The hurricane method of decluttering Part III

Well folks I have spent the last two days hectically decluttering and organising for my friend and I have to say it was hard yakka (Australian for hard work). Call me strange but I really enjoyed it and was a little sorry to have to drag myself away so soon when there were still things to be done. I am very happy to be home with my husband though. And extremely grateful for my wonderful apartment that, considering I haven’t done my weekly clean for the last two Mondays’, was there to welcome me home looking tidy and cleaner than I expected. It will be Monday before I bother to do much in the way of housework because it still looks so good.

But I digress.

I really enjoy decluttering because of the space it opens up and the reduction in general cleaning it results in. However I also love to organise. I love the flow of it and the results and spending two days doing that has revitalised me as much as exhausted me. The only thing I regret is not taking before and after picks as I felt that was too much of an invasion of privacy. It is enough that I am writing about it without naming names. But I can assure you the transformation was nothing short of amazing.

My friend has been so open to the process and cooperated wholeheartedly. Although I have to remember that the pace I do things at is not the pace that most normal human beings operate under. I can be a dynamo in the relentless pursuit of a finish line. Which is ironic considering my own slow approach to decluttering. However my home, when I started my declutter journey, mostly consisted of hidden clutter where as my friend’s, although not a hoarder case, was in an obvious state of too much in and not enough going out, to the point of dysfunctional.

I am please to say that my friend can now begin to take a slower approach. Although I think she is keen to tackle a few more obvious jobs before truly slowing down to the fine tuning. And there is plenty of fine tuning to do. As I am now intimate with contents of her home, I will be sending her weekly missions to achieve.

Now let me tell you about some of the tasks I have tackled over the last two and a bit days.

I arrived in Sydney at about 3:10pm on sunday and my friend picked me up from the train station to go to IKEA. Her closet had fallen apart in the move and she needed another to begin the reshuffle. Once that was achieved, not so simple because the boxes of parts weighed a ton and we had to not only get them into the SUV but out again and into the apartment. I am glad she lives on the ground floor.

Before unloading a space had to be cleared in the bedroom which required the take down a reassembly of her bed which had structural integrity issues after her attempt to assemble it earlier. I also changed her mind about where the best spot was to place it in the room. Once this task was complete it was off to dinner. Once home again we decided to tackle the new wardrobe because there would be no time in the morning as she had to go to work. Job complete we had a nice hot cup of tea before turning in for the night at around 10:30pm.

Then, for me, it was up at 6:30am on Monday to welcome the new day as my friend left for work. Alone to face the monumental task my first full day was spent doing some serious fitting in of stuff still packed in boxes and plastic crates. Every room was cluttered with hastily placed loads of stuff and too much furniture to comfortably fit the space. As a result my first day was spent following a cascade effect style of organising. This had to go there before this went there, so I was going from one room to another putting things away and shuffling things about. It was a whirlwind of continual improvement and I was in my element.

Tasks ranged from unpacking boxes to deconstructing furniture that we had, the previous night, decided weren’t going to fit. There was also the washing machine to set up before doing a few, much needed, loads of laundry. There were items that needed cleaning before putting into place and some serious dusting to continually do in order to begin the new uncluttering life in cleanliness. I was given carte blanche to make any decisions on placement, although I did run ideas by my friend via text messaging. By the time my friend returned home there was already much more visible floor space in every room than when she had left in the morning. We then went out to dinner, but on our return there was a shelf full of items that decluttering decisions were now to be made on. She performed admirably with that task and yet another crate full of stuff was ready to go out the door. By which time I was about ready to drop. Fortunately navigating my way to the bed was much easier now.

Day two dawned and I was itching to get started on the craft room, it was still piled high with stuff however there was plenty of furniture into which to organise it. That isn’t to say that I ignored the rest of the house. Oh no, as the floor cleared in there, other possibilities opened up elsewhere and although I focused most of my attention in the craft room I deviated off on other projects here and there.

I arranged, rearranged, labeled, repurposed furniture and piled up a massive quantity of stuff for my friend to adjudicate on once she returned home for the evening. Fortunately, as I have mentioned before, my friend and I do very similar crafts, so deciding what was useful and what wasn’t was a fairly simple task, so no time was wasted procrastinating over what I should fit in and what I thought she would be willing to part with. The only interruption to my hectic pace was the cat who had decided that she would like extra attention and kept climbing into my lap whenever I sat to work. And sitting there wasn’t enough, if I didn’t pet her she would nip at me and gently stick her claws into  me. In the end she found herself at the receiving end of a gentle tap on her nose with a sheet of Halloween stickers, when her attention seeking actions got somewhat out of hand. Needless to say, when she fell asleep in the chair I wanted to work in I let her have it and fetched a dining chair instead as I was just grateful for the chance to work in peace.

The changes were obvious to my friend the minute she walked in the door. However there was that massive pile of potential clutter, I had amassed during the day, to be sorted through before the day was done. A home cooked meal and a bottle of sparkling rosé later and we were ready to tackle the task. I joked that this would have to be complete even if it took till midnight. She quickly made choices while I listen to her reasoning and assisted where I could. At one point she was deciding whether to set aside some free grocery store cooking mags when I gently chimed in with all the logic of the, then upcoming, Tuesday post titled ~ Why keep cookbooks. She soon agreed to this logic and threw them onto the recycling pile without even glancing inside.

This task was finally complete as the clock ticked closely to 11:30 pm, by which time I could barely keep my eyes open and thinking was a struggle.  Two ibuprofen, some teeth brushing and goodnight wishes later I collapsed into bed, exhausted yet happy.

With much of what I needed doing done we had a more leisurely start to Wednesday morning. After much needed cups of coffee my friend cooked us a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and fried tomato. Then it was back to the task. Firstly I relocated a bookcase into the hall to be used as her transition point for future decluttering. She then packed another two boxes and two bags of clutter into the SUV to be later delivered to the thrift shop while I made a couple of trips to the recycling bin. This required climbing up onto the fence to compact the contents down with my foot in order to fit it all in. I was feeling a little guilty for taking up most of the precious little recycling space the apartment block was afforded. But it had to be done and I am sure no one else was in greater need of that space than we.

The next task was to rearrange some of the living room furniture in order to open up the space. Then while my friend unpacked yet another box into furniture in this space I helped buy wiping and dusting. And then the one box of kept items, from the previous nights sorting, had to be shuffled into the craft space before we called it quits for the morning in order for me to prepare for my journey home.

To be continued….

Today’s Mini Mission

Work on a collection of similar items so that you might be able to eliminate the excess and reduce the size container/piece of furniture they take are housed in. (I said I wouldn’t bring crafts into this weeks missions but craft is an area where I hope to achieve this this week. In fact I am hoping to eliminate one or even two small wheeled storage carts in the process.)

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Fabulous – I can feel your satisfaction: It’s a great feeling working with someone to create the home they want isn’t it?
    If someone is ready for change and ready to make decisions it is very rewarding work.

    • It most certainly is Doodle. I got a great deal of satisfaction out of the experience. I think I could do this professionally. Perhaps it is time I gave it a go.

      • Colleen – why not give it a go?
        I have been thinking of Deb J and her mum and Nana – there are a lot of elderly ones in the community who need assistance, even if it is the grunt work, I’ve been wondering if I could find a way to assist such ones.

  2. What a great friend you have been Colleen. You have put in a lot of work for your friend and she now has a much better apartment to live in. I know she isn’t done but she is so much further along than she would be if you had not helped.

  3. I think this is absolutely amazing! Frankly, I’m stunned at all the work you both have accomplished so far. There’s nothing like a move to create motivation to get rid of stuff.

    • You are so right Michelle. It is a whole lot easier if people plan well in advance though and don’t have to go through this kind of declutter. It was just lucky for my friend that I was keen to help. It’s been a blast.

  4. This has been such exciting reading. Are you going back?

    Imagine if your friend didn’t have you during this settling phase? Coming home after a long days work and having to tackle all that work. It would have taken weeks or months.

    I love the part about the cat. We have three cats and one in particular likes to ‘help’.

    • Moni,

      I also loved the cat bit. We have two cats, and it is amazing how much we accommodate them (Colleen’s choosing a different chair other than the one she wanted, for example). My sister often won’t get up to answer a ringing phone if a cat is sleeping on her lap so as not to disturb it.

      I need Colleen to sort some of my stuff out. I can’t believe what you have gotten done. I have been in and out so much the past few weeks that I don’t seem to get much done. We manage to mess up the house in the time we are home, though, and I have laundry, ironing, and dishes piling up. Sigh. I feel that I’ll never get things under control. Sometimes I will set a timer for a half hour or hour and try to put away, dust, vacuum, etc. Perhaps I can pretend I am moving and use that as motivation. As if having a decent-looking house isn’t enough motivation . . . .

      • Donna B – well cats are the rulers and we are their minions.

        I subscribed to Fly Lady to get into better housework routines earlier this year. I don’t follow them faithfully and I opted for the ‘lite’ subscription so there was only one a day. She does market her goods a lot, but its like having a kindly aunt giving you a nudge in the right direction with housework. Some of her routines have seeped in, others are still getting there.

        And each month is a new challenge: this month is laundry challenge. And she recommends 15 mins.

        • Moni,

          I got into a good swing with Fly Lady in the winter/spring (have the book and listened to the old podcasts), but my day has become so disjointed. My daughter spends a lot of time at her gymnastics place (sometimes four hours a day broken into two sessions), and it’s not really close enough to go home, and my son and his friends often need rides here or there. Plus my mom has been quite ill and I have been taking a couple of days a week to go where she is. I also do contract work that needs squeezed in.

          But still . . . people are much busier than I am and have a tidy house. I am becoming the queen of excuses. At least I know I am making excuses. At the moment, when I’m home I end up looking for something more interesting to do than domestic chores. I need to knuckle down. Perhaps when school starts next week, I’ll be more disciplined. I think I’ve been in summer mode with my kids, I think.

          Which FL routines have worked best for you? I usually don’t go to bed with an empty, shining sink, but it is a lovely thing to wake up to when I pull it off.

          • Donna B – I have two daughters who are serious dance students both 5-6 days a week and both in different classes, so I do really understand your situation.

            Technically we have three teenagers. But there seems to be an extra two at the moment. And I’ve gotta say that having the house decluttered really makes it easier. But yes the housework is relentless.

            I’m working on her suggestion of folding a load of washing before I put the next load in the dryer. I have a tendancy to let it pile up on the basis that I’ll do it later when I’m watching TV, but by time I get to sit down…….I really don’t feel like doing more work.

            Kitchen – too many people coming and going at all hours. I will have a beautiful tidy home when they all leave home and I’m bored silly. To be honest, I think the dishwasher holds up a lot as no one wants to empty it and dishes that accumulate during the evening have nowhere to go, but I’m not volunteering to give it up either. Plus we recently got an induction cooktop (its amazing) and so my husband wants to cook everything on the stove top rather than the microwave so its pots everywhere. I am seriously considering making a “Kitchen Closed” sign so once its cleaned up, it stays cleaned up.

            My husband had to take over the housework and taxi-ing daughters when I had my wisdom teeth out and the highlight was him standing there looking flustered saying I couldn’t expect him to do ALL the housework and ALL the running around. Apparently it was a lot to juggle. Really? Who would have thought!

            I’ve got a few other ideas, but I guess they all have to be trialled. What ideas have worked for you? I have friends who make their teens do their own laundry but I’m not keen on laundry sitting around for a week and I don’t want whites going thru with darks or coloured clothing etc.

            If you want to swap further ideas, e-mail Colleen for my e-address.

  5. I can only imagine your friend’s relief at having your help. And it was good that she was able to make so many decisions and not get stuck in old patterns. Yay for both of you!

  6. Moni,

    I had some success with a Fly Lady’s establishment of a morning routine (make lunches, kids to school, do dishes, start laundry–all while wearing shoes, of course!) and an hour of zone cleaning (during which time I’d declutter, too). This kept things in decent shape but not great. However, stuff and chores piled up elsewhere. I’m guilty of starting something and then when interrupted, which happens a lot, not returning to what I was doing. I’ve been less successful at evening routines. Our evenings are all over the place because of the kids’ activities. I tell myself that a good evening routine will help me in the morning, so sometimes I make things easier for tomorrow’s me, but not frequently.

    I did get a burst of energy last night when my son asked, at the minute, if a friend could sleep over. I had been dawdling, but I got the kitchen cleaned up (had various produce, etc., out because I was going to make ratatouille and other dishes for the week and never got to them because of my mom), vacuumed the living room, tidied up the back porch a bit, and changed the dining room tablecloth. Yes, it was bad enough I needed to straighten up for a teenager!

    • Oops. Make that 15 (or 30) minutes of zone cleaning (and decluttering), but other cleaning as well, so probably an hour, plus the “weekly home blessing” which sometimes was done more than weekly.

      • Donna B – I wish there was a forum like this at Fly Lady, so readers could discuss their particular routine issues and hear how others circumnavigate similar problems. Or if there is such a forum, can you point me in the right direction?

        Mine is the kitchen constantly being used and not tidied afterwards. I’d like to make a sign that says “Kitchen Closed”.

    • Donna B – I can actually understand about tidying up for a visiting teenager. And I do understand about disrupted evening routines. It is hard work supporting athletic kids. When they get home from the studio, generally they need to hit their homework while eating dinner. Generally I don’t ask too much of them at this end of the evening but I do envy ‘normal’ families who can have a family dinner, a shortened evening routine and then down time.

      I do find that I don’t fully utilise the time when we get home after school/work, we tend to have some ‘down time’ though I usually try to put a couple of loads thru at this time. I used to wait for the girl’s gear and the guys work clothes, but then I’d be up late loading stuff into the dryer, so now I launder earlier and if there is stuff in the hamper later in, too bad.

  7. Yes, Colleen, you have certainly proved to be a true friend in helping yours declutter & move. I had to laugh when Moni talked about the “normal” families, etc. Probably everyone thinks everyone else’s life runs smoother than theirs and that they keep house better than they do. Just another urban myth. I think everyone especially those with teenagers just muddles through as best they can. And if that is all we can do, that is enough. So rest when you get a chance. Perfection can wait. When have you ever seen a obituary or a tombstone that said So and So was a perfect housekeeper? My best trick is to bribe myself–you can go put your feet up right after you wash the lunch dishes, etc. Since it only takes about 5 minutes, and I am always glad later that I did the dishes, that usually works. Also it helps to break jobs up into smaller pieces–maybe dust, then read the e-mail. Maybe this is the old carrot, stick thing, lol. I always felt Fly Lady kept house a lot better than I had the time or ambition to do, so I guess she made me feel lazy. I would read her blog occasionally, but never signed up for her e-mails.