Friday, April 5, 2013

The Easy Way for a Hoarder to Empty a Room

 How to empty (NOT SORT) a room:

This is what you do before a mover comes to move the heavy furniture.

Get thin cotton or plastic gloves, markers, packing tape and regular tape, packing paper, bubble wrap, and labels. Obtain a large supply of cartons, all in one or at most two sizes. Set up each carton as you need it. 

1. Fill a carton by placing everything from one area inside it, working from top to bottom until all furniture is empty. Use packing paper or bubble wrap as necessary to cushion items but do NOT attempt to group like items. Keep everything together that was together in the room. Wear the gloves so you do not get distracted by the texture of the items to be packed.
2. Label each carton with the name of the room and the piece of furniture:, e.g., "Mom's room, top dresser drawer," or "Top of bureau, right side." This creates a record of where the items were visually.
3. Repeat for the closet. If the hanging clothes will not fit in a carton, put them in large plastic bags and tape on a label identifying the origin closet, e.g., "Mom's closet left side" or "Mom's closet middle."
4. Remove and carefully wrap all photos, paintings, and wall decorations. Put into cartons and label the cartons describing which wall or surface the items came from.
5. Do NOT attempt to "sort" or "go through" or "organize" any items.
6. Do NOT attempt to throw anything out, separate anything out for donation, or hold anything aside for any reason. Pack everything.
7. Even if an item is trash, pack it and label where it was found, e.g. "Mom's room, east windowsill."
8. Do not leave anything in the room. Empty all drawers, closets, walls, and surfaces.
9. Check behind and under the bed and other furniture for stray items.
10. Remove and pack bedding.
11. Move all cartons to a previously determined storage area.

You're done!

This method will work best if you can still see furniture. If you can't, modify the labels to reflect exactly where in the room the contents of each carton came from, e.g., "Mom's room, top of pile of papers on her bed, near foot."

The idea behind this technique is to empty a room without engaging any sorting or organizing, thus without overwhelming yourself. The labels should describe exactly where in the room a carton's contents come from, so that you can visualize the room and know which carton has which items. 

Visual memory is very strong. It is NOT necessary to GO THROUGH, SORT, or ORGANIZE items if all you want to do is remove them from one place and put them somewhere else. Do not destroy your visual memory of how the items were placed before they were moved. Embrace it and use it to keep your items organized the same way now that they are inside cartons. There will be some other day when sorting happens. Today your goal is to empty a room.

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