Saturday, March 19, 2011

Home Organization with Melanie

This coming summer Jake is going to Peru with the youth at our church.  The whole church is excited by the opportunity for these kids and are helping raise money to send them.  One of the fundraisers we just finished was a silent auction where people from the church donated a skill they had.  For instance a couple Chinese families donated an authentic Chinese meal at their home, some teachers donated a couple hours of tutoring, an IT guy offered some IT help in your home and John donated a couple hours of handyman help.  I didn't think I had anything to offer to the auction but then I was asked to donate a couple hours of home organization help.

I suppose I do consider myself organized as a whole but I know what my desk looks like as I write this and can barely get the junk drawer in my kitchen open.  Still, I had gone over to help a friend clear out a space in her basement and she raved to someone else in the church about how helpful I was and so here I am.  All I remember is that I bossed her around and insulted her stuff for a couple hours and it was still a mess when I left to meet Isabelle's bus but apparently when you have too much stuff that is what you are looking for in a helper. :)

Now that my services have been won by someone I have started thinking about my approach to organization and how to tackle the areas she has suggested we work on, the front closet, the back door and the kitchen counter.  Conveniently the most unorganized areas of my home as well so I have put a lot of thought into those areas over the years.
I have no original ideas.  I have been reading and studying organizational books since year one of my marriage and have tried almost everything.  I think the craziest thing I tried was spraying a little pam in the bottom of a couple trash cans to keep things from sticking.  Again, I don't make this stuff up, I read that in a book.  I can still remember the look on my mom's face when I told her about this.  She clearly thought I had gone over the edge.  That was a short lived experiment.  Now I just wash my trash cans once a year...or two, I didn't do it last summer.

Today I thought I would share a few random thoughts that come to mind on organization.  While I might not have ever come up with any of them on my own I do speak from personal experience in each of them.

 Clothes:  I go through my clothes every spring and every fall and put together a pile of clothes for the good will. Since I can only fit seasonal clothes in my closet I do it at the turn over.  While I don't buy a new wardrobe every year I do pick up a few new items each season.  And while some of my older clothes may still be in perfectly good shape or be items that when new were my favorites eventually the new takes over the old and no mater how good it looks or how much I loved it in the past I am never going to wear it again.  Bless someone else.  Remember, just because you own 10 pair of jeans doesn't mean you wear 10 pair of jeans.  The goal is not a full closet.  The goal is an organized closet full of clothes you wear.  If you wear the same 2 shirts on an every other day rotation because they are all that fit you then no matter how full the closet is, you only have 2 shirts.  This how organized your closet would look with only those 2 shirts in it.  And your husband wouldn't be able to say you don't need to go shopping...  Some say if you haven't worn it in 6 months then get rid of it.  I tend to lean more toward a year, I think mostly because I can't afford to shop as much as I want sometimes I am forced to bring an item back to life for a time.  And a specialty item like fancy clothes I will keep for a couple years even if I don't wear them.

Put it Away: A place for everything and everything in its place.  Usually when I have something that is always laying around the house or a pile of papers messing up my desk it is often because they do not have a place.  That pile of crap on your counter, that may be where it actually belongs within your system.  Now that you know the truth you can solve the problem.
Closet Cleaning: OK so you are ready to tackle that closet or basement storage room.  All of the books I have read give the same method, although with their own spin, you need either bags or boxes designated "give away", "throw away", "put away".  The first 2 are obvious.  The third is actually for things you are putting away elsewhere, probably into storage, not back in the closet you are working in.

Getting Rid of Stuff:  When it comes to stuff I am of the opinion that if you aren't going to use it you don't need to keep it.  Be realistic.  That is not to say I don't have storage or that at times you don't need to save stuff but you aren't a museum curator. You really don't need those '80's records left over from your youth.  You aren't going on antique road show in a few years to discover your childhood record collection is now worth $50,000 because you own Michael Jackson's Thriller album.  Let them go.
If you are in your baby years then you probably do need to save your maternity clothes and baby clothes but if your baby is 5 it is time to bless someone else with your baby's wardrobe.  Same with books, toys and equipment.  I have a small box of special stuff from Jake's youth and will do the same for Isabelle in a few years when she tires of all the toys.  I look forward to my grandchildren enjoying them someday and in the mean time they come in handy for young visitors, but I don't run a daycare here.  The rest goes.

As I was going through my girlfriends storage stuff a few weeks ago she had a couple bins of decorative napkins.  Some bought for future use and still in the package but many left over from past parties.  They were beautiful napkins, we share an affinity for such things, but I asked her to be real.  Having been stored for quite some time the edges had begun to curl and she would never put out such beat up napkins for a party.  However, there was no reason not to use them to make her family feel special.  She has several varieties themed for the upcoming holidays and I told her to use them up by the time those holidays were done. (See how bossy I am.)  Another thing that comes to mind that similarly is hard to store are candles.  If you have them, burn them and then get new ones.  They don't last forever.

What are you saving for a special occasion that will never come?  What could you be enjoying now that will just be thrown away by your children after you die?  If you have something you love use it or display it.  Fancy dishes are a big one.  Use them or loose them.  Better to break one enjoying it than have them gather dust and bring no joy.

Have you seen those hoarder shows?  Those people are letting their stuff define them and control their lives.  You are more than your stuff!  Let it go.
Space Management:  When you are working on a space, like the front closet, you need to ask yourself a few questions.  What do I need to use this for?  What do I need?  What problems do I need to solve?  I use my front closet for our family coats but our guests usually hang their coats on hooks by our back door or lay them on the bed so I don't need to have any extra hangers in that closet.  I have a dresser in the entry for mittens and hats so I don't need to store those in the closet but if you want to store them in the closet you need a system, boxes, plastic drawers, shelves, something to put them in.  Don't be afraid to think outside the box.  Jake and I share an office and I was constantly rolling my chair back and running into his backpack which he would toss on the floor behind my chair.  It was annoying but that seemed to be where it belonged.  So I screwed a hook to the wall next to his desk and now it is out of my way.  It isn't a typical location for a coat hook but it is the location I needed it.

Organizational Maintenance:  The work is in maintaining an organized home not getting it organized. The organization is actually the easy part. If you designate a place to put something you have to actually put it there when you are done in order for it to help. And while it seems like so much more work to actually put the item away than to just leave it sitting on the table next to you, it will only take a moment. If you wait til the house is full of stuff to put away it will take all day. (Is that a cleaning or organizational tip? Either way.)

One truth which I am learning applies to all areas of my life is that organization is a process, a journey.  You do not get healthy in a day, become godly in a day, raise children right in a day and you don't get organized in a day, you get organized over a lifetime.  It is an ever changing, ever improving aspect of your life.  Take it one step at a time.

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