Recently I’ve been caught up in the organizing frenzy that seems to be sweeping the country. Suddenly, it’s chic to be anal-retentive. Now, you have to understand I’m a life-long packrat. To me, being organized means having a clear pathway to the front door, so naturally I’m fascinated by the idea of being able to cross a room without tripping on something.
Whole sections of bookstores are devoted to organizing books. I have an entire shelf of them myself at home -– when they make it back onto the shelf. I have to admit that they spend most of their time on the floor beside the sofa or under my bed. I like to think that they’re down there checking out what needs to be done.
There are huge stores dedicated to supplying the perfect box, basket, hook or rack to store every single Very Important Item that I have collected over the last few decades. Never mind that all of the products they sell immediately become Very Important Items themselves once they enter my home. They quickly become friends with all the other Items living there and forget their original purpose.
There are websites that reach out to people like me with soothing promises of “Get organized at last!” They’re not fooling me -– why would they want me to “get organized” when that would mean that I would no longer need their services?
There seem to be three steps that are essential to getting a grip on clutter –- purging, finding a home for everything, and maintenance. Purging means exactly what it sounds like -– a merciless elimination of clothing that went to college with you, 10-year-old utility bill receipts, and remnants of previous organizing systems.
The only way that I am able to actually get rid of things is to have a non-reversible means of transport. I don’t put things in boxes to be donated or in bags to go to the dump. These things have a way of weaseling their way back from the garage into the house. I’m talking immediate transport. I’m talking Dumpster. You can actually rent your own Dumpster from the waste disposal people, and they’ll come pick it up for you when it’s full. Take it from me, you will be the envy of all your neighbors as you fling junk into your Dumpster with wild abandon while they’re struggling with their piddly little garbage bags. Many of them will actually pay you for a little space in your Dumpster for their own Very Important Items.
The next step is finding a home for what’s left. This doesn’t mean putting something back in the same pile each time, but actually having a place to put it where can be found again. I have often had fantasies about being able to find the scissors when I want them, not out in the garage or on top of the television, but in their own little abode in the kitchen drawer.
There are companies that will help you build little homes for everything in your house. I recently went to a place called the Container Store. It was a religious experience. Closet systems, garage systems, linen systems, kitchen systems, drawer systems — 20 different colors of laundry bags alone! These systems look so neat and tidy when they’re installed that you think “Aha! This is what I’ve been needing! This is going to solve my problem!” Unfortunately, household storage systems like this are dependent on the homeowner, a.k.a. The Weakest Link, to use them they way they are supposed to be used, rather than shoving things in any old way and closing the door quickly before something falls out.
This last step is the toughest of all -– maintenance. It doesn’t matter what a good system you have; if it’s not used consistently, it’s an incredibly short time before you’re right back where you started. The secret is evidently to spend 15 minutes or so a day putting things back in their little homes and sorting and filing important papers. This is the step that always sounds so easy when Martha Stewart chirps on about it, and the one that always makes me want to grab Martha by the neck.
Over the last few months I have had some small victories: drawers that have been organized and continue to stay organized, boxes and bags of stuff that have left permanently, clothing that is older than my children finally donated to charity. Now if I could only find the scissors…