Guest Blog Part 1: Organization

Guest Blogger: Carly
I have been trying to get Carly to start her own blog for years.  She is inviting, humble and full of great ideas.  She’ll be sharing a three-part series on organization over the next couple of weeks!

Hi readers! It’s 2107. You just got a bunch of new stuff. You just got your Christmas decorations put away*. You are ready for a fresh start and ready to put some fresh systems in place. I’m here to help. And I really mean that: if anything you read here is not helpful to you, forget about that unhelpful part and move on! I am not writing to you as a professional, I’m writing as a {virtual} friend who wants to enable you to make your life run better for YOU.

*If you haven’t done that yet, stop and do it before you jump into general-house-organizing-mode please.

GETTING STARTED
Why do you want to organize? Check your heart and trust mine.

This will mostly be a helpful, practical, idea-sharing series. But first there is a moment of self-reflection required: Why do you want to get organized? There is a full spectrum of personality out there. I find personality to be one of God’s greatest displays of His creativity. This connects to organization by ranging from the “everything is in a labeled bin and my closet is color coordinated” personality to the “there are clothes I haven’t worn in months because they’re buried under a million other things in my closet and I forgot I even own them” personality. Wherever you land naturally on this spectrum, none of the personalities are better than others. I really mean it. I know disorganized people who are peaceful and happy and free. I also know disorganized people who are frustrated and continually grumpy because of the chaos they live in. On the other hand there are organized people who are relaxed and happy and peaceful, and others who are controlling and uptight. If your efforts to get organized make you grumpy with other people or fire up your inner self-critic, get off this train right now. Your sanity is not worth jeopardizing and negative self-talk is the enemy. Successful organization ends with increased sanity.  As you try out new ideas, make sure your heart is in a good place. That place where you are ready to try something new because you recognize that they way you are currently organizing things is not working.

I also hope that you can trust my kindness. I recently helped a friend move & downsize dramatically. A couple months after the move she told me, “Sometimes when you were helping me purge my stuff I felt like you were being mean to me. I knew you weren’t being mean, and I told myself that you loved me. And you were really helpful. But for some reason it felt a little bit like mean.” I had no idea that she would interpret my help that way and I was so thankful that she trusted my love for her through it. I wish I could come to each of your houses and make you laugh and help in a more personal way. But we are in a blog relationship, so we have to make a deal: trust my helpful heart and I will trust your ability to receive all this info in a healthy way.

Okay enough with the brain gymnastics and the blender of feelings. Here are the practical (happy!) things organization can do for you:

-Find stuff quickly in the moment you need it
-Stop wasting time searching for things 
-Stop losing stuff you paid for and re-buying things you’ve lost
-Enjoy the beauty of your home without being constantly annoyed by clutter & messes
-Teach your kids some good habits for the future when they are roommates & spouses
-Run your kids’ lives more efficiently and calmly (morning routines, gathering sports equipment, etc)

Part 1 will be the general rules of organization. In Part 2 I will coach you through the process of purging if you have too much stuff. Then in Part 3 I will share some ideas and systems I have around my own house to keep everything running smoothly. I know that most people will love Post 3 the best. But these posts are in order for a reason – if you can say that you are abiding (enough) by the “Laws of Organization” and you only have stuff in your house that you use and/or love, then you will be ready for the fun part. Here we go!

PART 1 
 
Organizational Law #1
A place for everything…
This is the first half of a very popular organizational phrase. It’s popular because it works. Everything, yes every single thing, in your house should have a home. And only one home. If I were helping you clean up I would start by walking around and picking up anything on the counters or on the ground that are out of place. I should be able to ask, “Where does this go?” and you should only have ONE home for each item. So if I say, “Where do the scissors go?” You should not say, “In that drawer or over in the desk area or you could also put them on in that other room…” NO. Only one official home. You don’t need a junk drawer where you throw homeless items. Or a stack of papers that you are going to “go through later”. You need to declare a home for those homeless items and make a filing spot for those papers. Homeless items end up tossed aside and cluttering your space simply because you never declared an official home. (By the way, unless its an appliance or decorative item, the counter is NOT a home. Counters are for food prep and homework and the fruit bowl and working on temporary projects. Counters are neutral workspace, NOT a home.)
On this same note, when you buy or receive anything new, you should be giving it a home as soon as it enters your house. If you do not have a home for it, you should consider not keeping it (returning it, donating it, etc). If you want to keep it but do not have space for it, it’s time to remove something from your house that you no longer use/want to make room for the new thing.

Organizational Law #2 
…And everything in it’s place. 
(And please, make your kids do their part.)

This is the second half of that famous phrase. And in my observation, where about 80% of organizational failure happens. People, you need to put your stuff away when you are done with it. All the way away (in its previously declared home). It’s that simple. When you are done with a project, a meal, doing your makeup, you should not walk away from a pile of stuff sitting on the counter/table/desk/bed. After you get dressed: put your PJs in the drawer. After you make food: put the food items and cutting board and knife away. After your kids do their homework: they should put their pencils away and folders back in their backpacks. If your kid was playing with toys in the family room: have he or she put the toys away before going on to the next thing (nap, lunch, baseball practice, whatever). If you do this one thing, you will solve the trouble of all messiness, all clutter, and eliminate most chances of losing anything. It’s that simple.But if you don’t do it already it takes a fair amount of discipline to establish this as a habit.

One of the ways I see this part is ‘hitting the reset button’ on your house. There are stops during your day when you can choose to “reset”. You can reset before meals. You can reset before you leave the house. You can reset before bed.  Some people only need to reset once a day (leave the toys, the food mess, the homework stuff and just put it all away right before bed). People like me need to reset before sitting down and relaxing because the clutter feels chaotic and distracting. I often take 3-5 minutes to reset before I leave the house because I *love* coming home to a neat and beautiful house. It’s just like giving myself a little moment of happiness when I walk in the door. Only you can figure out how often you need to reset.

“But the children!!” you say. This is your job as a mother. You run this place. You are in charge. You set the tone. I hate to say this because I fear that you will be offended. I only mean it as an observation of people I have seen in action and my own personal experiences: If the tone is frantic and stressful and you leave the house (amidst your own yelling voice and your kids scurrying in a panic and without the things they need for the day or the next activity) it is because of your lack of organization. Stop everything 10 minutes before it’s time to leave and have EVERYONE reset. Not 1 minute before. Don’t lose track of time on your phone or FB or talking to a friend and then get mad at the kids because they aren’t ready.  They are kids, they need you to guide them through it (and hopefully not in anger). They need to learn, and you need to show them. You need to remind them to put the old thing away before they get out a new thing. As I am typing this my 2 youngest kids just ran over and asked to play video games. My response was, “put that puzzle and those cars you were just playing with away first and then you are good to play video games.” They ran off happily and did it quickly because they were pumped about the video game. I glanced over and made sure they did it before I heard the TV turn on. No hot emotions, just an understanding of responsibility.

(“My husband!!” you say. This is trickier with husbands than with children, because husbands are adults and you are not the boss of them 😉 That is a whole separate blog post regarding teamwork and common goals. But if everyone but the hubs is pulling their weight, I am going to guess that you will still feel successful with 4/5 of the stuff put away.)

Reset looks like is this: Walk around and put away anything that’s not in its place. If the messes are overwhelming and/or you need be extra efficient, start in one area and completely reset that area before moving on to the next area. If you are walking into another room to put something away and you see another mess – don’t panic or get distracted. Just head back to the area you are working on and keep your focus. Start with the areas that you spend time in the most, move towards the less important or less annoying areas last. Once this becomes a habit and often enough, it should only take about 5 minutes.

I don’t know why but with the kids I call this “Doing Jobs”. I tell all the kids, even kids who are just over for a playdate, “Time to stop what we are doing and Do Jobs. Follow me.” I walk around and hand a kid anything that’s out of place and tell them exactly where to put it. Then they are supposed to race back to me for their next job. I give extra high fives and accolades to the kids who are the fastest. You know they love to race. If I need extra happiness we put on music while we do it. I only takes 1-3 songs. And if everyone gets a piece of gum when we finish, why yes I will use that extra motivational power. The key here is that I don’t just say, “Clean up this counter!” I stand there and hand them the scissors and say ,”put these in that desk drawer. {Next kid} Put these socks in the laundry basket. {Next kid} Throw away these papers in the trash.” Everyone participates, and the reset gets done fast. I keep the mood happy and we are out the door or on to our next activity in just a few minutes.

The last note is this: I reset before true cleaning. So the dishes just get scraped and set in the sink during the reset. Once the clutter is gone, then I do actually cleaning like wiping counters or doing dishes or wiping down a bathroom. I am barefoot all the time, so resetting often means sweeping. But I do that after everything is in it’s home.

Okay Part 1 is done. If that all seems like common sense to you, great job. You are ready for Part 2. If all of that sounds overwhelming, try looking around and noting if you have a lot of homeless items lying on your neutral surfaces. Maybe try just just resetting once or twice a day and getting everyone involved. My husband read this and said, “I get stuck at giving things homes. So I just set stuff on my workbench because I’m not sure where to put it and eventually it’s a mountain of stuff that takes forever to clean.” I know this is true because he is awesome about picking up inside the house where I have already assigned the homes for everything. My daughter read this and said, “My stuff has homes but I just get lazy and don’t feel like putting things all the way away.” It’s good to know thyself. Not to make excuses for yourself, but to know yourself and then take steps to be at peace with yourself and the people who have to live with you 😉

Here is a picture of my daughter’s desk.

after

Neat piles that aren’t technically dirty… but check out how tiny that little bit of work space has become when it’s crowded by her piles!

before

The second picture is after I sat there sipping a glass of wine and simply picked up everything on her desk that isn’t decorative and asked her to put it in it’s home. I timed us and it took less than 10 minutes and we had some of our favorite songs on while she did it. Now she can actually use her work space and I am not a grumpy mom when I walk by her room. And we got to enjoy the sound of our stellar singing voices and occasional dance moves.

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