Happy New Year! The past few weeks, I skipped blogging to enjoy the holidays with my family. I hope your holiday season brought you great happiness. I am so looking forward to this new year. Since it may align with one of your New Year’s resolutions, I wanted to start out my 2013 blogging on the topic of “household organization”.
As I was growing up, I had some wonderful examples of how to keep a household organized. First and foremost was Grandma Mary and her ability to keep “everything in its place”. She had one of those bungalow-style homes with a bedroom that featured a walk-in closet. All her jewelry was stored in neatly-labeled boxes, and shoes were lined up like soldiers waiting to salute. But it was her kitchen pantry that my brother and I found to be a wonderland. There wasn’t an item you asked for that she could not immediately put her hands on. Jars and boxes were neatly lined up on shelves that were lined with contact paper, with ruffles thumb-tacked along the edges. Of course, there was a large cookie jar brimming with treats for us.
There was also my cousin Linda. She lived above my Grandma and she too, from a very early age, had a gift for organization. Her bedroom was spotless; all her sweaters were folded neatly in their drawers. Since I was a few years younger, I looked up to her and was inspired. Last but not least was my Mom. Like her mother before her, she was able to find a place for everything. Our home was immaculate and very organized. When I was 12, we lived in a small house, with me and my three siblings sharing one bedroom. Soon after, we moved to a four-bedroom home and I thought we were very lucky to share a bedroom with just one sibling. My Mom was a great example to show me how no matter the size of your living space, you could manage to keep it always looking tidy and orderly, and of course, warm and beautiful.
Now fast forward to today and my household organization style. How do I manage to complete my work, stay current on personal business and the household to-do list, keep up with family, entertain and hold on to my sanity? Well, simply put, I do the best that I can. I do aspire though, to always do better. Sometimes I get in such a mood to tear apart a closet or two to declutter and update; while other times…ehhh. Over the years, I’ve found these four simple things to be helpful in wrestling the “clutter demon” and staying organized:
1. Conduct a “weekly review”. Inspired by personal productivity principles in the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, my husband and I sit down weekly for a discussion to review all the key household areas in our lives. For us, this includes topics like household tasks and errands, personal financial/legal, health, family topics/events, transportation/auto, travel/vacation, holiday planning and calendar review. We’ve made a simple MS-Word document that we go through and update during our 30-60 minute meeting, usually conducted on a Saturday morning. You would be amazed how helpful it is to focus a short time each week to review a categorized list of the major and minor things in your household life that ebb and flow regularly – to stay on track with your personal and family business. New items are added as completed items are deleted, and those tasks or things that get deferred, well, we’re current on those too and in sync on the reasons why. This has been an incredibly powerful approach for us to minimize some of the stress that comes with living the modern daily life.
2. Declutter. Guided by popular organizational expert Peter Walsh and tips from his books, especially “It’s All Too Much”, each new year we plan out the time that we will dedicate to declutter our common storage spaces. These include clothing closets, linen and bathroom closets, bookcases, our pantry, kitchen drawers, file cabinets and drawers, the garage, you get the idea. And we typically use the “four piles” approach – one pile each for items to Keep, Give Away, Sell or Toss. Using a simple but systematic method, and especially not tackling the whole house all at once, but scheduling out over certain weeks, weekends, or months, will really help you make great strides in the decluttering process.
3. Tame the the “paper strangler”. Assign one location (and use an office inbox or rectangular basket) to collect your incoming mail and household paperwork. Immediately toss junk mail each day. Process mail and paperwork right away that may only take a minute or two, e.g. quick reads, things to file for future action or reference, etc. For bills and items with deadlines or key action dates, establish your system for timely processing of these items. If you impement a household weekly review as suggested above, you can also use that time to review your ongoing progress on these types of personal business actions.
4. Follow my Grandma Mary’s “1-2-3” rule. Seriously, there we would all be, looking at mounds of dishes after a Christmas dinner and Grandma would say “1-2-3, we will be done before you know it.” So, after entertainment events in my home, or honestly any dinner, I say this mantra to myself, enlist as many people as I can to help, and proceed to just get it done. My husband and I have been known to put on music and drink a glass a wine while we clean up the remains of a party. As you tackle any significant household task or project, from cleaning up those stacks of dirty dishes to organizing a long neglected personal office space or storage closet, feel free to try the “1-2-3″ motivation method, and see if you don’t somehow find a higher gear to shift into to get those things done.
Author Pearl S. Buck wrote, ” Order is the shape upon which beauty depends.” I believe when designing beautiful spaces, that some thought should be given to organization and storage. You cannot underestimate the feeling of well being that an organized space will provide, not only to you but to all who enter your living space. Over the long run, maintaining an orderly and organized home, will save you time and allow you to live a more rewarding and balanced lifestyle. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is, where do all the socks disappear to? Honestly, does anyone know where all those socks go? Is there some sort of secret socks underworld…still a mystery to me. Again, here’s wishing you a most happy and successful 2013. I hope you also consider how these organization thoughts and tips can help to make this coming year even more productive and rewarding for you.