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.
A place for everything…
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.)
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.
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!
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.