One Readers Story from Chaos to Control

Reader Story - Melissa Morris -v2

Melissa Morris shared this post in the Get Organized Today Facebook Group. It resonated with so many people that I asked for her permission to share it again and she graciously agreed.

What I hope you’ll really take to heart from her story is how gradual changes made a huge difference over time. What was once a chaotic environment is now in control, which is definitely a more proper reflection of the great family living in the home.

Sometimes it can be hard to try something when there isn’t an instant change, but look what happens when you do!


Hi. I’m Melissa (hi Melissa).

I’ve been reading so many posts about folks starting the Declutter Challenge for the 1st time, people who are nervous to get started, who don’t know how to start, people who are excited to get started. 

I wanted to share my story and to say that the Declutter Challenges are a journey.

In 2014 I was on Pinterest looking for a way to get the stink out of my wood cutting board and I came across a post on “how to clean a butcher block table.”

It was Mary’s website. Her declutter challenge was right at the top of the blog because it had started the week before. It was in the fall then. I was starting my first full-time job at the beginning of December (I’m a pastor, the interview process is SLOW). I had a 4yo who was recovering from getting a fingertip caught in a door at the beginning of October. I had to spend my mornings in preschool with him making sure no one stepped on his heavily bandaged hand and the evenings rebandaging that hand while my husband held him down or distracted him. So the house was neglected.

But this seemed doable. 1 room a week? I can handle that. I don’t have that many rooms. One zone per day? I can handle that! 

So I started. Everyone else was a week “ahead,” but I didn’t try to catch up. I just posted my pictures and my progress of where I was. 

I did the cabinets on cabinet day, the drawers on drawer day. Sometimes I took the time to reorganize, sometimes not. More things had a place than they did before. I donated my Corningware casserole dishes that I never use and moved my crock pot up from the basement and into a kitchen cabinet and now I use it once a week.

I told myself I deserve shirts without grease stains and got rid of 3/4’s of my shirts. And now I can see all my clothes AND shut my dresser drawers 2.5 years later.

On Mary’s advice, I removed ALL KID STUFF from my master bedroom, including pictures, and that room has needed no more than a 5-minute pick up ever since.

Master Bedroom BEFORE

reader story - bedroom dresser before

Master Bedroom AFTER

reader story - bedroom dresser after

Master Bedroom BEFORE

reader story - bedroom corner before

Master Bedroom AFTER

reader story - bedroom corner after

I took a Saturday during kitchen week and cut out pasta and cereal boxes to fit my junk drawer, stuck them down with adhesive Velcro dots, and have not had a “junk drawer” where pens and paper clips and rubber bands float around in 2.5 years. I know where my glasses repair kit is!!!

But I burned out by the time we got to the rooms at the end.

Year 2 was easier because all I had to was maintain the previous areas and could focus on the areas I didn’t get to – craft room, spare room. I decluttered those areas to the point where everything had a space.

Then I got pregnant and Year 3 was spent decluttering with the goal of making room for the influx of baby stuff coming our way and clearing the spare room for a nursery. Different sex, born at a different time of year, 6 year age difference so much stuff had to go or be replaced. That was the year the toys finally got decluttered and organized because we were going to have a little sister who could choke and break things (all about finding his motivation).

HERE’S the IMPORTANT PART – with each year there has been less stuff to move around from pile to pile, so with each year I’ve been able to implement another piece of Mary’s system. Not all of it at once, but 1-2 things each year.  

  • Year 1 – meal planning 
  • Year 2 – taming the laundry monster (1 load a day instead of an all out laundry day)
  • Year 3 – 1 cleaning task a day, floors, dusting, etc. -still trying to figure this one out when life gets in the way.

All of that has made “loving my home” projects possible. I’ve changed out the decor in my kitchen after 10 years and handled tough corners we haven’t been able to figure out what to do with in a decade. I have a chalkboard wall command center!! For Christmas we redid my son’s room so that it’s all cohesive and efficient, Lego spaceships hanging from the ceiling and not on every surface.

This year, my husband is going to start working from home. So the goal (along with the maintenance decluttering), is “that room.” The fourth bedroom that’s barely bigger than a closet, that has been the dumping ground for his stuff for 10 years (ok, and my craft projects that are waiting to get done), that I refuse to dust or vacuum because I am not touching 80 bobblehead dolls and commemorative cereal boxes. 

I told him while hanging lego projects in our son’s room that the Declutter challenge was coming up. He said on his own “that will be perfect for handling my room! We can get rid of that old stereo cabinet! And I can go through my ‘collection’ [of bobble-heads and cereal boxes] and get rid of the junky stuff and just keep the things I love!” 

Kitchen BEFORE

reader story - kitchen before

Kitchen AFTER

reader story - kitchen after

It took me 30 minutes to clean out my kitchen pantry yesterday because everything in there deserves to be in prime real estate.  That’s the feeling.

So in short: it takes years to get to the Pinterest stuff. It takes years to build new habits. It starts with small steps and hanging around this group for YEARS.”


I’m so grateful to Melissa for sharing her decluttering journey with us. She doesn’t just tell her story, she teaches us with her story.

Wherever you’re at, it’s never too late to start – or even start again.

If you’ve had success with my 91 Day Decluttering Challenge (whatever that looks like to you), I want to hear about it! Email me at mary(at)maryorganizes(dot)com.


Happy Decluttering!



It’s always the right time to join the challenge!


16 thoughts on “One Readers Story from Chaos to Control

  1. I agree so much! Last year was my first year, and already I see that I really don’t have to do much to those areas that I was successful at decluttering last year. I am not able to work on those areas that were not tackled last year. This is a process and I am giving myself five years to get my house back. It took over 30 years to get it this way. I think that is a fair trade.

  2. Great Article!!! Very inspiring and helpful. Would it be possible for her to show some pictures of how they displayed legos? We love legos but we have them EVERYWHERE. Would love the inspiration.

  3. Melissa is such an inspiration to everyone in the group. Anyone who is reading this and wondering “should I?” come on board, jump in. The reception is warm and friendly, non judgemental and understanding. Together we can do this xx

  4. This is a great testimonial! Thanks for sharing, Melissa. I think this is my 3rd year of trying to do Mary’s challenges. I bought new kitchen towels for the first time in about 14 years last week!!! I cleaned the window above my kitchen sink for the first time in about 2 years (I am very short, and it’s hard to get up there), and I am dreaming of better ways to make my sewing room and work desk more efficient (and nicer to look at)! Mary is an inspiration, and so are you, Melissa!

    1. Way to go, Paula!!! I am so glad you are really feeling the progress you’ve made and are starting to really create the home you want. Just keep going!

  5. That was awesome! I think I got too excited and tried to do absolutely everything the Mary way all at once but got burnt out. I like how she added only one or a little more new routines each year. I am going to declutter again and tackle one or two routines at a time and not try to do it ALL right away. Great article Mary! Thanks for that post!

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