Clothes Closet

When you clean out anything - you must commit and remove all the contents.  I use the 4-pile method: Save-Donate-Trash-Purgatory. 

If you are anything like me, you are struggling with this new home-based reality.  Some of you young parents will be dumped into a whirlwind of keeping up with work, entertaining restless kids and maintaining some kind of yet-to-be-defined home-schooling protocol.  If this is you, you will be hanging on by your fingernails, and my heart goes out to you during this upside-down time.  But conversely, some of us will be finding ourselves with a little more time on our hands than we are used to and it can bring about an odd restlessness.  Am I the only one that woke up early Sunday morning (no Saturday night shenanigans to cloud my thinking) and wondered:  Should I be learning Spanish?  Or be knitting a sweater?  Or touring the Louvre online?  I can’t help you answer those questions exactly - but I do know houses, and how deeply they need your love and attention.  Maybe a few home-based projects are just what you need.

And yes, I have suggestions.  But they come from a woman that is right on top of her professional life - but personally?  Well, I’m still looking at a pile of unsent Christmas cards on the back corner of my desk.  So, I’m hoping that, together, we may be able to get something done.

Suggestion #1:  I’m even scared to label this one because I think I might lose you right here - but it’s Clean Out the Closet… or junk drawer… or medicine cabinet… or whatever.  For me this effort is a classic case of Task and Reward.  I invest wisely a few hours of my day - then I go make cupcakes!  Or read a People magazine!  Or watch an episode of (don’t judge) Love Is Blind (it’s on Netflix).  I’m sure your rewards won’t be near as trashy as mine, but hey, these are crazy times, right?  So with that in mind let’s forge ahead together!

When you clean out anything - you must commit and remove all the contents.  I use the 4-pile method: Save-Donate-Trash-Purgatory.  With the Donate pile, you have to accept that donating your item is really JUST as good as saving it for Aunt Polly because she wears a lot of purple.  You must trust that item will find a worthy purple-loving home after you donate it.  For some, that’s a big leap of faith and, trust me, you must take it.  The Purgatory pile gets all the stuff you can’t decide on, and without that pile I can get discouraged and hit the cupcakes early, so Purgatory is my friend and it may be yours too.

So, good for you, you’ve purged your _________ , cleaned it and re-stocked it with your saved items (matching up like-items with like-items).  Aren’t you amazing??!!  NOW turnaround and deal with that purgatory pile.  Put it through a rigorous cycle of save-donate-trash. And after that - if you STILL have purgatory items - stick them in a box, mark the date and store it somewhere.  But only for six months.   At which point, as if deemed by the gods, the un-utilized items in the purgatory box turns into trash.

Suggestion #2:  Plan an interior project.  What’s on your list?  Do you want to freshen up a guest room?  Replace your kitchen?  Build an adult tree house?  This is the perfect time to plan for a future that is not so upside-down!!  (And we will get there - we really will.)  So for starters, any renovation project - no matter the size - benefits from some sort of vision board.  They are easy to make on Pinterest, or they are called Ideabooks on Houzz.  Or are you old-school?  Start tearing pages out of magazines and circle what you like with a Sharpie marker, and just pop them in a folder.  This process should be loose and all-inclusive (easy to edit items out later) and dare I say fun??  This is your wish list!  It’s before project restrictions rear their ugly heads - so enjoy this moment!  I make these for clients all the time - so do one for yourself and be ahead of the game.


The effort can become a classic case of Task and Reward.  Invest wisely a few hours of the day - then go make cupcakes.

Next you will create (and this is a technical term):  A Plan Of Attack.  Outline steps like room measurements, floor plans, contract work needed, materials to choose, etc.  You may not know all the steps, but just do the best you can. Just having created this list magically makes it easier to tackle some of the I-don’t-know areas.  It’s another leap of faith, but I promise it will work.  If your project is larger, it’s a great time to plan with a design professional.  So much of it can be done remotely and virus free.  And it will be a good time to reserve contracted work.

After you get these two steps done you will be amazed to find that you have officially taken the project out of the “Ugh I know I really should…” stage and moved it right into the “Yes I can!” stage.  And THAT, my friend, is a huge accomplishment and I think we both deserve a cupcake!

Jen Coles is a professional home designer and mother of four who lives here in Manchester.