Ask a Clean Person: The Uncluttering

At the risk of utterly embarrassing myself by not adopting a more restrained or salty or hip posture, I’m going to say exactly what I’m feeling and thinking about today’s post, which is an update on how our friend with the impossibly messy room fared in her attempt to tackle the clean-up: you guys, I am so freaking excited about this reveal!!! If you could see me right now, you’d be all Why is that woman grinning? And are those tears? Is she crying? She seems crazy, let’s cross the street. But seriously I’m so overwhelmingly happy at what she’s accomplished, and so impressed by the commitment that she’s shown that I have actually teared up more than once during this writing. I’m also more touched than I can explain in mere words that she’s trusted me to take this journey with her. And sure, that may be a super hippie dippy thing to say, but it’s the truth of my reaction and I don’t care to hide it.

I’m also writing this from California so when I’m done here I’m gonna go, like, do some yoga and talk about my centering process.

You’ve all read her original correspondence, and also know that I asked her to send along photos of her room, with the understanding that they would be for my eyes only. To follow is what happened next. She is LW for Letter Writer and I am JCP for Jolie Cleanperson.

December 24

I think my days at Grey Gardens are limited.

LW: I’m including photos of the entire room (I’m warning you… it’s so bad!), my desk (dishes have since been removed!), dresser, teeny bookshelf and closet (it’s wide-ish with sliding doors and some overhead storage). I’m open to buying some new furniture if it’ll help me organize stuff and it’s not too expensive.

January 5

LW: This is exactly what I needed — something very specific with an actual timeline. I’m getting started this weekend. And yes to posting the photos on the site!

January 10

JCP: Checking in to see how you’re doing! Anything giving you major trouble??

LW: The only thing giving me trouble is my schedule. I just finished up a super-accelerated, week-long class, so I didn’t get as much cleaning done as I had hoped, but I did finish “Week One: Saturday,” and I’m starting “Week One: Sunday” tonight. Your suggestion to make the bed was the best ever. I haven’t even had a properly made bed with sheets since I lived in my other house, and it makes the room seem way less disgusting. The only other thing giving me trouble is the lack of working space. There’s just sooooooo much stuff on the floor. Planning was another good suggestion. And you were right to emphasize it because I tend to skip over things like that. So, overall just a little behind, but I’m making it work.

JCP: “Your suggestion to make the bed was the best ever.” You’ve just made my entire year.

I’m so glad it’s going well so far, and seriously don’t even worry about being “behind.” No such thing — work on your own schedule and pace, because we all have lives and that’s a good thing! Keep me posted and I’ll check in too — I think it will be interesting to compile some of your observations as you’re going along into the follow-up post, which is why I hollered, not because I’m nagging. You have a mom for that.

February 5

JCP: Wanted to check in to see how you’re doing (not nagging, I swear!) and to let you know that some of the commenters have been asking how you’re process is going, which is so cute — they’re really excited for you!

LW: I’m glad to hear that commenters have been asking about me! While things are DEFINITELY looking better — I’m able to walk through the room with ease, I wouldn’t be terribly embarrassed if I had a guest and I’ve found a lot of things I thought I had lost — there’s still a lot of organizing to do. I’ve realized that I have WAY too much clothing for my space, and I’m looking into creative ways to store it. Thanks so much for starting the organizer Pinterest. It’s given me a ton of ideas.

You would probably be happy to know that the cleaning I’ve been doing has spilled over into other areas of the house. I gave my bathroom a Jolie-style deep clean about a week ago, and it’s been amazing.

JCP: Ahhh I’m so psyched for you!

February 20


LW: Okay! I already had some plastic under-the-bed organizers, a plastic drawer set that I’m using for towels, linens and random items and a hangy shoe rack thing. I also have an over-the-door hanger that I’m using for sweaters and bras. Money is pretty tight for me right now what with buying textbooks and all, but I have some specific items that I’m planning to buy in the near future for organization purposes. I’ve determined that I need:

1. A small bookshelf because I have waaaaaay more books than I realized. Luckily my roommate has a bookshelf with some space that I’m using for now. I like this one from the pinboard.

2. A jewelry organizer for hanging earrings and necklaces. Again, way more earrings than I realized. I’m definitely going to make this pegboard.

3. A box for important papers that I need to keep within reach. Right now I’m using some file trays that are not very cute.

4. A bathroom organizer so that I can get all my toiletry items back where they belong.

5. A shoe organizer. The crown molding idea is super cute.

6. I love the wine rack towel holder. I’m doing it.

7. The IKEA Helmer drawer unit.

Some notes about the process:

Like I said before, making my bed was the best thing ever. I can’t believe that at one time, I didn’t even have sheets or pillowcases on my bed. Gross!

The biggest problem in my room was trash and random papers. I had to wait a week to put trash and recycling out because our bins literally wouldn’t hold any more. Even when I was just tidying up today, I filled them up again.

I got rid of a TON of clothes that didn’t fit, fit in a weird way or I’d had since high school.

After cleaning my room, I was surprised at how personality-less it looks. I guess I couldn’t ever decorate while it was so messy. It’s pretty much a blank canvas right now, so I’m excited to hang stuff on the walls and make it look cute.


Okay now do you see why I’ve gone loony with joy over this whole dealie??? Isn’t this the best???? Ahhhhhh!!!!

One of the things that’s just tickled me pink is the number of emails and comments I’ve seen in which people talk about how they’ve started making their beds! You guys! You know how sometimes you ask if I’m proud of you?? I’M SO PROUD OF YOU! But mostly I’m really psyched to hear things like, “It’s made my life so much better!” (And also “You were totally right!” Because I love it when you tell me that I’m right.) And I kind of got excited about this idea that I’ve been referring to in my head as The 30-Day Bed Making Challenge? And then gagging at how absolutely horrible that term is in a terrible women’s magazine cover line sort of way. So as not to use such a dreadful string of words out loud, I’m stealing from Janie and declaring this little project of mine Let’s All Make… Our Beds! Here’s the deal: for the month of March, I’ll tweet regularly about the joys of bed making because the fun never stops around here, rah rah fold boom bah! (My Twitter handle is @joliekerr btw. And we should have a hashtag for this thing! How about #LAMOB? That’s terrible actually. I dunno. I’ll work on it.) Think things like tips on sheet maintenance, links to bedlinens that are on sale or ridiculous in an extravagant way or totally outrageous in some shape or form, quotes about beds… the sky’s the limit really. (By the way, I just fell down laughing at myself for using the words “quotes about beds.”) How about a pinboard?! Sure, we have to have a pinboard. We are, after all, ‘Pinners!

I hope you guys will join in the fun and make your beds and change your lives and then maybe when we’re all done we’ll reward ourselves with silk pillowcases and talk about how great our skin looks!

Previously: The Post Valentine’s Day Clean-up.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you curious to know if she’s answered a question you have? Do check out the archives, listed by topic. More importantly: is anything you own dirty?

Photo by Media3d, via Shutterstock