A Disorganized Closet Slob Comes Clean

Hey Everyone,


Before we get into today’s controversial topic about a closet slob. (aka: messy, disorganized person),


I can’t thank you enough for your kind loving, caring messages. Some of you have asked for an update and rather than write it here, if you’re interested, you can read it on the original post and then of course, come right back!

This post is about organization.


But, I’m going to be honest with y’all. While a lot of you will love this, I know that some of you won’t.

Although, please try to keep an open mind.

And, I know this for a fact because about a year ago, many of you may recall that I sent out a rare survey. And some of you made it very clear that you do not want to hear about organization.

If you’re one who is not interested, I apologize. But, I believe that everything and everyone is connected in some way. So, for those who think that organization has nothing to do with interior design and/or decorating, I believe that there’s a very close relationship. Of course, if you’re not interested, I respect that.

However, for the most part, decorating and organization are two different skills.


What’s funny is that not everyone realizes this. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has called, inquiring about help with organization.


That wouldn’t be me. Oh, I can design a storage piece but after that. No.


HOWEVER. I do believe that it is easier to clean/organize someone else’s space than your own.



Here’s what I’ve deduced.

  • There’s a strong emotional component with our homes. So straightening up something that doesn’t belong to us, doesn’t bring up the same kind of feelings.


Add that one to the following list of WHY cleaning, decluttering and organizing our own homes can be difficult


  • Drudgery. Anything tedious which requires a certain type of thinking, like filling out a form written in corporate language. Or filing. Or deciding where something goes. Or even putting it away can be difficult for me and others.
  • Overwhelm – when it goes from being a small chore to a BIG CHORE
  • Guilt in getting rid of something that’s worth something or a gift. That one isn’t a problem for me.
  • Shame – feeling embarrassed about our inability to do something others find easy and don’t understand why we can’t keep our homes better organized, tidy, clean. Whatever.


One reason (I’ve told myself) that I didn’t go through my dresser drawers was because I knew that I would find cat hair in a couple of them and that was going to tear me up inside. But after a while, I realized that Peaches had died and having a cleaned out dresser was going to enrich my life far more than living with a day-to-day mess.


So why are some folks naturally organized and tidy and some are not?


Originally, I was going to divide the groups into:


1. Neat-freaks

2. Slobs

However, since both sound pejorative, and even though most of you realize that I’m being my usual cheeky self, I’d like to change the terminology. Someone who is naturally neat is not necessarily a freak. And someone who is naturally messy is not always a slob.


Perhaps the first piece of business is to be kinder to ourselves.


I’m talking about me, when I say that.

So, I am going to just say those that are “neat.” And those that are “messy.”


Let’s take a look at the anonymous results of the survey.


Closet Slob Survey

Yes. 416 comments! Most of them kind, a few not-so-kind, but oh well… What else is new? :]

What’s interesting to me is that it appears that nearly 79% of the people who did the survey and it was about 3,500 have some issue with organization and/or housekeeping. That is more than 3/4s.

So, why are some people neat and some messy?


I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all in our DNA and our brains.


As someone who comes from a family with some very interesting brains, I am aware that not everyone’s brain works the same way. However, we only know what we know, not what goes on inside someone else’s head.


However, from what I can see, folks who are compulsively neat and tidy get anxious if things are not that way.


And people who live with a certain level of disarray feel just as anxious about tidying up! (for all of the reasons above)


But it’s not that we don’t like things tidy and it doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily lazy. And we might hate YOUR mess but put up with our own! How’s that for a bitter irony?


So, are you saying that you’re messy, Laurel?


Yes. I am. It’s my nature. But believe me, I spend time trying to fight it. Or I spend time looking at it and feel paralyzed.


Because for me, even though I love it tidy, it is PAINFUL to do it. It sucks the life out of me, sometimes.


Most housework has always been difficult for me. But it’s not just housework. It’s anything that’s mundane and/or tedious. Like filling out forms. Or first READING the forms. The only thing I do quite often is vacuum and I do clean up the kitchen and bathroom regularly.


But wait. I have all of your products, Laurel and especially the paint products, you obviously spent considerable time doing those boards; not to mention the blog itself. Isn’t that tedious and difficult for you?


It can be detailed but it is not in the slightest tedious– for me in the same way that other things are. In fact, when I do my art projects, I generally find it quite relaxing. Typing is relaxing. Creating the blog is usually interesting and fun for me. Sometimes exhausting but it’s exhausting for me, like a run is for a runner who’s passionate about running.

The creative aspect is what stimulates my mind and makes me happy. Trying to figure out what to do with 150 bank statements is sheer torture.

Organizing my house is like getting root canal. Which, by the way, I’ve never had. But I hear that it’s pretty awful.


I’ve become quite adept at the 30 minute clean-up. Just stuff it all into the closet and instant tidy house. The problem is… I was no longer using my main bedroom closet except to shove my laundry basket inside.


But here’s where it starts to become interesting. A thought goes through my mind on a daily basis is… if only someone would come and help me with the things that I suck at…


Now, you might think: Why don’t you just call someone?

Someone? Who? This is a personal business and you need to feel comfortable with them!


Then, a few weeks ago, I got a really nice email from a woman who had purchased my blogging guide.




I’m going to go throw up and die now.






okay. I’m back. I got my nice neighbor to come over and get rid of the B.U.G. and then I found a chocolate beer in the fridge that my son bought probably over a year ago and I had a little of it.

I am sure that God sent that bug as a sort of disgusting, slimy sacrificial lamb to make a point, of some kind or another.


And guys this is where I stopped on Saturday to go into Manhattan to watch some ballet and then had my run-in with the steel traffic light control box.


Saved by the bug.

It’s not easy to share what feels like me standing in the middle of Yankee Stadium wearing only my underwear!

And ripped undies at that! haha

But here’s what has happened.

Shortly after I published my blogging guide, I got a darling email from someone who had purchased it.

Hi Laurel,

I did get the blogging guide and then I did get the reminder email but I don’t mind at all because it reminded me I wanted to write you and say thanks so much — the guide is worth every penny!
My daughter is my business partner (doneanddonehome.com) and we read it out loud at the start of our bi-annual planning retreat last weekend. We learned so much!
Thanks a million, truly. 


woman admiring her cellphone by Raimundo Madrazo c. 1890–1900.jpg


At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, but then I received another email.



You are so generous! Thanks again!

We’re working on our awesome bribe and will also correct the things you pointed out.


If you ever get bogged down in stuff give us a shout.


We started our organizing business in NYC and now cover the Tri state area and oddly, LA.

We do moves and estates sales — all things related to the stuff in people’s homes — but the magic happens when we bring in a team of two or more and spend a day or two decluttering the whole house. It’s like cloning yourself. You end up getting rid of everything you no longer need or want that’s somehow still taking up space in your home.


Are you kidding me, A Fairy Cleanup Mother!?! I must be dreaming! But I was not.


It was right after Mother’s Day and I got back to her and said YES! Are you kidding?

Now, before I go any further, I must disclose because it’s the law that Ann whose company is called Done and Done Home offered to help me– gratis.


We set a date and then…

Oh shit! I better do SOMETHING because I can’t let her see the place like THIS!



And this brings me to my next point which is something that I’ve realized in recent years. For me. The only way I get anything tedious and difficult done is with ACCOUNTABILITY.


Without that, nothing gets done.  Accountability is what made it possible for me to write four books in 2.5 years AND this blog!

Now, don’t think I did everything. Not even close.

But I had to get rid of all of the torn undies and other clothing that is no longer wearable. Therefore, the first thing I decided to do was tackle my dresser.


my bedroom dresser, a big bloody mess-cleaning out drawers

This is what’s tedious for me. All of the little crapola that collects. But I did it.  This was in the middle of things. One thing we found a lot of, is all of the stuff they give away at shows. I must remember that if I’m not using it to get rid of it! Immediately.

There are or were paint samples EVERYWHERE! Those dancing dolls were my grandmother’s.

closet slob before

And I cleaned out one section of my big living room cabinet.

I took care of 98% of the papers. But that one, wasn’t so bad as I got a paper shredder a while back.


But, yes. There’s nothing like knowing that someone is coming over to motivate me to take care of things, pain or not.


closet slob - messy closet 1

Above and below, the worst closet. I didn’t touch it. The one in my bedroom which has become a repository for mostly work stuff, but also things like luggage and extra blankets. And the aforementioned laundry basket. Clothes. No.

See? At one time probably 18 years ago, I did make an attempt to organize my small fabric samples. It was very helpful.


Last Thursday, Ann Lightfoot and her daughter and business partner, Kate Pawlowski, showed up.

After talking for a bit they got to work.


Here’s Ann emptying the entire contents of the closet out. It only took her about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, I worked with Kate and mostly I said:




Pretty much in that order. Mostly, I said DUMP.


Garbage went into big black plastic bags. Donate in big clear plastic bags.


At this point, I need to say that not once did I feel like they were being in any way judgmental. In fact, they kept saying– “this isn’t bad at all and most of it is work-related.” That is true. I’m not a clothes horse because I can’t stand shopping for clothes.

I know. But, it’s the truth.

And Ann and Kate DO donate gently used or even sometimes new items to charity. I love that because it’s a great way to give back and that feels awfully good too.

Most of us have waaaay too much stuff.

Finally, with the closet empty, I could photograph my safe that came with the apartment. It’s nearly 100 years old. And yes, it’s locked.


Raimundo_Madrazo_-_La_Toilette-A Lady’s maid, by Raimundo Madrazo c. 1890–1900.jpg


Ann and Kate are AMAZING. And I insisted that I pay them and they insisted that I not pay them.

I’m not one to argue when someone wants to give me something for free. But, I truly felt like a princess being waiting on and pampered.

Bags of garbage waiting to leave. Ann and Kate take care of everything!

They also tackled the living room dresser crammed with samples, mostly and some bed linens and towels.

So, let’s see some after shots, but before I do that. They are coming back to finish and some of these spaces aren’t fully organized, but it is so much better, I feel like I can breathe! (unless there’s a giant bug crawling on my wall!)


A Disorganized Closet Slob No more!


Oh, yes. I cleaned out most of what was in my two bedroom bookcases. Here’s what’s left.

I love that my table pads now have a home in the closet.


Ann and Kate taking out the rest of the trash. Honestly, there seemed like double the amount going out than was even in the closet in the first place!

I asked Ann and Kate if they are naturally organized?


Well, they are… but Ann admitted that Kate helps her and that is the secret. “It’s so much more fun and easier to work in pairs.” So, for some of you, maybe get a good friend and make it a monthly thing. One month you spend a certain amount of time at your place and then the next month her place. Or, you can do it more often.

For more tips, if you go to Done and Done, they have a wonderful FREE GUIDE that spells out some of the worst mistakes that people make when organizing and also a lot of great tips.


Portrait of a Lady  (with Laurel’s face superimposed) 1768 Francis Cotes 1726-1770 Bequeathed by Sir Edward Stern 1933 http://www.tate.org.uk


After the two organizing goddesses left and before the giant bug came to kill me and the run-in with the steel box, I felt like a pampered lady.

And light. VERY LIGHT.

Plus, everything has remained tidy. So far.


If there are any areas that you struggle with in organization or cleaning or related, please address in the comments. Or if you have any terrific strategies or helpful tips. That would be great too.


The only thing I ask of you is no judging. We are not here to judge, but to learn and grow.


When Done and Done come back, I’m going to go over some other areas of organization. Clothing, kitchen and bathroom.


One thing I’m looking forward to, but it’ll be okay if it doesn’t happen is this possibility. In the middle of things, Ann said that something should go in the “front hall closet.”

I told her that I don’t have a front hall closet.

She said, “You will, when we’re done.”

“Really?” I said

She said, “Yes, I think so.”

And that’s it. You call them Done and then they come and take care of everything. Done.

Done and Done. Please check out their website to see the myriad of services they provide in addition to decluttering/organizing. They also do estate sales and getting your house ready for sale and moving purges.

Ann and Kate and their team of professionals take care of everything!

They have already begun to transform my life. If you’re in need of their services, I wouldn’t hesitate to call them.



110 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,

    I’m just now reading this post because I’ve been out of town. I can relate to two things–the messiness, and the big ugly, nasty “water bug”, AKA huge roach!

    I grew up in Louisiana, and since our house was in a pine forest, we had those things crawling all over! The houses were not tightly built in the early sixties, and they would crawl through many cracks. I used to run screaming from the room when I’d see one. I’d wake my daddy up at two in the morning if I was up reading and one crawled onto my wall. Sometimes I’d refuse to get up in the middle of the night to go potty cuz I was sure I’d step on one. I’m still squeamish to this day at age 64, and I’m glad to know that I’m not the only grown woman who reacts this way.

    And clutter! I’ve gotten rid of so many of my own things over the years. Every year I go through my rooms and purge and donate. After spending a year cleaning out my parents’ home (I was working full-time) I have vowed never to leave a huge mess for my kids. I’m so happy to know there are services that can help us when the time comes to move.

    I hope you have recuperated from your head injury–Connie

    1. Hi Connie,

      Oh, how traumatic for a child. But, these are the biggest ugliest bugs I’ve ever seen!

      Done and Done came back two days ago to deal with the rest. Everything is so nice and tidy!

  2. Ha, I am one of the 22%! I not only flip dirty houses, partly so that I can clean them, I clean houses for a living, just a few a week though, it’s hard work. Almost all of those houses are clean when I arrive, isn’t that funny? My own house is still not spotless though but I can usually get it there in an hour and a half, more or less everything can be touched in that amount of time and it does make me feel good about things. My non-scientific categories for other people are cleany-beanies, neat and tidies, comfort clutterers, and don’t-get-between-me-and-my-tv-set. I am an cleany-beany and a neat and tidy. I feel lucky with that.

  3. Love reading your blog Laurel. It’s my Saturday morning indulgence- always informative and always entertaining. With regard to organizing, I find it’s always easier to get rid of my husbands stuff – like why do we still have a rock collection that he NEVER looks at taking up precious space in my wildly messy workroom in the basement. Thing is, I have tons of stuff in the attic that I never look at but it all takes time to go through. I do make a point of keeping the main floors tidy though – once a week – clean up and Time permitting I tackle a closet or some other storage space that needs organizing. It’s so much less time consuming if a space is organized- because then we can find things! But it all takes time.

  4. OMG Laurel loved this post. I can relate to everything! The BUG, never ever had 1 in our home until we moved to AZ but it was nothing like when we moved to Honolulu lol. I love Hawaii & would move back in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for dealing with the roaches.
    I’m semi-messy, Im very neat in some areas, lingerie drawer, closets. Paper is my downfall. I have 3 large filing cabinets stuffed. It’s mind-blowing for me. I hate dealing with it so I don’t. I’m a fan of Flylady. She starts with shining your kitchen sink. It actually was amazing. Although I fall off the wagon a lot. Decluttering IMO is emotional. What happens with me I’m going down the rabbit hole of memories. Oh I can’t get of this lol. Ever try to declutter photos, cards. I get nothing after that. Like I said, loved this post. Frankly I love your blog!!

  5. Dear Laurel,
    Your blog pages have been infinitely helpful, and hilariously amusing! You should consider publishing them, in book format!
    As regards neatness vs. less neat people, perhaps we acquire the habits of our favored parent. Perhaps those who resent their “neat freak” siblings do so because the sibling reminds them of their parents’ household rules that they so openly resisted. In some cases, I’ve felt that my sibling really didn’t want company, because there was never a clear place to sit or dine (akin to an animal “marking territory…”), despite being invited to visit, and with suffucient time to clean/organize…
    I agree with your previous blogger who wrote that she finds neatness calming, and clutter very unnerving. Here, tee shirts are folded and stood “on end”, across the drawer, so they are all visible, and removing one does not disturb the others. Bedding is treated in the same manner. Fabrics are rolled, where possible, to avoid creasing or disintegration, over time. Decluttering offers the opportunity to share with others via donating. It makes you feel good…twice. Shoes are placed back in their original boxes, on closet shelves. Clothing is sorted by length and color family. Eating/measuring utensils are stacked, and placed in dividers, in opposite directions, with weight distribution given consideration, to keep drawer supports in alignment. Life has become much calmer since there’s no searching through drawers and closets.When someone asks “where’s ______?”, you can answer without having to initiate a search. This system is particularly helpful for older people with limited arm strength or those who had to locate articles in diminished light, so as not to wake others. Few moments in life are as distressing as sorting through your deceased parent’s belongings, when they were the type to save everything. I have resolved not to do this to a surviving family member, who may have the additional burden of working, raising children, dealing with illness, etc.
    You were very fortunate to have help with your organization project. It looks wonderful, and I suspect it markedly decreased any stress level related to it?
    For every person who lacks the skill or interest in organizing/decluttering, there will hopefully be an equal number of people to offer services to deal with this.
    Bless those of you who live in small spaces, because you must constantly be creative with your limited space!

    1. Hi Sandra,

      Both of my parents were neat. My sister is neat. My late brother was more like me. I am like my mother’s mother, only a lot taller. That’s based on what my mom told me years ago. I never met my grandmother because she died in 1943.

      I’ve always thought that people are primarily the way they are because of nature. But maybe in some cases the family dynamic can affect that to some extent.

  6. I received this post while in the midst of my own purging. We just finished a remodeling project where we added a second floor. I want to be very careful not to move our crap into our new rooms. I am currently trying to figure out my way through all our junk. We have two young girls who are hoarders! Ugh!
    My biggest organizing issue is with the drawers in my house. I have a tendency to cram without thinking. My clothing drawers are always a mess! I can’t figure out the best folding method. I recently read that best selling book a woman wrote about organizing. She suggested rolling your clothes up. That lasted two seconds.
    Thank you for your blog post. I’m happy to know I am not alone.

  7. Dear Laurel, First, so glad you are feeling better!! Second so happy these ladies came to spoil you with their organizational skills! What a help! I am drowning in paper. I hate the mail unless there’s a good house magazine.
    The only advise I can offer is: I drop the junk mail into the recycling can in my garage before I bring in the important mail. After that I’m of no use LOL. Also, If you have the space, I recently cleaned out a lot of old clothing for donation and designated a closet and a dresser to switch out my clothing for summer and winter and put my seasonal purses and shoes into bins and store those in that closet. Trust me, there’s a lot that really should not be stored. I will check out the website for Done and Done and hopefully get some tips! Wishing you continued healing!

  8. Hi Laurel, I love your blog and read (sometimes several times!) every post. This one sure tackles a great subject. Having a real clean, but messy house, I can certainly relate to you. Just wondering… did you really have a front hall closet you didn’t know about? Or maybe it has just been covered up? I found that part of your story quite interesting. And surprised no one else mentioned it in the comments.,.

    1. Hi Carol,

      That is a very good question. There is a closet, but it’s not mine to use. When this building was built, there was a dumb-waiter put in which lives next to my front door. There’s also a non-working sink inside this closet. The closet is butted up to my front door and only accessible from the exterior. So, the closet is in fact, a part of my apartment, but unusable. The building has put a ladder in it and once I found something from UPS in there!

      We are not allowed to alter the dumb-waiter/sink or take out any portion of it out or use it for our own purposes.

      There must be an engineering reason for this, but it’s frustrating, because if I had the use of the closet, I’d have a very welcome entrance closet.

  9. I absolutely love to read about organizing! However, I become frozen when making a decision about fabric or paint color- so thank goodness you love sharing your knowledge.

  10. Oh Laurel,

    I was reading through all of the beautiful thoughtful posts and replies. I just felt so badly for you that you didn’t want to clean because you may find “peaches” hair. And then to read that Peaches would have cuddled you through this injury was just so touching and heartbreaking. I am sad about that for you but I am also thrilled at the same time that you got that wonderful service done. I hate organizing also and I really think you’re right, when you’re creative it is hard to keep everything pristine. God Bless and feel better soon! XOXO

  11. Wow! It all looks so good! One of my favorite organization tips of late is from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (yes, I’m a certified neat-freak–I read this for fun). 🙂 She explains how to fold your t-shirts (and such) and put them in your dresser drawers VERTICALLY so you can see them all at once and you don’t have to dig through stacks! Plus you are more likely to wear than just the top few in the stack. That was a “duh!” moment for me and really was kind-of life-changing. Good luck with the rest of your organizing. It’ll feel sooo good!

    1. Oh, this one is almost like the last one, Sandy. No problem. I love reading your comments! Maybe you didn’t realize that it’s being held for moderation? Unfortunately, I need to do that in case someone feels the need to send me a bitchslap(s). Yesterday, I had FIVE consecutive such comments from some miscreant who got her IP address blocked. That’s pretty rare, but who needs to hear that shit!

  12. My problem is that I just can’t start unless under extreme duress. I’ve read all kinds of things on how to get organized, how not to procrastinate, etc. but nothing worked. I hired an organizer (about $1500 for several days) and she put things/paper/etc into categories that I was suppose to go thru but I never did. Then I moved & put it all in storage. Two years later I needed to move and mail it all in boxes to another state. That’s when I finally went thru it all very quickly in a day (while stressed out about moving).

    Now I’ve been living with my parents & piling up more paperwork & junk. We’re unexpectantly having relatives & friends over in a few weeks. I’m going to do a massive clean out very, very quickly. Fortunately, I found a bookkeeper to do all the work associated with all the paperwork I was trying to do for a relative. She is going to get a few boxes.

    I really hate all the clutter. I love decorating & the clutter has to be gone for my place to look good. I’ve just got to get rid of things so I will be happier.

    1. Good on the bookkeeper, but I think that for the rest, you might need an organizer who will stand there with a (proverbial) whip and take care of it then and there. Giving us messies homework doesn’t work. (unless company’s coming!)

      And, unless it’s stuff you need to keep like tax returns, then my guess is that most of it can be dumped. Almost everything if not everything is available online these days. Going paperless as much as you can will help you avoid getting fresh clutter fodder, in the first place.

  13. Wow! That all looks great, Laurel! My favorite organization tip of late is from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo explains how to fold t-shirts (and such) and place them in dresser drawers VERTICALLY so you can see them all at once and you never have to dig through them! Plus you wind up wearing more than just the top few in the stack because you can actually get to them all. Truly life-changing for me! Have fun with the rest of your organizing! It feels soooo good!

    1. Thanks Sandy! I do know of that book and seem to recall that it ended up in the survey which some don’t realize is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

  14. I find turning on loud, energizing music helps keep my chattering mind somewhat occupied, so I can purge things better without too much discussion with myself.

  15. Also, pretty sure you won’t post this, but the new pop-up ads are super annoying. And maybe you can’t do anything about them. I really don’t know how this stuff works. Love your blog.

    1. Oh Dian. I don’t believe that you’ve missed anything. This is not a quick fix. Granted, the steel box is definitely not where it should be. A person should be able to walk a straight line down a cement sidewalk without their head crashing into an immovable box! But, at the same time, I recall feeling quite exhausted and honestly, the last thing I remember thinking is “how AM I going to finish this blog post tonight?”

      And God said with a wink, “Don’t worry Laurel. I’ve got you covered!”

      But seriously. I do head these things as wake up calls of a sort. I love what I do, but it is demanding of resources.

      No worries. When everything is done which I hope is by the end of the summer, you will definitely know because the heavens will open and the Angels will be singing!

  16. My biggest challenge in life is organization. Papers seem to breed and multiply in my home. My shoes want to stay anywhere, but the closet. I also feel guilty about the fact that there is so much picking up to do, but I hate to do it. I feel like i’m constantly chasing after a result that never happens, and when I do get things in a relatively organized state, it never stays that way very long. I’m a very visual, creative person, but I am messy.

  17. Laurel,

    I’m writing this before reading the whole post but I want to point out that your survey is skewed towards a messy answer. Not that your looking for a perfect survey but only one answer is for neat people and the other 4 answers are for messy people. I’m not a neat freak or messy, so none of the answers fit me and I would think I’m not the only one. Just pointing out that you might have skewed results. I just have a hard time believing that 79% of the people reading your blog are slobs.

    1. Okay, it’s not a doctoral dissertation lol, but you are right, the survey is a little skewed and many people responded that one of the categories fit them. However, I only said that 79% have some level of difficulty, not that all are slobs. At least I think I said that and if not, that’s what I meant to say. I guess I could go and read, but I’m trying to take it easy. :]

  18. Your post is just what I needed to get off my butt!
    I moved into my newly built home that I designed everything in it but the house itself and mostly the ideas I created were from the things I learned from You.
    One month after I moved in 1st of Jan my Mother took ill and since she lives an hr away, I spent hours driving back and forth visiting her in the hospital and while I was there would go to her house and clean and throw away 50 yrs of accumulated junk. She would never let anyone help her clean or throw away anything! A hoarder for sure. It took 16 wks of work on days usually 2-3 6 hr days per week and my niece also helped me.
    We threw out 75 black bags of crap,and broken useless furniture. My mother could no longer get to her bed without going thru an obstacle course. Also nothing had been cleaned since I moved out 45 yrs ago.
    So now after a month of her being home I have been recovering from all the work, I lost 45lbs during all this and as I look around everyday, curtains are still not hung, paintings sitting on the floor, boxes still not emptied. My mothers house is clean and mine is a shamble. I say everyday just do something, hang a picture etc but I have been very idle.
    When I sold my last house I got rid of so much that I had not even seen in years and didn’t want. Just looking around I need to get rid of even more because I am tired of these things keeping me from enjoying what I have.
    Time to get moving! Thank you for the push I needed. I hope you are on the mend soon. One day when I get it all done I am going to send you photos of how you inspired my creativity!

  19. Hi Laurel,
    I’m happy to know you’re feeling better. That was a nasty bump on your head!
    In our house, I’m the neat one & my husband isn’t. I’m not calling him a slob but he’s very messy. And he can’t seem to part with anything. Its the only thing we argue about & it puts a strain on our marriage.
    The messiness trait isn’t something you fully recognize in a person until you’ve been married for a while. By then it’s too late & you’re stuck.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Have you tried sitting down with him when things are calm and trying to work out a system that you do together maybe once a month or so?

      But if something is say unwearable (like massive holes or frayed) or no longer fits, unless he’s keeping it for sentimental reasons or it’s a favorite, I would just dispose of it in the appropriate bin. He’s unlikely to remember. (out of site…) And it’s better than stewing and feeling resentful which then can spew over into an argument in a weak moment.

  20. Thank you for making me feel normal! The shame can be difficult socially! (especially with my neat freak Mother-in-law) Closet shoving is hard on the hinges! I have problems starting the clean out project that has taken years to accumulate because it feels so daunting. My home can sometimes feel like Kilauea with slow creeping lava that can destroy and engulf. Can I just blame the 3 kids? On clean out projects, I find the last 20% frustrating. There are things I want to keep but not sure where their home is. Thank you for giving me a smile and a fresh inspiration to chip away at the mess.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Obviously, we were separated at birth. YES! The last 20%! Do you know how many times I’ve gotten all through the sort and dump and then LEFT a pile that I was going to get to, but never did, until the next time and same thing. Sorry about the neat-freak MIL. That can be stressful.

  21. What a wonderful gift! I too am very happy for you. I’ve always been somewhat of an organizer (‘a place for everything and everything in its place’) however as of late will admit I have difficulty parting with some things as there has been occasions I found myself needing it only after its been tossed/donated. Arrgh! To conclude; may I ask if you kept the two figurine dancers as I know due to sentimental reasons and their uniqueness they definitely would be on my ‘keep list’. 🙂

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Oh my! Yes, I still have the dancers! My family is tiny, but my two first cousins would kill me if I gave those away! And I am allowed to keep things for sentimental reasons. I have a memento box in the big closet and two small boxes on my dresser for photos and little things like that, like Peaches’ collar. awwww… I miss him so much. If I wasn’t feeling well, he would not leave my side except to use his litter box or have a bite to eat and then he would come right back. And then he would put his little peach head on my tummy and his PURR was so loud, I would’ve sworn he had himself plugged in!

  22. I love to organize and I also love the satisfaction that comes from cleaning. Daily picking up, dishes, laundry? Not so much. I think it comes from the knowledge that I will have to turn around and do it all again the next day (or in a few hours). But in some house blog somewhere I read a piece of advice that has been so helpful to me since, that you think of those daily tasks like circles and you need to complete the circle. So the laundry circle isn’t done until you’ve folded and put the clean stuff away, the dish circle isn’t done until the dishes are back in the cabinets, etc. For some reason thinking of it as a circle that needs to be completed makes me hate it a bit less. Maybe it’s because I am a fan of Emerson and he wrote a whole essay about circles? I dunno.

    Laurel I am so glad you are feeling better! It sounds like you’re doing everything right both in self care and in fighting the city to get that ridiculous thing fixed. Good luck and I hope you win!

    1. Thank you Kiera! The circle idea sounds interesting and makes sense because our minds want to complete the circle.

      I did force myself to go to ballet this morning and barely made it through the barre, despite taking it easy. Nauseous. But now… I really DO feel better. I figure that the endorphins are like the brain’s candy. Still, I’m trying to take it easy. I have a routine visit to my primary care physician tomorrow which is good timing.

      In my car, on my way home from ballet, I saw two men standing by the pole/box talking to a police officer and one man had a hand on his head. hmmmm…

    2. Kiera: Is there any hope for someone who gets up at 2 or 4 am and finishes the dishes circle? Sometimes it doesn’t start til then. Guess I hate washing dishes and refuse to replace the second dishwasher in 20 years. (That would make 3 DWers installed in about 20 years). I do sleep better after putting the last knife in the drawer and hanging up the last dishtowel.

  23. You’ll be sorry you asked!

    At our house, Neat married Messy… Fortunately, both have learned to accept (with occasional, um, volume) becoming a little more like the other. Lately, though, I’ve joined his team and am getting better at tossing/donating.

    But wow, do things accumulate over 30-plus years and four kids!

    We are slowly going through the whole house. Just finished one cycle in the basement. Mr. Neat organized our entire storage area with rolling shelves…nothing on the floor (which is great, because we occasionally get water down there), all easily movable.

    Kitchen is next up for me (and if I ever hope to have an UNkitchen, I don’t need 12 mixing bowls even if they were shower gifts (she said with embarrassment, remembering that she just mentioned being married for 30-plus years).

    Current organization bugaboo: Garage. Three car garage and no room for cars. We are all about our backyard and the garage is filled with equipment for summer…and in the winter, it’s enhanced by storing our non Mark D. Sikes-caliber patio furniture. If Done and Done can find you a front hall closet, perhaps they can find us a large garden shed…

    So I know your head probably still hurts and I’m droning…but one other thing: the artwork in your post! The brocade in the featured photo; the sheer sleeves and crisp bodice fabric of the cellphone girl; the crinkly satins in the maid painting; and the layers of crisp silk taffeta AND sheer overlay in your portrait!!! It is just astounding to me that a human could recreate such visual and textural details with paint…(love your artistic amendments, BTW)!

    K…accountability…gotta go dust!

    1. I’m more clean than tidy. In other words, I can vacuum and just push the crap out of the way. haha. The crap for me was papers. Oh man, I hate them so much. I’ve tried to go as paper-less as possible, but it’s only about 50% better. I’ve also set up monthly bills possible on automatic bill payment. That ability is such a blessing!

  24. Dear Laurel,
    When I was in my twenties with two small children, a colleague of mine had a friend that was beginning to clean houses and looking for work. She cleaned so she could afford private school for her own kids. It felt like a miracle! Having someone come in to clean every two weeks is the ONLY way to keep up. Our house was always clean and ready for guests without embarrassment.
    Everyone in the family “cleaned up for the cleaning lady”.
    Fast forward twenty, wait, thirty years and it’s just the two of us in a very pared down smaller home. I thought I could do it myself but I hated every moment of cleaning. Ugh. My perfectionism rears it’s head and it drives me mad that something I just cleaned has a streak, fingerprint or “missed spot”. Or maybe I’m just lazy. Anyway, that’s my story. I’m advising my grown kids to put household help in their budgets.
    Glad you are feeling a bit better-thanks for all you do

  25. Bless your sweet heart! I think it is wonderful how you really brought (by your blog) so many ideas that I didn’t think about. I live with my daughter and son-in-law. I am the neat-freak, totally Mrs. Organization, they are not. It has been an interesting relationship, but they are grateful that I am with them. It is all about moderation in all things and being able to find something when one needs it. Love your fantastic posts!

  26. Wow, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’m one of the 21%. And you’re right, Laurel! I think it’s in the DNA. And it’s not just my own house. I go into someone else’s house (who’s messy) and I immediately want to start cleaning up! It’s like a sickness! I never do it, of course, it’s just in my head. I swear endorphins are released when I clean or straighten up. Maybe it’s a sense of control? I have no problems “editing”, as I like to call it (throwing out sh**) either. If my husband can’t find something, he’ll say “it’s been cleaned, hasn’t it?” Should I rent myself out??
    Hope you’re feeling much better!!

    1. Oh Bobbie, I love this!

      Your endorphins are my having to get four impacted wisdom teeth extracted. lol

      However. I will admit that when it’s done. I DO feel good. And I’m always exceptionally proud of myself.

      I think that people who are messy don’t have systems in place, or the habit. However, 6 days out, my bedroom is still super tidy.

  27. Well, Laurel, I must be a mix of both extremes! I know I do better when things are tidy and clean, but it often doesn’t work out that way. Why? Our problem is the books, all twelve thousand of them — and that’s after a major purge two years ago. When we renovated the second part of our home, the barn upstairs, we gained a huge

    1. I hope that everything’s alright Gilly because you stopped in the middle of a sentence and now I need to know the rest! Do you really have 12,000 books? And how many have you actually read? I was a voracious reader as a child, but not any longer, unfortunately.

  28. I enjoyed tonight’s post as I always do! I LOVE to organize but I’m not a neat freak. I leave clothes and books everywhere but my drawers and closets are like something out a barracks. So I’m neat on the inside and messy outside.
    I have a ritual that I love and have been doing for years. At the beginning of each season I put on some great tunes, pour a glass of wine and have a “purge party.” I get rid of every item of clothing that I didn’t wear in the past season. For me it’s really fun. What I don’t understand is where the clothes come from in the first place since I would rather be impaled on a stake and left to die in the blinding sun than to shop. I wouldn’t even let my husband buy me a wedding ring because it may have required going to a mall. Malls are completely overwhelming for a shop-a-phobe like me. I’m also ridiculously thrifty and considered a wedding ring an unnecessary expense since I already own a ring. LOL! I like book shops and antiques stores so I’ll stick to those. Hope you continue to heal and feel better. Thanks for the laughs.

    1. Hi Gail,

      Maybe you have shopping amnesia? just kidding. But very interesting that your drawers are so neat. For me, it’s a major achievement to put the clean laundry away! But now, my drawers are so nice and stuff isn’t crammed in there, so it’s a lot easier.

      And I’m not too fond of malls either. Too much walking. :]

  29. You need a cat or dog., they like to play, tortured and eat or kill bugs. When you get the safe open , let us know what’s in it, never know what was left behind from the previous owner.

    1. Awww… Well, they don’t allow dogs here unless one has a disability. Fine. That’s not difficult to come up with.lol

      But, I had a kitty and 1. I’m allergic 2. he was the love of my life 3. he was wrecking my furniture 4. It killed me when I had to put him down. I cried so much that the skin around my eyes was raw and stung.

  30. So happy for you, Laurel! What a gift! I LOVE to organize stuff…maintain? Not so much! I recently discovered, much like the 30 year old Myra, that putting everything in its place, immediately, was the KEY to a tidy home. Get well soon!

  31. I once helped a friend cull her 30 years worth of costume and fine jewelry. A friend gave her a jewelry chest, and it took us at least three hours to go through the tangle of jewelry in her dresser drawer and organize it into the jewelry chest. It looked so easy before we started. Ha!

  32. Laurel, hope you feel better!!! Are decorating and architecture two different skills? Would love to read about it, i’ve read that some architects don’t like decorators:) not sure if it’s true or not! BTW i wasn’t able to answer you in previous post, so i’ll do it here. I’m not a hacker (exept shopping at USA stores via internet), unfortunately, i wish to be better with computers. Yes, i live in Moscow and can read your text, but I don’t see pictures from the blog. At the moment i’m in LA traveling and trying to improve my English, when i came back to your website i see everything and it’s a breeze, It’s much more understandable with pictures though your content is so interesting and amazing, no matter pictures or what.
    P.s tentED ceiling, now I remember this, thank you so much, it’s very helpful!

    1. There is some overlap, but largely they are very different as architects deal with construction, so they have to have some engineering knowledge. But again, that too is different, but some overlap. Basically, architects design buildings.

    2. I love architects and architecture, but I’ve always noticed that when architects build their own houses and furnish them themselves, well . . . it never looks as nice or as comfortable as when an interior designer does it.

      I don’t know what it is with architects, but so many of them seem to gravitate to very uncomfortable looking furniture. You don’t feel that you really want to sit in the rooms they design, even when the structure is beautiful.

      There must be exceptions, but I haven’t seen many.

      1. I concur with all. Some architects are wonderful and some give absolutely no thought to furniture placement or window treatments and create impossible situations that require us to “make do” and improvise when if they had given some thought to how the people actually need to live, it could’ve been avoided!

  33. Hahaha ok good because I’m at a loss 😄 I love this season of life but it’s got a lot of “seriously?” rolled up in it!

  34. O.M.G. We are building a home on the Jersey Shore. It has a 6′ x 10′ kitchen island. I am now in my home in north Jersey and looking at my 6′ x 10′ island (which is chock full of stuff). How will I ever keep the “stuff” off my (open floor plan) kitchen island? Oh yes, I also have my own master bath (which I have not used in a year because it is chock full of stuff). In our new home we share a bathroom (although we have our own super small closets). No. No. No. I need someone who will teach me how to corral stuff. Get rid of stuff. Gawd help me.

  35. Interesting insight about the brain types. I can add that anecdotally, it is that way in our house. The girls are terrible organizers and the boys are wonderful. If not for my husband I would be living under s pile a rubble! I can organize other people’s things, just not my own. Although I’ve gotten better lately (after two moves in two years). I just have to remind myself that I don’t want to become my grandmother. It is a great feeling to unload all the junk!

  36. This was one of your funnier posts! I loved how real you were with your readers. No one is perfect, even the most organized have one or two tiny little issues. Thanks Laurel for sharing about your closets!

    1. Hi Laura,

      At least I didn’t have to be embarrassed when my neighbor came over to slay the killer bug. I wish I had taken a photo of it. It had to be two inches long and then there are these gigantic antennae. I’m not kidding when I said that I felt sick.

  37. Oh. Man. I hate clutter, it stresses me out! And yet I’m just the worst at keeping up. The worst. it seems like I’m always putting out tidying fires, and things pile up, then it drives me crazy! Already signed up for their newsletter. I know that ”tidying as I go” is key, but how to do that when there are tiny people messes to keep up with is a mystery to me. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  38. Nice…but wait….Did you just say the safe is LOCKED?
    Locked since you moved in? Locked by someone else?….
    You mean it may have been locked for 100 years????
    Laurel, what if there is a real long lost Van Gogh in there? Family jewels?
    I would just die know knowing what is in there if it were in my bedroom! Can your super open it? The mystery of it!!!

  39. I’m not particularly messy, but things do pile up even when I try to be neat. So I’ve worked with a professional organizer several times in two homes. I found it to be fun! We worked together — with the organizer taking the lead — and we had a great rapport. So it was kind of like working with a girlfriend. The sense of accomplishment at the end was really fantastic. It was well worth the cost and I learned some things that I can use on an ongoing basis.

  40. Coincidentally, yesterday I finally decluttered my jammed full bathroom cupboards. I think that feeling of lightness should be bottled!! It is heady stuff that feeling. Haha. But truly, it is like the energy of the room has subtly altered, even though the doors are closed and no one can see my now orderly contents. Lucky, lucky you getting done and done to help! I am a tad far away in Australia to hire them, but shall checkout their site pronto for some more inspiration.
    Glad you are feeling a bit better, nasty bump. (Tell kids you are growing a unicorn horn lol lol..oh sorry, I didn’t say that).

  41. I am in the process of moving and everything is a mess, every closet in my house are full, yours look empty compare to mine. When my husband was alive we use to declutter and dejunked often, since he was very organized and nonjudgemental. He became ill and my messy slob tendencies came out and I was his caregiving, he passed and everything is a mess so I know what messy and being disorganized can do. I love your blogs they are very entertaining and I learned a lot from them. Hope you are feeling better from your accident. Lots of love and prayers.

  42. I am going to take issue with your use of the word ‘slob’–I think a slob is someone who is
    dirty or lazy or a lout or schulmp. You are just someone who used to have disorganized closets! They look fantastic, and I can totally appreciate the lightness that comes with organization, no matter how long it lasts.
    I always wondered what you stored in those beautiful cabinets.

    1. Sorry Siobhan. We don’t take issue here because it’s a slippery slope. And besides, I already dissed the word “slob.” So, I’m agreeing with you. Maybe you missed that part. For the rest. Thank you!

  43. I just wanted to let you know that my good friend introduced me to your blog about 6 months ago (she also sold our home for us) and I’m so thankful she did – you’ve helped me IMMENSELY with a zillion design dilemmas I’ve faced with my new home. Plus you’re so dang funny. I’m always quoting you to my mom and husband (he calls you ‘Queen Laurel’) so yeah – we love you out here in California. Oh, and my 23-year old daughter (who lives in LA and is just emerging from her post-college life cocoon and wanting to decorate her apartment) loves you too and appreciates your designing on a budget posts. We *heart* you!!!!

  44. Laurel,

    So glad you are on the mend! You had me worried when I saw that bump!

    Love the paintings you include in your posts. I have a few of those lovely ladies on my walls, mostly John Singer Sargent with a Vermeer or two. Are you the beauty in the last painting? Clever!

    I am finding it nice to have a married daughter now. When it is time to clear the clutter, no matter what, I give sweet Rachel a call. Sure enough today she remarked she wanted a chair, already reupholstered and looking quite nice, for her new place. I said of course, and I can get another old piece to bring to life. Oh wait, I guess I am not reducing the clutter. Who cares anyway!

  45. Here is my story on how I went from being a slob to being a neat freak: Back in the early 90’s I was a divorced mom of 3 kids. I moved to the Texas city where my favorite aunt and uncle live to have family nearby. My aunt has always had a beautiful home and we spent lots of time there. She is very neat and I noticed that she always put things back. She cleaned as she cooked, she hung up clothes if she tried something on and decided to wear something else. Dirty clothes went in the hamper, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, trash in the trash can, make up and brushes and hair products back in the drawers and counter wiped off.

    I started to notice how much calmer I felt in her neat and uncluttered home. It wasn’t overnight, but I started trying to do the same things she did. About 2 years into my single parent gig, I realized that I spent my entire weekends cleaning and trying to get my kids to clean. We never had FUN, and Monday morning came and we went back to the work and school grind. I finally sat down and looked at my budget and found the money to hire a cleaning team every other week.

    This became my accountability. I knew they didn’t know where stuff went and they couldn’t clean if there was clutter, clothing, cosmetics, mail, etc covering the surfaces. I also didn’t want them to quit, judge me or tell someone I had the filthiest (fill in the blank) they’d ever seen. This reinforced my desire to develop the habit of cleaning up after myself, but if I did not do so, the night before the cleaning ladies came was my deadline. I found that I could give the toilets and sinks a quick wipe down every few days, sweep or vacuum obvious messes, and put things away as I used them and lo and behold, I had a pretty darn clean house between their visits! My kids and I started enjoying our weekends (they still had chores, but it wasn’t an all day clean up) and life felt EASIER.

    Fast forward a few years and I met a man living in Houston (all the way across the state) and we dated 6 months, he proposed and we married a month later. Laurel, he was an obsessive compulsive neat freak! He never left so much as a sock or a towel anywhere. I knew I had to step up my game even more! He had one child who was 4 at the the time. My kids were 8, 14 and 15. He hadn’t lived full time with his daughter in almost 3 years and suddenly he had teenagers! He had a housekeeper once a week and we managed to not kill each other, but I was nervous about slipping into any old habits!

    We quickly had two more kids (that’s a total of 6 if you are counting!) I’m incredibly fortunate—as he became more successful he told me I really sucked at doing laundry and I should never do it. I agreed. We have now been married 20 years. Our daughter just graduated from high school and is heading to college.Our son is 17 and will soon fly the nest as well. Our oldest 4 kids are grown, educated and working. I am going to be honest: I have a lot of help now, but I never leave things out for my housekeeper to put away. I won’t leave the house in the morning without my counters clear and my closet neat. I won’t go upstairs to bed with dishes in the sink. The habits I saw my aunt practicing 25 years ago are now my habits.

    My mother was a near hoarder and a free spirit. Neatness was not her gift, so I did not have this example as a child. I made a decision to adopt it in my 30’s because I wanted that peaceful and calm feeling that comes from a beautiful, clean, neat and organized home. What if I never changed and my now husband had seen my messy ways and that was a dealbreaker? Hahaha. Maybe neatness can get you a wonderful man!

    End of my Cinderella story of transformation!

  46. You really spoke to me tonight. I will be chatting with my bestie, who I respect above all others and craft a contract to help each other purge the excess and unnecessary as we prepare to downsize. You are an inspirational treasure. Thank you.

    Best Regards for a Swift Recovery,

  47. This topic is so much in my head right now! Recently my mother passed away, I changed jobs, down-sized, I’m finishing my masters….on and on. Life charges on and I want to spend time enjoying every day, but the junk piles up. Part of my junk is from a past chapter in life that I’m not even reading any more. I get that same squeezy feeling walking past my piles… the overly stuffed drawer, the too-big stack of placemats, books, candles…whatever, fill in the blank. I will keep my eyes out for a company like this. The services of Ann and Kate sound like a dream come true

  48. Hmmm…if you change the “messy” to “visionary jumping to quickly to brilliant ideas to pishposh with minutiae and tedium” it sounds like a virtue.
    They have an awesome bag, too!

      1. Just guessing here, but perhaps she is referring to the Done and Done Home canvas bag in a couple of your pics…?
        Anyway, thanks for yet another wonderful, inspiring post. I actually started cleaning out my closet this evening! Thank you!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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