We moved into our new house over six months ago, and I had high hopes that while unpacking I’d be able to get organized as I went. Before we moved here, we sold our old house and rented for almost eight months while looking for this house. Between purging at our old house as we got it ready for showings and living in a half-the-size-of-our-house townhome while renting, there’s a whole lot less “stuff” than what we used to have, and I love it. The house we live in now is smaller than our previous house and just the right size for what we want and need.
The only problem? When we were renting, I had nowhere to store things, and I had convenient banker’s boxes sitting around that I could put things in “just for now.” When we moved, of course those boxes weren’t the first ones I tackled. I focused on the kitchen – where every item has a place and I love it. The family room was similarly organized, as was the dining room. I assigned the basement and office to my husband, who was home over summer break and available to help. Those banker’s boxes? They may or may not be (still) living in my first floor bathroom in the tub, hidden by a shower curtain along with pictures that used to hang in our old house that just don’t fit anywhere in our new house.
I live in fear that a guest is going to come to my home and need to use the first floor bathroom and get curious and discover the piles. The basement has a similar issue, and I’ll admit that the top of my dresser in my bedroom isn’t much better – though mostly because we’re now using the former guest bedroom set and don’t have a long dresser anymore.
And I’m busy. Or so I tell myself. Really, my priorities are elsewhere, which means that I have more paper that I haven’t filed or dealt with that has crept up on me since moving here. Though I tend to keep the family room where I do most of my work relatively clean, and ditto with the dining room and kitchen, when I’m swamped or overwhelmed, you can tell by the clutter that accumulates all too quickly. And these grey skies in Chicago steal my motivation, which only makes matters worse.
The I’m too busy excuse isn’t flying. I can see that the wee ones are packrats in the tradition of my husband – or worse – and their bedrooms are filled with clutter in every way you look. I swear that I went through Little Miss’s entire bedroom with her two weeks ago, but this has been the “natural state” for her, and that needs to change.
I avoid doing laundry because it means I have to go into the basement where nothing was ever properly unpacked, leaving boxes all around the floor. Couple that with having to avoid the LEGOs Mister Man sets up in battle scenes across the remainder of the basement, including atop the dehumidifier, and I inevitably step on or kick something that is surprisingly painful each and every time.
I can’t live like this anymore, which is why my goal for 2015 is to focus on organization.
It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen in a week or in a month, but by finding solutions and taking it step by step, I am looking forward to having my house truly feel like a home again and losing the fear of being shamed by hidden clutter. I’m not too busy. I chose to be too busy, and I’m not choosing that any longer.
I’ve already started the process to get organized while on winter break with the wee ones. My husband went to Vegas after Christmas, and I took our lack of scheduling as an opportunity to start getting things organized. The basement is completely cleared out. There are no boxes anywhere in the open portion of the basement where they don’t belong. The bookshelf has books lined up, ready to be read, on some shelves, while we’ve coopted others to hold games and still others to hold Mister Man’s every growing LEGO collection. We cleared off the game table, opening it to Mister Man to use to set up the LEGOs he’s playing with, rather than using the floor as his base. Our video game characters have their own box to keep them in one place, and the basement suddenly feels so much bigger.
We also started tackling Little Miss’s room by buying her a new bookshelf. Rather than lining her two dressers and nightstand with thing upon thing upon thing, we have a better space to place items and organize them so that she can find everything. The number of times I heard, “Oh! That’s where that was. I’ve been looking for that!” was disheartening. But at the same time, it convinced me that I was headed down the right path. Interestingly, she chose to organize her new shelving system completely differently from how I would have done it, but if it works for her, I’m not going to enforce my vision on her.
I also purchased shelves for Mister Man’s room, but I need to stain them before putting them up, which means this is a project for January. I’m still waiting on a contractor to build the interior of my pantry to make it more user friendly, but that doesn’t mean I can’t organize it better than how it is currently. When we ran out of peanut butter yesterday, I was lucky that I remembered buying more peanut butter or I would have given up looking for it long before I finally found it hiding behind a container of oats and around a box of Panko.
I feel like I’ve made a great start already, which is giving me momentum to keep things going. And part of keeping things going for me means supporting my immune system. When I lose that, I lose my focus and we’re back to square one, and I don’t want to backslide!
Keeping up my momentum is a subset of my get organized resolution, and when we were searching Walmart earlier this week for new dusters (cleaning is part of organization, right?) and more bins for Litlte Miss’s new bookshelf, I spotted the Ester-C 24-Hour Immune Support. Bingo!
Ester-C comes in 500mg and 1,000mg capsules that provide 24 immune support. They contain not just the Vitamin C but also calcium, but there are no artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, or sweeteners. Ester-C is also non-acidic, so it’s gentler on your stomach than many regular vitamin C. This unique form of Vitamin C also stays in your white blood cells for up to 24 hours, which gives you immune support around the clock.
I’m keeping the Ester-C with my daily to do list, which will kill two birds with one stone. As I’m perusing what I plan to do that day, I can take my Ester-C and make sure I’m doing what I can to support my health, which in turn will keep me motivated.
As I’ve started my organization, I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks that’s making it more doable for me, and something that will last rather than a one time clean that will quickly become a mess again.
Top 10 Tips to Get Organized and Stay Organized
Don’t be afraid to make a mess. Yes, your goal is to get things cleaned and get organized. But sometimes you have to make a mess to clear everything out of an area before you can put things where they belong again. That’s ok. In fact, it’s often encouraged.
Get everyone on board. If I’m the only one cleaning and organizing, that basement is going to look exactly the way it did a week ago within a matter of hours. By talking to the wee ones about why we’re cleaning and organizing and what their roles are, they get it and are going to help.
Don’t take on too much at once. I can handle organizing for about an hour at a time before I start to get frustrated. And really, an hour is about all I have to spare in a given day. That’s ok. Small steps are what finish the marathon in the end. All we did one day was organize the bookshelf in the basement. Between deciding what books to keep and what to donate, which shelves to use for what purpose, figuring out what piece went to what games, and more, we were burned out by the time we finished.
Celebrate what you accomplish. When you do organize something, take the time to enjoy it. I walked down into the basement this morning and just stood there smiling because the only thing on the floor was the carpeting. (As long as I ignore the walls that used to be finished before we discovered foundation cracks in our “new” house.) And that made all the whining and the “do we have to” that I heard worth it. And it gave me the energy to tackle the next task.
Embrace change. When we moved to our house, I put the knives in a particular drawer. Pots and pans all went in the three drawers nearest the stove. After living here for only a few weeks, I realized how inefficient that was. I chopped on a counter opposite the knife drawer. And though having all my pots and pans in three drawers was nice because I knew where they were, there are certain ones I use regularly and others that see more infrequent use. And there are other cooking implements I’d put further away that I used more regularly. Rather than sigh and deal, I moved things around. So often once we decide how we’re going to use a space, we never adjust, but if things aren’t working, change them!
Buy more storage. While this isn’t an excuse to keep everything or simply shove things away to hide them, figuring out the right kind of storage for your needs can make things so much easier. When I bought bins to store items I own for each holiday and then labeled them, it made it so much easier to find everything when I was looking. It was also nice to be able to stack items securely and still be able to see what I had. And in Little Miss’s room, there really isn’t a good place for shelves on the wall, so a bookshelf that uses some of her available floor space is exactly what works in the room. And though I originally bought four bins, I can already tell based on how she’s using it that I’ll need to pick up a couple more.
Don’t keep things for the sake of keeping them. I have a bad habit of saving things “for later” and then never using them. Or I did. Since we started purging our house to get it ready to sell last year, I’ve done a much better job of asking myself if I still need or want any given item when I put it away. We go through the wee ones’ toys a couple times a year to be sure they will still play with them, and the same holds true for their books. I will also take a drawer at a time in my house and go through each item in it to see what I can make go away. When I go through those bins of items in my “tub storage area” I know I’ll find plenty that will go into recycling, trash, or donation piles.
Create a priority list. If it’s been awhile since you’ve organized anything, it may take some time to get through your whole house or your to do list. And that can be so daunting that you never start. Instead, create a list of the areas that you want to get organized and prioritize them. For me, it’s about prioritizing the areas that I use most and see most. My kitchen? It’s important to me that things get put away in the right place and that I have the workspace I need to cook and bake, but there are plenty of other areas I want to focus on, too. Deciding what to tackle first can give you that push you need to actually get things done. I also like to write it on a whiteboard so that I can edit it and change it as I realize that I have different priorities – and erase it when I’m done so I feel accomplished when I see the white spaces!
Take a break. And then there are times where I just can’t do it anymore. When I spend six or seven days in a row organizing areas of my house for an hour or more at a time, I get burned out. If I keep pushing myself, I know I’ll get to the point where I just don’t want to do anything anymore. Before I get to that point, I’ll take a break. Just like a job, I’ll take a vacation day or two to recharge my batteries, which allows me to come back and work again. My house will still be there, and things won’t fall apart that quickly. Taking a break is just what I need sometimes, and I’ll bet you do, too.
Block out time on your calendar. That I’m too busy excuse? It’s easy to fall into that trap. Instead of hoping that I find the time to do some organizing, I’ll actually create an appointment on my calendar, just like I do when I go to the gym or to the doctor. It’s the best way for me to make it a priority, and it’s important to hold myself to that. It never fails to amaze me how I can still get everything done that I truly need to get done when I plan for everything. Some days, I may only be able to block out fifteen minutes or a half hour, but whatever I choose to create as my appointment time, I make sure to do.
I am not a slob, and I hate living feeling like I do. There are times when people come over and I apologize for the mess and they laugh at me because their houses (so they claim) are so much worse. But it’s not comfortable for me, and I’m much happier when things are neat and organized. It’s less stressful for me because I’m less likely to not be able to find what I need, too.
Next up? Tackling my email inbox.