Clutter bugs: Part 2

  • By Christina Harper / Herald Writer
  • Monday, March 21, 2005 9:00pm
  • Life

One short month ago The Herald ran a story on clutter.

We asked two readers who were up for a challenge to let us spy on their efforts.

Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald

Nona Anderson has succeeded in organizing her loft into a clutter-free work space.

Pete Hollosi of Lake Stevens wanted to overhaul his garage. He needed space to work on his Harley Davidsons. His goal was to have a professional looking shop where he could find everything he needed.

Nona Anderson, also of Lake Stevens, was sick of her upstairs room, which was stacked with boxes, records, papers and bears. She wanted it to be serene and clear so she could paint, read and pay bills.

Professional organizer Lynette Lawson, owner of the service business Simply Clutter Free, offered Hollosi and Anderson tips on how to get their projects started.

Could they declutter and organize their spaces before Lawson and The Herald returned five weeks later? Like everybody else, Hollosi and Anderson can tune into almost any television channel and find a show about clearing clutter: “Clean Sweep,” “Mission: Organization” and “Smart Solutions.”

The trouble is that away from the shows, clambering off the couch and into the mess, people realize projects aren’t resolved in an hour.

Hollosi, 49, was full of enthusiasm when Lawson left him on Feb. 7. But the vastness of his possessions soon overwhelmed him.

There was camping gear, tools, boxes, fans, piles and piles of stuff.

“I’ve clung to things for most of my life,” Hollosi said. “It’s an anchor.”

Lawson had helped Hollosi identify target storage zones. He had to decide where he wanted things to be for easy access. Lawson uses the SPACE acronym: sort, purge, assign a home, containerize and equalize, which is the maintenance phase. The method was made popular by celebrity organizing guru Julie Morgenstern.

The first week had gone well. Hollosi, who was pretty down when he started, confronted his worst fear that the clutter would get worse before it got better.

“It was horrible,” he said.

Hollosi had about 10 percent of the project done after seven days. Some stuff he sold, some he gave away and some he threw out. He also found items he had lost, like a new amplifier still in its box.

“A couple of months ago I said, ‘Where the heck is it?’ ” Hollosi said.

Despite being sick for a few days Hollosi continued on with the sorting and purging. Hollosi had three trash piles. He began to wonder if he would really miss the things he was letting go. He decided he wouldn’t.

He was also working on getting cabinets for the new space he was creating. He took two heaping truckloads out of the garage: one to the dump and one to charity stores.

Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald

Pete Hollosi’s garage is a work in progress. He has learned to organize and dispose of those items he seldom uses.

At the end of five weeks, Hollosi had made a huge dent in his possessions. Because he has so many tools, nuts, bolts, wrenches and small bits and pieces, sorting and purging for him means going through each one, a big time-consumer.

“I said, ‘When was the last time I used this?’ ” he said. ” ‘Probably 1985.’ “

Hollosi’s new storage shelves with doors hold loads of the former clutter. WD-40, duct tape, sprays, cans and paints are organized and neatly stacked. He knows where they are, grabs what he needs and puts things back when he is done.

The project has improved Hollosi’s habits at work too. His area is now cleaner. The biggest time waster is when people don’t put things in their place, he said.

Hollosi used an overhead steel storage rack that holds about 200 pounds to store fans and boxes. Lawson says this is a good way of storing things that are rarely used. They’re off the floor.

A second storage cupboard will be used for Hollosi’s electrical gear when he gets it all sorted. He purchased a pegboard to hang tools to free up his workbench.

Storage boxes that were full are stacked and empty, camping and cooking gear is organized on shelves. Like things are together.

Hollosi has already put in 30 to 40 hours, including a run to the dump with many items.

“I have not missed them,” Hollosi said. “I’ve even forgotten.”

Although he has not finished his garage, Hollosi has more incentive to charge forward. He has spent about $600 on storage supplies. He’s happy that things are getting organized and glad to be free of the majority of his clutter.

“See, it controls me,” Hollosi said. “I don’t like that.”

Nona Anderson

Not far from where Hollosi lives is Nona Anderson’s house.

Lawson took Anderson through the same steps as she did with Hollosi.

The first week was good for Anderson. She immediately completed about 30 percent of her project. She threw out lots of items and moved quilts, bears and boxes.

Anderson also used the SPACE acronym and found that sorting and purging really helped. Keeping focused on one thing at a time, not getting distracted was a big bonus. The hardest part for Anderson at the beginning was throwing things out.

“It’s kind of a mindset,” Anderson said. “I finally realize that I don’t need all this stuff.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Anderson thought about the “zones” idea that Lawson had talked about: Before you do anything, decide where you want things to go and how it would work best for you. She asked herself where she really paid her bills then moved there instead of the place she had earlier identified.

The following week Anderson was having a great time with the project.

“I’m just really happy,” she said about her emerging space.

She pruned items in the room down to just her art supplies and a few books and records.

Anderson moved boxes and paperwork to other rooms. Lawson says that’s all right if that’s where they belong. The idea is not to clutter up other spaces.

Halfway through the project Anderson liked being in the room and felt more free of her things, she said. Once the whole area was cleared she was totally happy. She took the obsolete computer out and gave it away. She enlisted the help of her grandchildren when it came time to take items to the burn pile.

“I feel wonderful,” she said.

Color-coordinated boxes and files are organized in the room. Anderson found some of them while going through her clutter. She has used baskets and holders she already had and doesn’t need to reward herself.

“No need to shop,” Anderson said. “That’s right.”

Both Hollosi and Anderson will have to maintain their spaces and new organized outlook to make a success of their projects. Experts say that 15 minutes a day is all it takes to keep the clutter blues away.

If you can’t do it on your own, consider getting help. Anderson has someone coming in to help her with closet space and also has the incentive to carry on with other projects on her own.

She says that being more organized and clearing the clutter has made her realize what is and what is not important. She has also begun painting in her room, where she has placed a hanger a few feet in front of her desk chair on which to clip pieces of inspirational artwork.

“It’s heaven,” Anderson said. “My little corner of the world.”

Reporter Christina Harper: 425-339-3491 or

More clutter, more or less

Today’s story is the second in our two-part “Clutter Bug” series. In the first story, we profiled two Snohomish County residents who were willing to take on the challenge to get organized. We offered tips from professional organizer Lynette Lawson and gave our two readers five weeks to work on their projects.

Today, we follow up on their progress.

Because of the response from readers, we are adding a third segment to the series. On April 19, we will focus on “sorting and purging,” apparently the most difficult step in the organizing process.

We’ll tell people about a 12-step program for clutter bugs and where to take their purged stuff.

If you have information or questions on organizing, call Herald writer Christina Harper at 425-339-3491 or e-mail her at harper@heraldnet. com.

To contact professional organizer Lynette Lawson, owner of Simply Clutter Free, call 425-780-0239 or visit www.simply

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