Mom’s Boxes Part 6: Sometimes Organizers Need Help Too!

You didn’t think I was finished with Mom’s Boxes, did you? Ha ha ha! Noooo! In fact, I haven’t done a thing on this project since my brother left in December to spend a year in Japan.

These are a few of the resulting categories: Cassette tapes, Mini photo albums, Grandma & Grandpa’s letters, Ephemera to sell?, Sketch books, Grandpa 1920’s, Negatives, 60’s & 70’s photos.

Sometimes organizers need help too! #MomsBoxes #NAPO #APPO Click To Tweet

So, what was the problem?

Last year, between Mother’s Day (May 14) and Mom’s Birthday (October 10), we took our time opening all 33 moving boxes in his backyard shed. We dusted them off, sorted, purged, and combined their contents into somewhat smaller, new storage boxes with lids. We put a few of them back in the shed for long-term storage, and the rest migrated over to my house. And there they sit. To be fair, this was the same year that something completely unexpected resurfaced in my life. You know the saying: Life is what happens when you’re making other plans!

Meanwhile, my garage (which I remodeled years ago as guest quarters and storage) was not only full of Mom’s Boxes, but getting more cluttered by the month with Christmas decorations, shipping boxes, clothing donations, you name it. Even if I wanted to work on the photos and other memorabilia there was no space to do it!

Sometimes organizers need help too!

I knew what needed to be done, of course. I am a professional after all! But…well…(and where have I heard this before?)…I wasn’t getting around to it on my own. So, I accepted the offer of a friend and NAPO colleague to come help me out. I’ll be returning the favor soon by helping her organize her home office. We’ve done this before, back when we, and a couple of our other local colleagues, got certified in Home Staging and Interior Redesign. We took turns being the client, to the point of leaving while the others redesigned a room in our home, returning later for the big reveal. It was an eye-opening experience to be the client, and also really fun.

When Leigh Ann Hensel showed up at my house I asked her to treat me like she would treat any of her clients. She wasn’t sure if that’s what I’d want, or if I’d have a plan in mind and she would just help.

As it turned out…

  • We had lots of fun working together, and got lots done!
  • Leigh Ann was the perfect organizer for me. But then, I already knew and liked her personality and style from being friends and working with her on group organizing projects.
  • We agreed I was the best client ever in terms of being agreeable and getting rid of almost everything she suggested I might not need anymore. (There were only a few things I hadn’t already considered parting with.)
  • Before the week was over I had loaded up all the donations into my car and taken them to Goodwill like I promised I would.
  • I broke down all the empty boxes and loaded up my recycle bin twice, over the next two weeks.
  • I still haven’t worked on Mom’s Boxes but now there’s room when I’m ready.

Of course, I took before and after photos!

(If the spacing seems weird on your reading device, just keep scrolling!)

Murphy Bed BEFORE: It had been months since my last houseguest.


Murphy Bed Mid-Project








Murphy Bed AFTER

Storage Wall BEFORE: The white boxes are the ones Mom’s stuff is ending up in.


Storage Wall AFTER: Back to normal.








Pile of empty boxes BEFORE


Pile of boxes AFTER:
Oh, look! It’s a treadmill!


Desk BEFORE: Ugh!








Desk AFTER: Ah, that’s better! Now there’s actual room to work on projects like scanning photo albums.



Storage area BEFORE:  That’s a real garage door that opens and, even though it turned out I love parking in my carport, I really do need to go in and out this way sometimes. Talk about claustrophobic!


Storage area AFTER: I got rid of a lot of organizing supplies I’d kept (and where have I heard this before?) — just in case a client needed them — but had never ended up using, to make room for the brown boxes to sit on shelves, and not on the ground.


Car full of donations on their way to Goodwill. Except for the bucket marked Cleaning Supplies. I forgot they don’t take cleaning supplies.






















See those folding chairs lined up on the left? There are 4 brown ones in front of 2 blue ones. I had the brown ones in another room which was feeling crowded as a result. Leigh Ann saw the blue ones (which I had put there myself) and suggested, “Um….why don’t we put the brown ones there too?” Duh! (Picture me smacking my head like I could have had a V-8.) How did I not think of that myself? We had a good laugh over that one!




























What needs organizing at your house? Please share in the comments below!

Do you need help? Call me, or a friend, or a NAPO or APPO or PONM organizer near you! (I know I’m not the only organizer who has needed help, because I’ve been hired by more than a few of them over the years!)


Mom’s Boxes Part 1: The shed

Mom’s Boxes Part 2: Panning for gold

Mom’s Boxes Part 3: Trip down memory lane

Mom’s Boxes Part 4: Grandma’s Lawn Chairs

Mom’s Boxes Part 5: The Old Man of the Mountains

Mom’s Boxes Part 6: Sometimes Organizers Need Help Too!

Future Mom’s Boxes episodes: The Gangster Hideout, Saving the Photos, Sharing the Photos, ???

Copyright 2018 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. Janet Barclay on August 7, 2018 at 4:31 am

    Great story and great photos of a great organizing project! Please remember me to Leigh Ann when you see her again.

    • Hazel Thornton on August 7, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks, Janet, I will!

  2. Linda Samuels on August 8, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Hazel- I love your story, sense of humor, and photos! Kudos to you for such incredible progress and for reaching out for help. I’ve had the opportunity to hire an organizer a few times, including when I was working on my mom’s stuff. It was wonderful being the client and getting help, as you also experienced. Wishing you all the best as you continue on the mom boxes. You’ll get there.

    • Hazel Thornton on August 16, 2018 at 11:17 am

      Thanks, Linda!

      • Jane Severance on October 20, 2023 at 9:15 am

        Reread this. i am always encouraged when you struggle and conquer

        • Hazel Thornton on October 23, 2023 at 10:45 am

          I struggle and conquer Every. Single. Day. I just don’t write about it every day!

    • Hazel Thornton on August 27, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks for your vote of confidence, Linda!

  3. CW on May 15, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    Oh my…I happened on this after looking at the current blog post that was featured on MyOrganized.Life in May 2020!
    My mother passed in 2001…I inherited all the stuff including boxes of pictures. That summer my dad, 2 siblings and I did go through a few boxes at a grandkids HS graduation but nothing since then. I was in an apartment and had no room to look at things. Then my dad passed in 2013 and I bought a house so I have room and feel overwhelmed! My brother doesn’t really care, my sister lives over 8 hours away plus I feel like who would I pass this stuff on to? Neither my brother or I have kids, my sister doesn’t seem interested thus her adult children don’t either. Why bother? But then I remember something and think of the memories and wonder maybe others would like them if they were sorted. But then I think why do I have to do all the work and they get to just enjoy it without the work? Guilt, frustration, want to do something but overwhelmed…an endless cycle

    • Hazel Thornton on May 18, 2020 at 7:04 am

      Yes, it really can be an endless, and vicious, cycle! Your options as I see them are: 1) Continue running on the endless emotional treadwheel; 2) Stop thinking of it as work that you are being forced to do for the benefit of others, and do it for yourself. Or, 3) Decide that this project is not a priority for you and put it (both figuratively and literally) on the back-burner/no-guilt list. If you decide to tackle this project, start by getting rid of as much as you can (not all inherited items are equally important, really they aren’t), to make the task of categorizing, telling stories, and deciding what to do with the rest easier. Contact me if you’d like some help, and keep an eye out for a future blog post on what to do if no one else seems interested in your family history.

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