There are a few things that are the “foundations” of an organized home, ideas so basic that they seem like second nature to us, we don’t have to think about doing them, they just happen. But considering what we see when we arrive at someone’s house (and to be honest, see in the houses of friends and family … but we don’t judge!) these principles aren’t as basic as you might think. So, for a few posts we’ll cover what we consider the things that make a house “organized” and keep it that way.
If the idea of putting things back “where they belong” sounds like a nagging parent and sends chills down your spine, it may be time to rethink your reaction. You’re not a kid anymore and it’s your time and money that’s at stake.
Why bother ???
The simplest answer is … it saves time and money. How much time do you spend looking for things you know you have? How many times do you give up and just buy another one? We were working with clients recently, a young family, that was expecting a second child. They had a relatively good-sized house but limited storage space. Over time, the closets and drawers had filled to capacity and things got out of hand. Things were “put away” wherever there was room which caused some serious disorganization and frustration. The breaking point was when they came home from the store with groceries and everyday supplies and had nowhere to put them. A second child meant more “stuff”, more groceries and more supplies.
Their busy lifestyle and impending addition to the family meant the needed a helping hand. With a bit of manpower, we quickly moved from room to room, gathering like items and categories and creating space to store what we found. As we collected, the family was able to identify things to keep, donate and trash, creating even more space. We asked questions along the way to determine where best to keep things so that things were stored where THEY needed them, not where we thought they should be.
On our second day in the house, we had our big “aha” moment when the wife realized how easy it was to put things away (groceries, toys, papers, etc) because there was a defined spot for them. What had been a chore quickly became easy and satisfying. Items were removed from the shopping list when we “found” what they thought they needed.
From “ugh” to your own “aha”
Hunt and gather …
Sorting what’s in your house is perhaps the most tedious part of this process. You’ll be amazed at what you find and where you find it. The old saying “it gets worse before it gets better” may apply as you create “piles” of items and categories before you’ve created the space to organize and store them. Don’t get put off when this happens, it’s a natural part of things. Bins, bags and boxes help contain categories (especially the small stuff) while you make space and house the donations and trash you’ll find along the way.
Close at hand …
As you start to open up space, drawers, shelves, etc. think about where you use things most. Office supplies in a desk drawer is an obvious example, but things may not always be best where traditionally kept. Your family is unique and every home is different. Putting things where you and your family use them will make life easier. Getting others on-board with any new “system” is easier when it works naturally and doesn’t require changing how you think and act. Labeled bins make it easier to "remind" everyone where things go, especially for smaller items like phone chargers, office supplies and toiletries.
Breaking the rules …
While most things are best grouped by category or use (vases, spices, candles, envelopes, stamps … the list is endless), it may not make sense to follow the rules for everything. Again, think about how you use things. I keep a flashlight in every room, close at hand if the power goes out. I keep pens and a pad of paper in a few places where I find I use them most. Breaking the rules as needed can make the system work better. Frequency of use is a good guide. Just because you needed an aspirin once while you were working in the garage doesn’t mean they’re needs to be a bottle there. But if you find yourself needing one often, perhaps it makes sense.
It takes a village …
Getting and staying organized is a group effort. You can lead but will struggle if others don’t follow. Get some buy-in early and motivate others to follow by talking up the benefits. Gathering can be a game … who can find the most pens & pencils? Stand back and watch your family look for and use things to determine where things should go.
Overwhelmed? Get some help!
Most people wouldn’t try to paint the outside of their house. They don’t have the time, tools and expertise to accomplish. Organizing can be a big job with big benefits that might need some professional help. Professional organizing may not be the most well-known profession but companies exist in most communities throughout the US. A quick internet search will lead you to qualified professionals in your area.