I come across as a pretty organized person; in many ways I am, in fact, quite organized. I stay reasonably up-to-date on my email correspondence and purge my inbox every week or two. My computer files are in decent working shape. My calendar is under control. I keep photos current within three months. I spearhead things like playgroup and Bible study and send out weekly reminders to the participant list. Thus I present the aura of being fairly organized. In fact, I’d say that I even lead myself to believe that I’m pretty orderly. And because I’m a productive person and fast-moving, my administrative shortcomings are not immediately obvious.
But the truth of the matter, I’ve been realizing in the past year or two, is that I’m organized with things I care about… but far from organized about things that aren’t of high personal importance to me. Homemaking efforts, closet orderliness, kitchen maintenance and the like have not traditionally ranked high on my priority list. My attempts starting eighteen months ago to adopt homeward diligence have begun moving me toward change.
A few months ago a friend lent me a book she’d found useful called The New Messies Manual: the Procrastinator’s Guide to Good Housekeeping by Sandra Felton. I wouldn’t have called myself a procrastinator before reading the book, but lo and behold, I see that in the home-making arena, I am one. I’m a “messie” – a moderate one, but a messie nonetheless. And when it comes to staying on top of household clutter, I can definitely procrastinate with the best of them. Through the book I’ve learned a lot about myself and some of my at-home tendencies.
Chapter 13 called “Simplify, Sort, and Store: the Heart of Organizing” really spoke to me. The author’s advice and suggestions are so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to have found them as helpful I have, but there it is. She has five steps I’ve been implementing for the past few months – I’m sure my nesting instincts now that I’m entering my third trimester are helping – and I’m loving the fruit they’re beginning to produce of orderly spaces and better flow in the home. I really can help my family members have a saner and less frenetic home experience by putting effort into these things!
1. Have enough storage places. [Felton gives an example of people who have books all over the place and don’t realize they lack sufficient bookshelves. We were those people. Ditto with coat hooks for kids’ jackets. I also love that she explicitly states: “Don’t say that you can’t afford to buy storage equipment. Disorganized people resist buying to meet their storage needs and yet spend freely on less crucial items. Maybe this is your situation. I know it was mine until I realigned my priorities and put clutter control at the top of my list.” She called me out on this, and it really helped!]
2. Keep stored items visible. [She suggests clear plastic shoe boxes so you can see what you’ve stored. I’ve bought probably 20 of these in the past six months and I’m addicted.]
3. “Containerize” your belongings. [Felton describes containers as boundaries for your belongings; I love this descriptor.]
4. Label what you store. [I’m turning into a freak with my label-maker. Without a label I find there’s insufficient accountability for me to keep things where they go and put them back in the right places. These phrases stick out as true about me: “Relying on memory (to locate your items) is ineffective and stressful;” and “Let’s face it. You don’t see well-organized people with labels all over their houses, do you? No, because they don’t need them. Messies do.”]
5. Store in proximity to use.
There are a zillion home organization and cleaning websites out there that can support and buttress these efforts too of course. The “I’m an organizing junkie” blog is one I like.