Organization is not my forte.
I love the feeling when everything is in place and I can find it.
I don’t like the actual process of making the holder, and saving it every time I use it.
I’m closer to people who have piles of papers on their desks and can usually find what they need. However, with children, this often doesn’t work. I can’t count the number of times a child or a cat overturned one of my piles of paper. It would take ages to rearrange a simple stack of paper!
After the last fail, I wanted to make a change, but wasn’t sure I could. So, I read up on how to become a more organized person. I find that some people have perfect pitch when it comes to neatness. I, on the other hand, have lead ears. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly that I need to set a good example for my children. My hope is that they will learn to be tidy by now and not face my organizing challenges.
I looked around my house and selected the three areas that needed the most repairs: my office, the bathroom, and the kids’ rooms (to encourage a tidy future in their lives). For the past two months, I’ve been organizing these spaces and practicing keeping them tidy.
Admittedly, my office really needs help. I have papers everywhere; stacked on tables, stacked on chairs even on bookshelves. I solved this problem in two steps. First, I made use of my mostly empty filing cabinet. I started by creating files for the documents I needed to store: contracts, product manuals, receipts, tax information, etc. Then, I created three “storage” files: To Do, In Progress, and To Be Filed. All my papers are organized and I know what I need with them. I just had to be diligent about filing, which I now do every Friday morning.
Once I have the current paper set up, my second step is to follow the “one-touch rule”. Every paper (letter) that comes into my office is touched once. I throw it away, handle it, or put it in the To Be Filed folder. It’s amazing how much clutter has been removed and I haven’t lost anything, a common occurrence before
I cleared up the rest of the clutter on my desk by adding a few small containers – an old jelly glass jar to keep my pens on the counter, a small kitchen storage container for paper clips and safety pins, and another folder for the loose ones. , empty paper. Nothing matched, but everything was neat and tidy.
There is one last item in my office: old or dead equipment has been sitting in my office for a while. I found monitors, cell phones, some handheld video games, and e-readers. I knew it was important to recycle electronics for their hazardous components, but didn’t take the time to do it. For all the items that worked, I deleted all personal information, and then I called to find out where I could safely dispose of these items.
Apparently, there are services that will pick up electronics for you. There’s a small fee, but it’s less than it costs me the time and gas to get the items to a different charity or the county’s hazardous waste disposal site. They also took a broken chair that was stored in my office. It feels like a brand new place with trash removed and table tops clean. I’ve found that I actually achieve more within myself neat office!
In my extensive reading, I learned that a large part of organizing reduces clutter. This is especially true for bathrooms. I decided to be brutal and follow the six month rule: I throw away or donate anything that hasn’t been used in six months. I have makeup and nail polish from college! I sorted through everything, even the stuff in the back of the cupboard under the sink.
I really only need to create two new spaces here. I moved extra toilet paper, towels, and washcloths from under the sink to a tall shelf I mounted on the exposed wall. Then I put the big lazy Susan under the sink. This makes it easy to access weekly cleaners stored at the back, but keeps daily items up front.
For my kids, I have to identify where they should put things, and then inculcate the habit of storing them. The first is much easier, if a bit more expensive.
I took my cue from one of the great blog posts I read and including my children in the process. I talked to them, found out which items did not have a good home and which did. Then we talked about what kind of home they thought each item should have.
They have a great idea for this. We ended up with plastic storage bins of different sizes for most of the toys. These bins are now tucked away in corners and floor cupboards. Then my husband was found discount lockers online and we made additional storage in their room with them. The kids love the idea and have fun decorating the lockers just like the “big kids” do at school.
Next, I want to introduce them to the idea of a “To Do” list. If I could get my kids to use lists to organize themselves now, maybe it would be a great tool for them later. I wanted to keep it fun, creative, and eco-friendly – no piles of paper lists to throw away.
I thought about chalkboard, but between the dangers of pen marks on the wall or carpet and the initial cost, I vetoed the idea and settled for chalkboard paint. These paints are relatively inexpensive and easy to apply. Chalk is inexpensive and comes in a variety of colors. My kids can create a new to-do list every day, experiment with color-coding the list, or use the space to draw. The only consideration here is that chalk dust is bad for kids with allergies.
The harder step was getting my kids to put things in the right places and use their lists. It required more persistence on my part than theirs. I try to make it part of their daily routine. In the morning before breakfast, do they make their bed and make a to-do list?
Before going to bed, we check the list of unfinished items and whether the toys are stored. It’s kind of hard to keep reminding kids of everything and convincing them that it’s important, but we’re making progress. They seem to be more task-focused, and it’s starting to become second nature for them to put things away instead of down.
What I Learned
Organizing is not second nature to me and there are days when I want to drop everything everywhere and become a couch potato. I kept going knowing that my kids would be better equipped than I was to stay organized. Plus, I’ve learned that you can teach old dogs new tricks; I myself am slowly becoming tidier. Through this two month process, I have learned four things:
- Organization is learned and it is second nature.
- Decluttering makes organizing easier.
- Everything needs a home and keep it, not below.
- It’s easier to clean when it’s tidy.
I have made progress with my children and myself. Next task, my husband.