The Bliss of Organization

Those of you who know me very well can attest to the fact that I am what might be referred to in politically-correct terms, “highly organizationally challenged”. Don’t get me wrong: I like organization alot. I just never really learned to do it well, and once done, I’ve never worked hard enough at maintaining what was begun. This makes life difficult in some respects, but especially more so as we acquire greater numbers of children, and with them, a plethora of toys, clothing, and books, etc of many sizes and shapes.

Perhaps I have come down with some sort of spring cleaning bug, but for whatever reason, the general clutter of things has gotten to me more of late. So, over the past week I have made some serious efforts at organizing certain areas of the house which are highly used and could benefit from some attention to detail. And I must say, the sense of accomplishment from this work has been monumental.

On Friday after I took apart and redid the pantry I proudly showed the results of my work to Jay (he, by the way, is in general a very well-organized person, thank you Lord,for this grace in my life!). He was immensely pleased, to say the least. And so was I. Subsequently, I redid my system for all of our tupperware and tackled a huge project: the kids’ craft cabinet. Sadly, this storage space had become so bad that things would often come flying out at you when you opened it to get the crayons, for instance. This area took the most time and thought but tonight I am happy to report that games, crayons, stickers, playdough, etc, are neatly stowed in lovely plastic containers of various sizes and shapes. And I feel like a new person!!

There are a few basics I have come away with as I worked on these little projects. For those of you who are highly organized, this will be elementary. For others like me perhaps they will shed new light on the whole concept of becoming organized. I will note that I didn’t take these points from a book or anything; they were the fruit of thinking and working through the process, so take them with a grain of salt, if you are even interested.

1. Be patient: take a little time to think about the space you are organizing and what your overall goal is as far as purpose served, etc. Do the various items all work toward that purpose? (Not that they need to, but it’s sometimes helpful for focus.)

2. Sometimes the first step in organization is to pare down the amount of things in one area. Often that will greatly help you as you work toward making sense of a cluttered space. I was trying to put placemats, candles and kids’ crafts all in the same cabinet area. Silly me. I found that just moving the placemats and candles to a small chest I relocated downstairs was a huge first step toward making the remaining space more useable.

3. Do not underestimate the value of a simple tool or product to make the space work. For example, I bought 2 very inexpensive ($2-$3) “helpers” at Target originally last week. A little shelf to double the amount of items I can fit on a pantry shelf, and a great can-stacker-organizer-thing so now all my canned goods can enjoy stadium seating. These two items gave me the incentive to redo my entire pantry. A good value for my dollar, eh?

4. Get advice from people you know who do organization well. Most likely, they have already thought through a lot of the pros and cons to various methods and ways of organizing say, your sock drawer. Draw upon their wisdom and knowledge. They are usually quite happy to offer help! In my case I have a husband who is good for bouncing ideas off of. He is also my most enthusiastic cheerleader…the man absolutely glows when I show him another space which has been given new life due to thoughtful organization. I have also placed numerous daily calls to Steph, my dear organized friend whom I must thank for ongoing input in this area.

5. This may sound like a reiteration of #2, but it’s really different, I think. In creating an organized system, do not make the mistake of being so efficient with your space that you cram so much stuff into it and thereby make it impossible to keep it organized. Even organization can be overdone and you want something that you can realistically maintain. This is also important if children will be using the space. Kids will do better with simplicity and being able to easily access their things and also being able to easily clean up after themselves.

6. I’m bad at this one, but, once you’ve completed the organization, make the effort in an ongoing fashion to regularly maintain the system. This is easier when done as you use the space rather than a periodic “cleanout”.

Well, that’s about all…if any of you have some other good tips to share, please jump in! I welcome input! Happy organizing, my friends!

7 Comments

  1. Erin
    Mar 12, 2003

    Tricia, you don’t know me, but my husband has your webpage marked because he reads Mark Horne’s articles and participates in the debates that are somewhere on this website.

    You could also make a list of trouble spots in your home that need organization. That is what I do. I used to be very messy. I didn’t make my bed at all when I grew-up, and I was never required to do anything in the way of housework. My mother’s idea of getting me to clean my room was to come with a trashbag threatening to throw things away. Needless to say, things have changed since I’ve been married, but making a list has always helped me get to those spots that need a little more attention.

    Secondly, if you start to get rid of things you don’t need that has its own reward. I always have a box of stuff to give away, and I relish the thought of one less thing to take-up space in my garage or home. Perhaps those things you “might” use, or those things that don’t really “fit” might be examples of things that can go.

    These things are two that have helped me keep things clean. I still have a long way to go. Our home needs a lot of work, and we have two children under two with another on the way, so time and energy are limited.

  2. jennifer
    Mar 13, 2003

    Good job Tricia. Although I generally think of you as very organized. I, as you know, am not. Though I work hard at it from time to time. Most of the tips you mention are worked out in a full-orbed system at flylady.net. I used it rather faithfully last summer, but I haven’t been back at it in a few months. However, if anyone is looking for a good “organization and cleaning resource” it is helpful. Warning: one can become obsessed using flylady methods, so remember to pace yourself.

  3. Tricia
    Mar 15, 2003

    Hi, I have been trying to make an effort to respond to any comments made on my blog b/c I think it is very nice when people take the time to post something. I love reading your comments!! Thanks! So, here goes:

    Erin, nice to “blog meet” you. You make two very good points about staying on top of troublesome areas and “purging”, as my hubbie, Jay likes to call it. One of his spare pasttimes is cleaning out closets!! We will never be able to have a garage sale around our house b/c he is so into getting rid of stuff we don’t use often!! I wish you the best with your third coming soon!!

    Jennifer, I visited Flylady…she’s quite the drill seargant!! I will enjoy reading tips and ideas on the site…it looks as though there is a wealth of information to sift through. Thank you for pointing it out to me! BTW, do you always wear shoes when cleaning house?? :) Personally I like the feel of the cool tile under my bare feet when I wash the floor!!

  4. jennifer
    Mar 16, 2003

    No. I do not wear shoes all the time while cleaning. However, when I was trying to be more flylady like, I did try to put shoes on first thing. It did seem to make me feel more “together,” thus making cleaning time more productive. The thing flylady helped me most with was getting rid of things more often. She is the queen of purging. I am not nearly as good at it as she would want, but I am a lot less reticent to hold onto things than I used to be because of my 6 months or so as a “flybaby.”

  5. Sandra Brunone
    Mar 24, 2003

    When all of you people run out of things to organize, feel free to come over and tackle my apartment. I was feeling really good about myself because I cleaned out the freezer on Thursday night (Tricia, you understand how this would seem like a milestone), but now I feel as if my efforts were a sad attempt compared to all of the organization you guys are implementing in your homes.

    Perhaps Stephanie and Jay would like to put together a series of motivational “how-to” programs that the rest of us could benefit from.

  6. Tricia
    Mar 27, 2003

    Sands, I just now saw this comment. As always, you make me laugh, so thank you for sharing your dry wit! Congrats to you on your work in the freezer. I commend you heartily and just know that mine could also benefit from some attention. It is yet another storage area where things might come flying out at you when you open the door. And let’s face it, an 8lb frozen mass of Boston Butt (that is the name of a roast, I am not being crass!) could seriously injure someone!

    Steph and Jay, I think Sandy has an incredible insight into a “cottage industry” just waiting for your organizational innovation!!

  7. Stephanie
    Mar 31, 2003

    Okay…I’m having trouble typing because I’m laughing too hard! Actually I am envisioning Tricia opening the freezer and valiantly trying to protect her sweet children frm the flying pork! Quite an amusing thought, I must say. Cottage Industry? Hmmm….. Maybe in about…say…20 years? :-)