Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Organizing 101

A couple weeks ago, I had a hilarious text message exchange with my mom that was along the lines of, "Help me, I can't get organized. How did you learn?" And yes, it's true we lost a puppy under a pile of laundry. And yes, my brother's pet snake escaped and we found it a year later, still alive, in his disastrous closet.

But it might surprise you to learn I was not organized either. I cringe now, but I definitely slept on a pile of dirty laundry in my college dorm room more than once.

It wasn't until I moved into my own tiny, closet-less apartment after college that I had to acknowledge my mess; there's no one else to blame, or clean up for that matter, when you live alone. As our family grew and we moved more times than I can count, being organized became a necessity. Here are my tried-and-true tips for every justification under the sun (and trust me, I've used them all):

"I need this shirt/kitchen gadget/book/picture frame/etc." No, actually you don't. Don't dilute the things you love with more things. I have a great pair of dark wash skinny jeans that I reach for often. It goes without saying that there is no reason to buy a second pair of a similar style because I'll always choose my favorite. Yet we're all guilty of buying multiples of things we already own (I'm talking to you, striped shirts). My second rule of thumb (to a minimalist closet) is if it doesn't coordinate with at least two items I already own, I skip it. Don't buy things that require buying more things!

In other areas of your home, don't buy single purpose items like an egg slicer or popsicle molds. Are those fun and convenient? Sure. But ultimately you have to store all those things. I like mixing bowls that double as tupperware or work as serving dishes. I'll pay a little extra for the bike trailer that doubles as a jogging stroller rather than purchase two separate items down the line. And borrow from a friend if you only need to use something once or twice. Be realistic about how much storage space you have and limit your belongings accordingly. Organization is just easier when you have less things.

"It is a gift/sentimental." As we age, we get sentimental about our things, often keeping them long after they've served their purpose. Is there another way to honor the memory? I have my grandmother's cookbook. Rather than keep the book, I plan to frame and display one recipe I remember her making as a child and pass the book on. And with the exception of a couple pieces per year, I don't save my children's artwork. Instead, I take pictures of all their work, recycle the originals, and make a small book that we page through often. I love honoring a memory in ways that are accessible or visible daily. Don't be tempted to keep things because you have been keeping them; only keep those things that bring you immense happiness.

"I don't have time." Do you know what takes time? Running around trying to find car keys when you're supposed to be somewhere. We've all been there! So put those keys back in your purse as soon as you walk in the door, put the spoons in their place in the drawer, open mail as soon as you bring it in, wash all the fruits and vegetables before you put them in the refrigerator. And be efficient with your time. Don't walk upstairs empty-handed if you can take that toy/folded laundry/hair bow with you. Do it now to save yourself time later.

"I don't know where to start." Do you have a closet that empties every time you open the door? Start there. Do you have an overflowing tupperware drawer? Start there. The point is, start somewhere. Organize the closet and buy bins to store like supplies if needed. Throw away tupperware without lids. Start with a single area that irritates you daily and I dare you not to want to keep going.

"I don't have a place for this vase/kitchen utensil/bill/etc." Every single item must have a home - the remote control, extra blankets, toys (so many toys). Get bins or vacuum bags or a label maker or whatever you need to do to create a clear place for your things. Every time you're done using said item, put it back in it's home. It's equally important to teach other members of your household to do the same. It may be your job to establish the "home" and the process, but one person can't be responsible for keeping the entire family's things organized. Organization is a team effort.

"How often do I need to do this?" If you're following the above tips, you're doing a little every day. If items are finding their way "home" after being used, a complete clean-out is rarely necessary. But every season, I have to go through closets. I used to get overwhelmed with the idea because I thought I needed to sell items or find appropriate homes for them. So much so, I would avoid doing it altogether. Cleaning closets is hard enough, so at this stage of my life, it's okay to throw things away (and let's be honest, most of those kid clothes are stained anyway) or donate those that can be reused. There's no need to overcomplicate things.

Do you consider yourself organized? Add your tips or tricks below!

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