our master bathroom.

I knew my husband would be thrilled to hear that I had to make progress instead of excuses. When I took a closer look at the room, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; it was worse.

Still, I delayed the inevitable until the day before the crews were due to arrive, knowing this left me very little time to get it done.

After my first attempt, which only took about an hour, my daughter told me she already noticed a huge improvement.

Like most junk rooms, there was no rhyme or reason to anything in sight. Donations, magazines and miscellaneous items came together to form one massive mess.

Now that I’ve cleared an actual path, the old treadmill that’s no longer in use will be easier to remove.

Each time I tackle an organization project I learn something new, and I am also reminded what works for me.

Dividing the chore into stages whether they’re defined by time, such as an hour each day, or space, such as a portion of the room, is the only way to go as far as I’m concerned.

The task rarely takes as long as anticipated. If I spent less time contemplating and more time being productive, I would be a lot closer to my goal of reducing clutter throughout the house.

When pursuing these projects, I’ve found it helps to have a variety of storage containers as well as a donation bag and a trashcan.

There’s often a domino effect that leads to something constructive, such as getting motivated to sell some pieces, hang a few pictures or create new folders.

I always find something I’ve been looking for, something I forgot I had and something I no longer need or never needed in the first place.

And any space, no matter how small, seems bigger with less stuff.

The most important lesson I learned this time is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, which is often the case for me. Anyone in search of perfection may never pursue that junk pile, but it’s better to group similar items in a box to sort through later than to have random objects taking up space that will become less manageable each day.

Although I’m pretty much done with my original organizing project, it’s inspired me to keep going. So for now, it’s back to work.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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