A came to me for two reasons. She had family coming to visit, but had recently undergone orthopaedic surgery, and so was not able to manage physical tasks. She also had many specialist books, and need help to sort, collate, and categorise these in order to get them to appropriate outlets. This will be an ongoing project as there are hundreds of books, many of historical significance.
When I arrived for the first day, the room A wanted help with had become more of a storage room than a useable room. A had also asked for some of the furniture to be rearranged, she had a plan but couldn't implement it herself. I asked my husband, Shaun, to come and help me move some of the heavier pieces of furniture that I couldn't manage on my own.
I started by moving the books into two categories; specialist books that needed categorising and allocating for specific outlets; and then more general subjects for antiquarian or charity shops. By doing this, it freed up one of the tables for her family to use for dining purposes during their visit. I also consolidated into one place all the packaging that had been gathered in the room, in order to make more space. Luckily the room is a really good size so we made use of the the areas around the edges to store items for future sorting. That still left plenty of space around the 6 seat dining table for it to feel like a dining room for family use.
On day two, I moved boxes from the landing that were blocking access to the loft into a spare room; and stacked other items neatly out of the way; made up the spare beds for the visiting family; and vacuumed and dusted throughout the house.
E F's room
L is a single mum with disabilities. Her rheumatoid arthritis means she struggles with mobility and being able to use her hands. She wanted to create a calmer, more organised bedroom for her two girls, aged 8 and 5. L had decided what she wanted to do, had ordered the furniture and had started sorting through her daughters’ toys, books and clothes. With her hands being one of the main areas she struggles with she asked me to help assemble the furniture as she didn’t have the strength in her hands needed to put it together and then for me to do the physical moving of items around the room and onto shelves, into drawers etc.
Day 1, we started by assembling the two shelving units that were to go in the corner of the room. We then worked our way through the piles of books, L decided which ones the girls had completely outgrown, which books belonged to E and which needed to be passed down to F. I then arranged them on the shelves in rainbow order, this system works really well for younger children to be able to put the books back and keep the shelves tidy. We decided that the lower shelves would be for F’s books or shared books and the ones for E would go up higher where she could reach but F couldn’t.
While L continued sorting through the toys, decided what was broken and needed throwing away, what could be given to charity shops and what the girls actually played with so needed putting out as an invitation to play, I continued with the furniture building. I built E a tall wardrobe with drawers underneath. Up until now the girls had been sharing a wardrobe so it was nice to be able to give E her own little area.
Day 2 – I built the last shelving unit and we started to put everything back on the shelves and in the wardrobes. After lots of discussions with L about how the girls played with their toys, which were their favourites and what things needed to be kept on display because they were sentimental. We decided that creating zones on the shelves for different categories of toys would help and mean some things could be played with on the shelf instead of having to play on the floor. It would also help the girls know where things had to go back. I folded all the clothes including teaching F how to file fold so it was easy to see everything in the drawer without having to rummage for items.
Ruth came to me and asked me to help with her son’s room to help tidy and organise it as it is always a mess and she wasn’t sure where to start. On top of that Ruth suffers with fibromyalgia, causing her great difficulty with her mobility and a lot of pain. Her son’s bedroom is an attic room, so Ruth can’t get up there to check and help him sort it without assistance on the stairs. Samuel is also diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum so change and people moving his things around can cause a lot of distress. I had to work carefully to achieve the goals of his mum without upsetting him.
I first visited and took pictures of what the room was like and talked through a few initial ideas with Ruth. I then went away and pondered a few ideas. Once I had an idea of how we could make a difference I made a second visit to talk to Samuel about how he felt about making some changes in his room to help him organise it better – this was important to build that trust that I wouldn’t be making any decisions about his belongings on his behalf and that we would work together to improve things. I talked through my ideas, and we booked a date in the diary for starting the process. This gave Samuel time to process the plan and to air any concerns with his mum.
On my initial visit Samuel's floor was covered and it was difficult to get in to the room, it was no different on day 1 of the job. With his permission I looked through all the drawers to see what we had to work with. There was lego everywhere! He loves his lego and has a lot of it but we knew we needed to do something when we found lego in his underwear drawer and decided we needed a better storage solution for it.
I started by measuring and seeing if my plan would work of removing one of the sets of drawers as the room felt too full of furniture and just created an extra surface for dumping things on. It would fit, so I moved the drawers around and put the spare drawers to one side for now. I then started creating areas around the room where we were going to put things in categories so we could see how much of each type of item we had and could find the most appropriate place for it to be stored. We emptied all the drawers, cleared the floor, put things back in boxes or disposed of packaging that was no longer needed. All the way through Samuel was with me making decisions about what categories items belonged in and whether items needed keeping, disposing of or sending to the charity shop. He did an excellent job!
Once we had categorised everything we could start putting things back into drawers and using them more effectively. We created display areas of sentimental items. I also had the mammoth task of organising the lego. Samuel had a HUGE box of lego plus 3 smaller boxes, all mixed up and no sense of what was where. After talking to him about the problems he had with the current storage we decided that colour coordinating the lego would mean smaller boxes and make it easier to find the pieces he was looking for. We stored all these boxes in rainbow order in the alcove behind the door.
When I had finished, it had gone from a room you couldn’t walk into, complete sensory overload as every surface was covered, to a room with plenty of space on the floor, clear surfaces and everything having its own place.