Participants in organizing class gradually shedding their untidy ways


METHUEN — The final meeting of Northern Essex Community College’s noncredit organization course had arrived.

The moment of truth was at hand.

“Before and After — Simple Organization Makeover” was a four-week workshop taught by professional organizer Susan Walko.

Did the participants shed their disheveled ways, or were they destined to continue down their slovenly path?

Judging by the before-and-after photos shown by the four women who took the class, it seemed their experience was a success.

Lolita Demers of Methuen spent the last four weeks organizing her studio space, where she works on her pottery. She was proud to show off the results.

“I’m happy with it,” Demers said. “As I keep working, I’ll probably keep adjusting.” Demers said she not only got rid of many unnecessary items she had accumulated over the years, she also regulated the flow supplies into the studio.

Methuen resident Rachel Corneau was also successful in her project. She removed all the papers from her bedroom, as was evident in the pictures of her now roomy space.

Corneau was also successful in creating an A-to-Z file to help herself organize her papers. However, Corneau did admit she needed to remove a small pile of clutter before taking the photo.

Walko reminded Corneau to make her daily to-do lists to help prevent the new piles from becoming an issue. “Start with an in-box,” Walko said. “Figure out where each item goes, or when it has to be done; add it to the to-do list and then file it.”

The workshop featured Walko’s “Simple” plan: Slow down, intimacy, putting myself first, living in the present, lighten your load and attain equilibrium.

“When we slow down, we start remembering who we are and what’s important,” Walko said. “We have to slow down in order for this to work.”

Walko explained becoming intimate with your belongings is an important part of being organized because “you can’t organize it if you don’t know you what you have.”

While each of the steps is important, lightening the load seemed to stick out with all of the students.

Walko explained that step goes with everyday life, not just the projects each of the women was working on. “The best example I can give is grocery shopping,” Walko said. “Look at what you already have and what you need, throw away anything you don’t need or won’t use. Then you will have space for the new items you buy.”

Walko explained attaining equilibrium means planning. “Every day once a day, once a week every week, once a month every month and once a year every year,” Walko said. “Set yourself into a routine to get things done.”

Things such as eating supper, going grocery shopping, mowing the lawn and even having a yearly physical are things that should be on the list.

“But don’t be so strict that you’re not having fun,” Walko added. “Schedule times of pampering as well, days to go out and have fun.”

Linda Darrah of Tewksbury and her daughter Caitlin, who decided to double-team the family library, had some success. But Linda said getting her husband on board with the program was a challenge in itself. “My guess is the more you do it, the easier it gets,” Darrah said.

Walko ended the class by saying the group needs to come up with one system and stick to it. “You can’t use half paper and half computer,” Walko said. “Either hand-write your lists or put them on the computer; don’t use both.

“You also have to live with your decisions and choices. Don’t agonize over it and don’t be wishy-washy. Really think it through and stick to it.”

Walko suggested to the class that they use pencil with any lists they may write. “The reason we use pencil is because life is full of mistakes and we need to erase.”

For more organizing information, visit or e-mail Walko at